What is bourbon?
Bourbon is THE American whiskey. What do you think of when you hear the word bourbon? Perhaps the image of a Western comes to mind, in which the cowboy drinks his bourbon in a saloon. Perhaps you're thinking of a gentleman in a suit downing his bourbon in one gulp in a New York hotel bar before marching off to his business meeting. Or do you think of Kentucky and the famous horse race Kentucky Derby? In at least one respect, the bourbon cliché is right: Bourbon is part of the heart of America and a piece of American history. From working class to presidents, bourbon is a part of every walk of life in the United States. Even George Washington, the first President of the USA, is said to have made whiskey on his farmland.
Where does bourbon come from?
So let's be clear: every bourbon is an American whiskey. But not all American whiskey is bourbon. Because bourbon is not just a term with a protected designation of origin. Bourbon is also subject to fixed regulations and quality criteria. Contrary to the widespread false statement "Bourbon must come from Kentucky", bourbon can be produced anywhere in the USA. However, the fallacy is not accidental, because around 95% of all bourbons are produced in Kentucky. That's why you read "Kentucky" on so many labels Straight Bourbon.” You can find out what the “straight” is all about below.
How does bourbon taste?
Many bourbons are characterized by intense aromas of vanilla, honey, light oak and notes of spice. These flavors are typical of the fresh American white oak casks in which Bourbon is aged. Often you will also find fruity notes such as cherries and orange, nutty notes or fine spices such as nutmeg and allspice. Of course, each bourbon brand has its own unique character depending on the mash bill, yeast, distillation, age, and cask aging. Low rye bourbons are round and smooth, high rye bourbons tend to have more flavor and variety, and wheated bourbons tend to be sweeter and lighter. On the other hand, you will hardly ever find smoke in bourbon, as smoky whiskey is usually created by kilning the barley malt over a peat fire. This procedure is common in Scotland. However, since bourbon usually only contains a very small (unpeated) proportion of malted barley, you will not find any smoke here either. Due to its intense aromas, bourbon is also suitable for whiskey cocktails and long drinks.
Our bourbon recommendations
The best beginner bourbons:
1. Maker's Mark - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky: A soft and sweet entry-level bourbon at a low price. The Wheated Bourbon convinces with sweet honey, light fruits and light wood tones. With 45% vol., however, it is strong enough to be used for whiskey cocktails. Top price-performance!
2. Four Roses Small Batch - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: A prime example of a delicious high rye bourbon. With a rye content of over 20%, the Four Roses Small Batch shows a great aroma load. Here you will find honey, caramel and citrus fruits as well as cherries, Christmas spices and oven-warm rye bread. Bottled in small batches of around 250 casks, this bourbon whiskey matures for no less than 6 years. Highly recommended!
3. Basil Hayden's 8 Years - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: This bourbon comes from Jim Beam and shows that there is more going on here than just supermarket whiskey. Basil Hayden's is also a High Rye Bourbon, but much spicier and drier than the Four Roses Small Batch. Those who are not so much into sweet whiskeys will have fun here. Fans of dry red wines will get their money's worth here. Thanks to 40% vol., the Basil Hayden's is very soft on the palate.
4. Bulleit Bourbon 10 Years - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: A spicy, mature high rye bourbon with a great price-performance ratio. A full 28% rye content makes this bourbon a spicy treat. Bulleit is characterized by apricots, vanilla and the powerful spiciness of cloves and black pepper. Top bourbon for mixing!
Jameson Facts & Figures
Address: Midleton Distillery, Old, Distillery Walk, Midleton, Co. Cork, P25 Y394, Ireland
Established: 1780 (Jameson brand), 1975 (present day Midleton Distillery)
Region: Ireland, County Cork
Owner: Pernod Ricard
Type: Blended Irish Whiskey
Smoke: Unpeated/ Non-smoky
Capacity: approx. 64,000,00 lpa (litres per annum)
Stills: 3 pot stills (75,000 l), 3 pot stills (in the Whiskey School), 11 column stills
Water: River Dungourney
Visitor Centre: Yes
Bildnachweis/ Bildquelle: Pernod Ricard Deutschland GmbH, DIAGEO Germany GmbH
How is bourbon made?
Bourbon is a proprietary type of whiskey made from a grain composition of at least 51% corn. The Mash Bill, as this recipe is called, also partly defines the later character of the respective bourbon brand. The distillation of bourbon is not fixed and usually takes place in a continuous distillation process on column stills or patent stills. In addition to the column stills, there is also bourbon, which is distilled on copper pot stills, similar to Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Another feature that sets Bourbon apart from other types of whiskey is the maturation. By law, bourbon must be aged in fresh burned oak barrels. These fresh barrels made of American white oak (Virgin Oak) transfer intensive aromas and color into the bourbon in a short time. Since new casks are needed for every bourbon, there are a large number of used bourbon casks. These are gratefully bought up by whiskey manufacturers around the world in order to mature their own whiskey there. Now these ex-bourbon casks are called and serve as a new home for Irish Whiskey, Scotch Whisky, Japanese Whisky and many more.
What is straight bourbon?
You will read the term "straight" on almost all bourbon whiskeys that you can buy in Europe. Straight whiskey is an American categorization of whiskey, which is accompanied by further rules and quality standards. Straight whiskey must have matured for at least 2 years. A bourbon without the addition "straight” has no minimum aging period in the USA. However, a straight bourbon must be at least 4 years old if there is no age on the bottle. With an indication of age, it should also be 2-4 years old. Since in Europe, however, only as "Whiskey" or "whisky" that has been in the cask for three years or more can be sold almost exclusively with us, because you can be sure that they are four years or older, even without an age statement. Straight Whiskey must also contain no aromatic additives, no neutral alcohol and no coloring.You can therefore rely on a straight bourbon for a natural colour. Straight Bourbon is made from grain, water, yeast and aging in fresh oak barrels, nothing else.
What types of bourbon are there?
As previously mentioned, bourbon is not made from a single grain, but from a blend. The grain composition is referred to as the mash bill. The Mash Bill also defines the different grades or styles of bourbon. However, it must be said that the classification is not clearly defined. Most bourbons are 70% or more corn. Bourbons with 80-100% corn content are referred to as low rye bourbon or standard bourbons. Examples of low rye bourbons are Eagle Rare, Jim Beam, Evan Williams, Michter's Bourbon and Buffalo Trace. Bourbons with a higher proportion of rye are referred to as high rye bourbon. The high rye bourbons have more aromatic flavor from the rye. Examples are Four Roses, Wild Turkey and Bulleit Bourbons. The proportion of rye in a High Rye Mash Bill depends on the definition of the brand and distillery. As a rule, one speaks of a high rye bourbon when 12% or more rye is present in the mash bill. On the other hand, if the mash bill consists of corn, wheat and barley, it is called a wheated bourbon. These are lighter and sweeter than bourbons made with rye. Examples of wheated bourbons are Maker's Mark, Larceny Bourbon and WL Weller.
Old Fashioned: The No. 1 among bourbon cocktails. How do you make an Old Fashioned? It is available in innumerable variants. Here are the basics: Take a tumbler and add 1-2 dashes of simple syrup, 3-5 dashes of a bitters and 8-10 cl of your bourbon of choice. Add a large ice cube (it melts slower than many small ones). Finally, you take an orange zest, squeeze it out over the glass (or wet the rim of the glass with it) and put it in the drink - your Old Fashioned is ready.
Mint Julep: The perfect bourbon drink for hot summer days. How do I make a mint julep? You need crushed ice, 1cl simple syrup and 10cl bourbon. Add mint (fresh if possible). Grab a tumbler and first add the sugar syrup and the mint leaves to the glass. If you want to be really original, get a copper julep mug. Now crush the mint leaves with the bar pestle or a spoon. Now the bourbon is allowed to go with it, for example a Four Roses Small Batch. Fill the glass with crushed ice and garnish with fresh mint sprigs. Your mint julep is ready.
Whiskey Sour/ Bourbon Sour: Combine the sweetness of bourbon with the acidity of lemon. How does a whiskey sour go? You will need lemon juice, bourbon, and an orange zest or cocktail cherry. If you like, you can add some extra sweetness with maple syrup. Just throw all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Finished! You can drink the whiskey sour like this or with an ice cube.
Good bourbon for advanced connoisseurs:
1. Knob Creek Small Batch - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: A nice bridge between the low proof (low proof) and high proof (high proof) bourbons. With 50% vol., Knob Creek has enough power for a long drink, but you can also drink it pure or on ice. Spicy-sweet with aromas of toasted bread and warm butter, plus caramel, delicate notes of nuts and dark chocolate.
2. Old Grand Dad 100 Proof - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: A great value for money Bottled in Bond Bourbon in a 1 liter bottle. With 100 proof (50% vol.) a great bourbon with liquorice, caramel, cardamom and some speculoos. You can drink this bourbon neat in a nosing glass, in a tumbler with an ice cube, or in a delicious Old Fashioned.
3.Pure Kentucky XO - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: An intense Kentucky Straight Bourbon from the Willet family with powerful 53.5% vol. aromas of dried fruit, red fruits, roasted grains, bread crust and gingerbread. A real insider tip.
4.Wild Turkey Rare Breed - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: Only for experienced connoisseurs due to the intense 58.4% Vol, but a powerhouse in terms of aroma. Ripe raspberries and blueberries meet fresh wood chips and citrus notes. Ginger, cloves and freshly baked bread with olive oil make this bourbon a delight. Definitely try.
What does Bottled in Bond mean?
On some US whiskeys you can read the term bottled in bond. This goes back to the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. At that time, whiskey was not a protected term in the USA. Some producers were looking for a quick buck and blended neutral spirits or unaged whiskey with flavors and colorings. The term bottled in bond was introduced in order to be able to differentiate between real, barrel-aged whiskey and cheap booze. Bottled in bond states that the whiskey must be produced in a distillery in one distilling season. Furthermore, the whiskey must have matured for at least four years and be bottled at at least 100 proof (50% vol.). Later, in the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the discussion about the term "Straight Whiskey" was initiated, which was not resolved until 1909 by President Taft.
What is a sour mash?
With bourbon and other American whiskeys, you often come across the term sour mash. But what does sour mash actually mean? The term translates as "sour mash" and refers to the process of mashing and fermentation. Because fermentation is a hugely important part of the flavor profile for bourbon. Bacterial contamination must be prevented so that the aromas can develop here in the desired way through the yeasts. The acidity of the mash is particularly important. The distillation leaves a residue that still contains yeast cultures and is acidic. This sediment from the distillation is now added to the mash. This gets fermentation going and at the same time prevents the growth of foreign bacteria and yeasts that could impair aroma formation. Contrary to the name, a sour mash does not result in any sour aromas in the whiskey. It only helps with the consistent quality of the bourbon. The sour mash process is also used for other American whiskeys.