Bourbon 101: Your Bourbon Guide | 1700 Degrees Steakhouse

Bourbon 101: Your Bourbon Guide

Are All Whiskies Bourbon?

No, bourbon whiskey, a.k.a., “America’s native spirit,” is a title well-earned.
Not every bottle of whiskey can make that claim.
Bourbon buffs know the contents of their drink will be at least 51% corn. Further, it will be aged in new, charred, single-use white oak barrels, bottled at no more than 160 US proof (80% alcohol by volume), and made in America.
How do they know? It’s the law: It can’t be called bourbon if the distiller fails to follow the law.
And bourbon fans delight in exploring new and pleasurable variations made possible by fresh combinations of aging, barreling and blending.
If you’re just starting out on your journey of bourbon discovery, this glossary and Q&A is for you.

What Types of Bourbon Are There?

Straight Bourbon

Straight Bourbon meets all legal requirements and has been aged for two years. By law, if a bourbon has been aged fewer than four years, the bottle must include an age statement. If your bottle of straight bourbon has no age statement, it is at least 4 years old.

Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a blend of straight bourbon whiskeys. For the record, whiskey is simply an alcoholic beverage made by distilling a fermented grain mash. Bourbon whiskey lives up to the law’s higher standards.

Blended Bourbon Whiskey

Blended Bourbon Whiskey is a blend of whiskey and bourbon whiskey that contains at least 51% bourbon whiskey.

Bottled-in-Bond Bourbons

Bottled-in-Bond Bourbons are compliant with the 1897 Bottled-in-Bond Act, a measure the government took to ensure the quality of whiskeys. These bourbons come from a single distillery, the same distilling season, and are bottled at a higher (100) proof. They are then aged at a federally bonded warehouse for at least four years.

Single Barrel Bourbons

Single Barrel Bourbons, sometimes referred to as “single cask bourbons,” come from an individual aging barrel and are not blended from multiple barrels. Traditionally, bourbons are blended from multiple barrels to produce a standardized flavor and color profile. If you’d like to try a single barrel bourbon, Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is a fuller-bodied, complex bourbon with a lingering finish.

Small Batch Bourbon

Small Batch is a non-legal term referring to bourbons blended from a special selection of a small number of barrels.

Wheated Bourbons or “Wheaters”

Wheated Bourbons are those in which wheat replaces rye in the mix of grains typically used in producing bourbon.

Cask-Strength Bourbons

Cask-Strength Bourbons are higher proof bourbons bottled directly from the barrel. The lowest legally allowed alcohol level for bourbon is 80 US proof (40% ABV). However, cask-strength bourbon is typically 110 US proof and higher (and more flavorful, too). A fine example of a cask-strength bourbon is Ezra Brooks Old Ezra.

Sour Mash Bourbon

Sour Mash is simply bourbon that utilizes some of the spent mash from a previous batch along with new mash.

How to Drink Bourbon

What kind of glass is right for drinking bourbon?

A proper whiskey glass has a narrow opening at its top. This concentrates the aromas and reduces the amount of alcohol you smell, which makes your initial sniff more enjoyable and informative.

What is the proper way to drink bourbon?

Experts suggest you smell the bourbon as you sip it, then let it wash over your tongue before swallowing. Breathe out of both your nose and mouth after swallowing for a more complete tasting experience. Experiment with alternatives, such as adding a few drops of water or having your bourbon on ice. Both allow you to more easily appreciate the variety of flavors in your bourbon.

Why do people hold their bourbon to the light and swirl it before drinking?

After pouring your bourbon, hold it up to the light. The darker the color, the older the bourbon. Generally, the longer a whiskey ages, the better it is likely to be.
Now swirl it. This encourages evaporation, which promotes the release of aromatic chemicals. It also promotes the evaporation of alcohol, so don’t rush to take a deep sniff in the step that follows.
Swirling has another purpose. If after swirling, bourbon coats the glass, it is said to have legs. Heavier, slower-to-recede legs are said to indicate higher alcohol by volume and older whiskeys.

Why do people take that initial sniff before drinking their bourbon?

Smelling, sniffing or “nosing” your bourbon after swirling allows you to discern the aromas which will help to define the taste. These can be sweetly aromatic, fruity and floral, spicy or woody. To nose your bourbon, stick your nose in the glass and take a small sniff. If the smell of alcohol is overwhelming, we suggest you open your lips and breathe in through your mouth. At first, you will likely be unable to pinpoint exact aromas, but doing so gets easier with time and practice.
But what if I prefer bourbon cocktails over drinking my bourbon “neat”? (H3)
You have a number of options, including classics such as Old Fashioneds, Mint Juleps and Whiskey Sours.

I’d like to learn more. Where do I start?

Join us for Bourbon Week Monday, June 10, through Friday, June 14, at 1700° Degree Steakhouse. We will be releasing 15 special bourbons in five days!

Monday, June 10
Old Elk, CO

Tuesday, June 11
1792, Full Proof, 125 Proof, KY
1792, Single Barrel, KY.

Wednesday, June 12
Wild Turkey, Jimmy Russell Diamond Anniversary Release, 13 Year, KY
Wild Turkey, Kentucky Spirit, FWGS, KY
Wild Turkey, Longbranch, KY

Thursday, June 13
Old Forester, 1870, KY
Old Forester, 1897, KY
Old Forester, 1920, 115 Proof, KY
Old Forester, Statesman, KY

Friday, June 14
Barrel Craft Spirits, 015, 107 Proof, TN
Elijah Craig, Cask Strength, 124 Proof, 2019 Release, KY
Garrison Brothers, Cowboy, 136 Proof, 2018, TX
Kentucky Owl, The Wiseman’s, 121 Proof, KY
Old Ezra, Cask Strength, 117 Proof, 7 Year, KY