Bourbon 101: A Guide to the Different Types of Bourbon

Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is known for its distinct flavor profile and production process. Here are some common types of bourbon:

1. Straight Bourbon

Straight bourbon is made from a mash bill containing at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years. It must be distilled at no more than 160 proof and entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof. Straight bourbon is the most traditional and regulated category of bourbon.

2. Small Batch Bourbon

Small batch bourbon refers to bourbon that is produced by blending a relatively small number of barrels. While there is no specific legal definition for small batch bourbon, it generally indicates that the whiskey has been carefully selected and blended from a limited number of high-quality barrels, resulting in a unique flavor profile.

3. Single Barrel Bourbon

Single barrel bourbon is produced from a single barrel, as the name suggests. Each barrel is bottled individually, and the flavor profile can vary from barrel to barrel. Single barrel bourbon is prized for its unique characteristics and the ability to showcase the nuances of the particular barrel it came from.

4. High-Rye Bourbon

High-rye bourbon refers to bourbon with a higher proportion of rye in its mash bill. While traditional bourbon mash bills contain a higher percentage of corn, high-rye bourbons feature a significant amount of rye grain. This results in a spicier flavor profile with more pronounced notes of pepper, spice, and complexity.

5. Wheated Bourbon

Wheated bourbon is made with a higher proportion of wheat in its mash bill, replacing some of the traditional rye grain. Wheated bourbons are known for their softer and smoother flavor profile, often showcasing notes of caramel, vanilla, and sweetness. Famous examples of wheated bourbons include brands like Maker’s Mark and Pappy Van Winkle.

6. Cask Strength Bourbon

Cask strength bourbon, also known as barrel proof bourbon, is bottled at its natural undiluted strength straight from the barrel. These bourbons often have higher alcohol content, ranging from 100 to 140 proof or even higher. Cask strength bourbons offer robust flavors and intense aromas, allowing the whiskey to be enjoyed as is or diluted to personal preference.

It’s important to note that these categories are not mutually exclusive, and many bourbons can fall into multiple categories. The flavor profiles and characteristics of bourbons can vary greatly depending on factors such as the mash bill, aging process, barrel selection, and production techniques used by each distillery. Exploring different types of bourbons can be an enjoyable journey for whiskey enthusiasts, allowing them to discover the unique nuances and complexities of this beloved American spirit.