It seems that there are quite a few specific requirements when it comes to brewing bourbon. I say brewing I think it is called distilling and fermenting.
In order to be able to call bourbon bourbon, apart from being made in the US, the mash needs to be made from a minimum of 51% corn. The remainder of the mash is then usually made from a mix of malted barley, rye and wheat. The combination of the additional ingredients can be used at the discretion of the distiller who can use all or just one of them. The combination that is used of course helps to dictates the taste.
The grains that are used are finely ground and then mixed with water. How much of each is used I have no idea but I wouldn’t expect to easily find out how to make my own. It wouldn’t be as good as the professionals that is for sure.
More often than the mash is made into sour mash by adding an amount of mash from the previous distillation. This is said to ensure a consistent PH level across all of the batches made in that certain distillery. Once the mash is how they want it to be, the yeast is then added and left to create a clear liquid which the industry calls white dog. No idea why but…..
In order to get the beautiful colouring that we see in bourbon and also the wonderful taste, the white dog is left to age. The longer the bourbons are left to age, the darker they become. There is a fine line as to how long they should be left to age though as bourbons that have been aged for too long become too woody. The bourbons are matured rather than aged 😉
Once the bourbon has reached the required maturity, it is removed from the charred barrels and then filtereed. Once filtered, a certain amount of distilled water is added for dilution purposes and then when it reaches 40% abv which equated to 80 proof it is then bottled ready for labelling.
Any bourbon that is under 80 proof can be sold however, it has to be labelled as diluted bourbon and to be honest, who wants the diluted stuff… not me…..
After the bourbon has been removed from the barrels they are then sold to other countries who will then distill different alcohols in them. Once a barrel has been used for bourbon it may not be used for bourbon again.
The prepared bourbon is then ready to be bottled. Depending on the type of bourbon it may well just be from one specific barrel however, there are many bourbons that are what is called blended. Blended bourbons are pretty much exactly what they sound like.. Bourbons from different barrels are mixed together to create one bourbon which is then bottled. The labels that are on the bottles will usually state if it is blended or bottled by itself…
Have a look next time you fill up your hip flask and see how your bourbon was made.
For more information on the origins of bourbon, check out our article – Bourbon Sweet Nectar for your hip flask
We also have another article containing our favourite bourbon drinks – 5 delicious bourbon drinks