What are different brands of bourbon

Bourbon whiskey - the mild American

Bourbon is a special variant of American whiskey, which is characterized above all by its milder and softer aromas than Scotch. This is mainly due to the type of grain contained and the special production method.

When can a whiskey be called bourbon?

When a whiskey can be called Bourbon is clearly defined in US legislation, more precisely in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 27, Section 5.22 of 1964. The following requirements must be met:

  • The whiskey was distilled in the USA.
  • The underlying mash contains at least 51% corn.
  • The alcohol content must not exceed 80% during the fire.
  • The alcohol content must not exceed 62.5% at the beginning of storage.

In order for the whiskey to be called Straight Bourbon, the whiskey must also be stored in American oak barrels for two years. The storage period must be stated on the prescription up to a storage period of four years. In addition, Straight Bourbon must not contain any additives. If it is just a normal bourbon without the straight predicate, up to 2.5% additives may be present in it.

The different types of bourbon

In addition to normal bourbon and straight bourbon, there are other types. In addition to the requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations, other requirements must be met here. We have summarized the most important of them for you here:

Kentucky Straight Bourbon
  • The whiskey must have been distilled in the US state of Kentucky.
  • Maturation must have taken place in the US state of Kentucky for at least one year.
Bonded bourbon
  • The whiskey comes from a single distillery and a single vintage.
  • It is stored in special bonded warehouses monitored by the US government.
Tennessee whiskey
  • The whiskey must have been made in the US state of Tennessee.
  • The whiskey must have gone through the Lincoln County Process. This is a special filtration technique with charcoal.
Small batch
  • The whiskey comes from a particularly small amount of selected barrels.
  • The term is not clearly defined legally.
White dog
  • It is a clear whiskey that has only been matured for a few weeks or months.
  • Cannot be sold as whiskey on the European market.

The production of bourbon whiskey

Now let's take a closer look at how bourbon whiskey is actually made. Basically, a distinction is made between three steps: fermentation, distillation and storage.

The fermentation

During the first step, the corn is ground. Then you mix it with water and limestone from the area and boil it. As soon as this mixture has cooled to around 65 ° C, ground rye or wheat and ground barley are added. This is necessary to enable the starch to hydrolyze into sugar.

This part of the process is special. Only in the distilleries in the USA are the grains mixed with one another at this point in the manufacturing process. In Scotland, for example, it is very different. All types of grain are individually distilled here. Mixing takes place at the end.

Then malt or an amylase-enzyme mixture and sour mash from the remains of previous distillations are added. In this way the pH value is lowered so that lactic acid bacteria and yeast have good living conditions.

After the mixture has cooled down to 21 ° C, the fresh baker's yeast is added. Fermentation begins, during which the sugar is converted into alcohol. The process usually takes a few days. The fermented product called beer then goes to the distillery. There it is distilled until its alcohol content is around 70%.

The distillation

Next, the fermented beer is fed from above into the still (Coffey Stills), where it comes into contact with steam that is introduced from below. This will release the alcohol from the mixture. It then goes into the so-called doubler, which burns the liquid to the white dog. It has an alcohol content of 65 - 72%.

New mash is constantly fed to the White Dog, while the burner continues to work all the time. For smaller premium manufacturers, the pot still process is used instead. This means that the still is cleaned and refilled after each firing process. The number of distillation processes here is usually 3. With cheaper whiskeys there are only two.

The burners then dilute the so-called New Make to an alcohol content of around 60%. It then goes into the oak barrels for storage.


Finally, the storage process follows. Bourbon whiskey is stored in American white oak barrels for at least two years. A special feature of these barrels is that they are charred on the inside. This is an important factor in creating the typical bourbon taste. In addition, the whiskey matures more slowly in American oak barrels than, for example, in French oak. As a result, the tanin content is lower.

They are usually stored in 200 liter barrels. The minimum period is 2 years. The industry standard is 4 years. However, some premium manufacturers also have significantly longer storage times of 8, 10 up to 23 years. One reason for the generally shorter times compared to Scottish whiskeys are the barrels. New wood gives off more aromatic substances than what is already used. In addition, in Kentucky, for example, whiskey matures at higher temperatures and greater temperature differences, which is why the maturation takes place faster.

The taste of bourbon - mild and soft

Many connoisseurs describe bourbon as whiskey without many rough edges. And that is a very accurate description. Overall, bourbon has a rounder and softer taste profile. This is mainly due to the lack of peat during the manufacturing process. You won't find the typical smoky notes of a Scottish whiskey here. Bourbon tends to be described as less complex than Scottish whiskeys.

In addition, it is not that easy to attest that bourbon has a uniform taste profile. After all, there are many distilleries, each with its own manufacturing peculiarities. However, a few general tendencies can certainly be identified. Above all, the various soft vanilla flavors that get into the bourbon through storage in oak barrels should be mentioned here. With discreetly spicy and mild notes, they combine to form a harmonious whole that particularly appeals to those for whom the classic Scotch is still a touch too strong and too rough.

A brief outline of America's whiskey history

Bourbon has a long, multifaceted tradition. In order not to go beyond the scope at this point, we only want to deal with the most important key points.

It all began with the colonization of America. Back then it was mainly the Scottish and Irish settlers who wanted to enjoy whiskey in their new homeland. Since grains such as rye and wheat thrived well on the soil, surpluses could soon be produced that were available to the farmers for distillation. In this way they could earn a little extra income on top of their otherwise very modest livelihood. The first distilleries opened in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The maize, which is typical for bourbon, was used because the barley otherwise used only grew very sparingly on the soil. It was quickly found that it blended well with wheat and rye. In addition, instead of the peat known from Scotland, you had to switch to other fuels, which is why the bourbon does not have the typical smoky taste of Scottish whiskey. Attempts were made to compensate for the lack of seasoning with charred barrels and the addition of hops.

In the following, the bourbon began its success. The peasant distilleries became large distilleries that delivered the popular spirit to all parts of the country. In the course of history there have been setbacks time and again. The first and second world wars as well as prohibition should be mentioned here. However, none of this could affect the continued success. Today there are many well-known types of bourbon that are popular all over the world. Of course, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam should be mentioned above all.

Where does the name Bourbon actually come from?

The addition of bourbon to the name goes back to the French during the war of liberation. In gratitude for their help in the victory over the English troops, a border area between what is now Kentucky and Indiana was renamed after the French royal house of the Bourbons. The name addition quickly became common in the region, as it stood for good quality. And even if there is no longer a distillery in the entire county today, the name has remained as a seal of approval. The requirements for a whiskey to be officially called bourbon were only passed by Congress in 1964.

The most famous distilleries

Four roses
  • Based in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
  • Now owned by the Kirin Brewery Company
  • Founded in 1886
  • Is faded from a total of 10 different straight bourbons
  • Popular varieties: Yellow Label, Small Batch 90 °, Single Barrel 100 °, Single Barrel 86 °, Plantimum Black Label
Jim Beam
  • Whiskey production since 1795
  • Belongs to the Beam Suntory group
  • Based in Clermont, Kentucky
  • 500,000 barrels annually
  • Popular varieties: Jim Beam White Label, Jim Beam Green Label, Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Jim Beam Single Barrel, Jim Beam Honey
Jack Daniels
  • Founded in Lynchburg, Tennessee in 1866
  • Belongs to the Brown Forman group
  • Well-known products: Black Label, Single Barrel, Green Label, Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller No. 1

In addition to these four bourbon distilleries, there are of course many more. We have listed a few for you here:

  • A. Smith Bowman
  • Barton 1792
  • Booker Noe
  • Buffalo Trace
  • Early Times
  • George Dickel
  • Heaven Hill
  • MGP
  • Wild Turkey

A few popular bourbons to get to know

Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey


  • Category: Bourbon Whiskey
  • Filling quantity: 0.7 l
  • Alcohol content: 45%
Many buyers describe the Bulleit Bourbon Frontier as a very drinkable whiskey for a wide variety of occasions. It can be enjoyed alone in the evening as well as in a group with others. It is also often pointed out that this inexpensive bourbon absolutely does not have to shy away from comparison with more expensive varieties. For cheap 25 - 30 euros you get a balanced, pleasantly mild whiskey that scores with typically sweet vanilla and wood notes. The malty notes also blend discreetly into the overall picture.

Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select


  • Category: Bourbon Whiskey
  • Filling quantity: 0.7 l
  • Alcohol content: 43.2%
The Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select is a pleasantly gentle bourbon, which is characterized by its spicy, warm and long finish. The aroma has a distinctive note of vanilla, which is rounded off by strong notes of fruit and a playful note of oak. Associations with apricot, cocoa and caramel can also be tasted.

Many buyers describe the Woodford as unusually multi-faceted and oily for a bourbon. Among other things, notes of dark chocolate, orange and raisins can be tasted here. At the same time, the balance and unobtrusiveness are praised. The whiskey is given the finishing touch by its low price. Here, too, beginners are well advised.


  • Category: Bourbon Whiskey
  • Filling quantity: 0.7 l
  • Alcohol content: 45%
Like few other varieties, Maker's Mark is suitable as a gift. With its unmistakable red wax cap, it is guaranteed to stay in everyone's memory for a long time. But Maker's Mark is also convincing in terms of taste.

The odor test shows tendencies of oak, roasted walnuts and a little cinnamon. Later on, typical bourbon tendencies of chewing gum came to the fore. Most buyers describe the finish as being quite long. Oak and chocolate in particular resonate here. This whiskey also has an unusual complexity for a bourbon, which should surprise even the odd Scotch fan. The overall package always remains full-bodied and balanced. Our conclusion: Absolutely recommendable.


  • Category: Bourbon Whiskey
  • Filling quantity: 0.7 l
  • Alcohol content: 50%
With its alcohol content of 50%, Knob Creek is not really for beginners. Practically all buyers describe it as very powerful, sharp and complex. In many cases, several tastings were necessary, especially to taste the fruity tendencies. Not infrequently, associations were aroused here with brandy, which was refined with elderberry and blueberry nuances. The tart rye note also comes to the fore, making the Knob Creek almost reminiscent of a classic rye. It can therefore be advisable to add a little water so that you can fully taste all the aromas.

The somewhat porous wax seal is sometimes highlighted as a little negative. We recommend removing the wax completely before opening it for the first time so that no crumbs can get into the whiskey.


Like scotch, Irish and Canadian whiskey, bourbon also opens up a world of its own. Compared to the classic varieties from Scotland, for example, it is primarily characterized by its mildness. The smoky peat notes are completely eliminated here. In return, maize and hops develop a completely new aromatic interplay, which tends to be located in a mild, soft spectrum. Bourbon is especially recommended for those for whom Scotch is a bit too tart. On the other hand, bourbon is also suitable for beginners because the flavors are not quite as complex here. Here you get a good introduction to the world of whiskey. We hope you enjoy trying it out.