Well if you are drinking bourbon, and you damn well better be, then we know you are enjoying a whisk(e)y. We all know that whisk(e)y is a distilled grain spirit and in the case of bourbon, that grain is mostly corn. At least 51% corn to be considered a bourbon. Obviously it can be more, but never less than 51% as required by the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (27 C.F.R. 5). Bourbon can only be produced in the United States (For a review of what a bourbon is, please read the Bourbon Basics article posted on this site)
So we know Bourbon is made of corn. But do you know what other popular spirits are made from? How about scotch, rum or vodka? Well, you’re in luck. Despite my affinity for bourbon, I also know a little about other spirits as well. Let The Bourboneer impart some knowledge.
Vodka – Main ingredient: Just about anything. Ingredients like potatoes, rice, sorghum, sugar and even grains like wheat and corn are regularly used. Vodka is distilled so many times the ethanol level is usually around 95% until it is cut with water prior to bottling. All flavor is distilled out and the spirit is not aged therefore leaving a bland characterless offering.
Rum – Main ingredient: Sugar cane (molasses).
Scotch – Main ingredient: Barley but also other cereal grains.
Irish Whiskey – Main ingredient: Barley but also other cereal grains.
Canadian Whisky – Main ingredient: Rye and Corn
Tequila – Main ingredient: Agave plant (blue)
Gin – Main ingredient: Juniper berries
Brandy – Main ingredient: Various fruit depending on type desired (ie., peach, apple)
Cognac – Main ingredient: Grapes
Sherry – Main ingredient: Wine fortified with grape spirit
So there is a brief overview, not comprehensive of course, but a guide so to speak for the next occasion you partake in your favorite distilled spirit. However, when you pride yourself in drinking the world’s finest spirit, bourbon, then at least 51% corn is all you need to know.
– The Bourboneer
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Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Angel’s Envy KSBW (finished in port wine barrels), 43.3 ABV or 86.6 proof (NAS) Louisville Spirits Group, Louisville, KY.