Know Your Whiskey: Bourbon vs Rye Whiskey | Whiskey Raiders
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Know Your Whiskey: Bourbon vs Rye Whiskey

The difference between rye and bourbon whiskey is similar to the difference between sourdough bread and a baguette. It’s not always easy to tell what makes one different from the other, but they both have their own distinct tastes.

Rye whiskeys tend to be sharper, more peppery, and dryer than bourbons. Bourbon typically drinks a bit sweeter with less herbal influence, thanks to the corn (and sometimes wheat) in the mashbill. If you’re looking for something sharp with a little kick – go for rye; if you want something sweet, and mellow – go with bourbon. Of course, there are exceptions, but mashbill accounts for a lot of flavor when it comes to whiskey!

What is Bourbon Whiskey?

Bourbon gets its name from the French word for ‘little brown’, and it’s a type of American whiskey. Bourbon has a minimum of 51% corn in it. That means that anything less than 51% can’t be called bourbon, but it can be referenced as American Whiskey in the right circumstances.

Unlike Scotch and other whiskeys, there is no set recipe for how to make a bourbon. It is a type of whiskey that must be made in the United States, and aged here for two years in new oak barrels before it leaves the country. It can be distilled up to 160 proof (80% alcohol), barreled at 125 proof, and aged. Bourbon is the only currently recognized type of American whiskey protected by law internationally, although some states are working to enact regulations for their own whiskeys.

What is a Rye?

Rye is a type of whiskey that was originally made by distilling fermented mash from malted rye grain. In order to be a rye whiskey, the mashbill must contain 51% rye (sound familiar?) It has a distinctive spicy flavor and aroma that makes it one of the most popular types of American whiskeys in recent years. Rye whiskey is booming like no other, and a notable producer that’s risen to fame is MGP in Indiana – producing a 95% rye whiskey that enthusiasts are crazy about.

The history behind this drink dates back centuries ago when inhabitants used to make their own drinks for an alcohol content high enough to preserve food and aid with headaches, toothaches, or any other ailments they were experiencing at the time. It’s no surprise that folks developed all sorts of ailments during our nation’s Prohibition, when both bourbon and rye were prescribed as medicine. The more you know!


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