Bourbon is a popular liquor that is featured in several classic mixed drinks and cocktails. This traditional spirit begins as a mix of fermented grains and is turned into this special type of whiskey. This liquor is distinct from other whiskeys due to its aging process and the way it is manufactured.
How Is Bourbon Made?
The Mash Bill Is Determined
The craft distillery creating this whiskey will have their master distiller first determine the mash bill, or recipe. This involved deciding the mixture of grains, which must include a ratio of at least 51 percent corn. Other grains that are included are a mixture of malted barley, rye, or wheat.
The mix of grains will then be combined with water and yeast to create a fermentable base. This mixture will be heated and stirred, ensuring it is well combined and ready for fermentation.
The Fermentation Process
Distilleries will store their base mixture for around one to two weeks in a vat to fully ferment it. During this time, the compounds begin breaking down, producing a simple, natural alcohol called ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Sour mash, which is the leftover mash from a previous batch, and yeast are then added to the mixture, reducing the mash’s pH in order to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Once fermentation is complete, the liquid will then be strained from the fermented solids. The solids are discarded and the liquid, or ethanol, is then distilled into whiskey.
The Distillation Process
The process of distillation purifies the fermented liquid by heating and vaporizing it. The vapor is then collected and recondenses into a liquid. The distillate, or resulting liquid, is considered purer and more alcoholic, as it leaves behind many of its impurities when evaporated. This type of whiskey is put through this distillation process twice, boosting the alcohol content and removing impurities.
Aging and Barreling
When this whiskey variety reaches between 80 and 125 proof, the distillers will age it in a charred oak barrel for no less than two years. The sugars of the whiskey are carmelized with the help of the charred layers of oak. This process contributes to the spirit’s overall distinct flavor and color. The distiller can decide beforehand to what degree the oak barrel is charred, controlling how much the container will affect their whiskey.
Distillers will test and dilute their product to ensure the proper alcohol content. This includes adding filtered water either before or after the aging process. When it is up to standard and all impurities are removed, the product will be added to labeled bottles, effectively stopping the aging process.
This mahogany-colored whiskey variety contains a minimum of 40 perfect ABV (alcohol by volume), and never contains other flavorings or additives. It’s signature smoothness is created during the fermentation process when the high mineral content bonds with the alcohol’s carbohydrates, making it the perfect liquor for sipping or mixing into any number of popular drinks, like the Manhattan, Mint Julep, Old Fashioned or a Whiskey Sour.
We hope you learned something new about how is bourbon made and what is bourbon made from. Learning some interesting facts about this classic whiskey is fun and interesting, don’t you think? If you enjoyed this read, share it or leave us a message in the comment section.