types of bourbon

10 Types of Bourbon You Need to Try Before You Die

Are you a bourbon connoisseur? Do you know about all types of bourbon whisky available in the market? Bourbon is a type of American whisky that has grown in popularity over the years. It is a distilled alcoholic beverage largely prepared from maize and aged in charred oak barrels.

It has a distinct flavor and fragrance when compared to other liquors due to the use of various grains, barrels, and aging methods. Be it standard or high-rye, let’s look at what distinguishes these bourbon types from one another. So, let’s get this party started!

1. Standard Bourbon

standard bourbon

Standard bourbon is the most often-seen type of whisky in the market. To be categorized as a standard bourbon, the whisky must meet the fundamental bourbon standards, which include being matured in charred oak barrels for at least two years.

It must also be manufactured from a grain blend that has at least 51% corn in its mash bill, with the remainder being wheat, rye, or barley.

Apart from that, it must be bottled at least at 80 proof or higher, and nothing else, other than water, should be put into the bottle of bourbon to change the proof.

Suggested Read: Best Scotch Whiskies Under $100

2. Kentucky Bourbon

Kentucky Bourbon

Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, producing more than 90% of all bourbon whisky produced in the United States. Like Standard bourbon, Kentucky must adhere to the same standards as regular bourbon as well as it must also be produced in Kentucky.

Some feel that Kentucky’s limestone-rich water imparts a special flavor and character to its bourbon. Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve are some of the most well-known Kentucky bourbon brands.

To make sure it’s authentic, make sure you check the label of the bourbon you are buying and is mentioning that it’s made in Kentucky.

3. Blended Bourbon

Types of Bourbon

A blended bourbon is made by combining two or more straight bourbons. The bourbons are combined to create a distinct flavor character. However, the main differentiator for this type of bourbon is that it must contain at least 20% straight bourbon.

Straight bourbons are often smoother and more refined than blended bourbons. Distillers successfully combine pure whisky with other higher-proof bourbons to create blended whiskies.

Although premium blended bourbon has more costly varieties on the market, this type of whisky is less pricey. It takes a lot of whisky barrel blending to make a quality blended bourbon whisky.

4. Wheated Bourbon

Wheated Bourbon

Wheated bourbon is manufactured from a grain blend that contains more wheat than other varieties of whisky. Wheat imparts a softer, smoother flavor characteristic to bourbon. Wheated bourbons generally have 12% to 20% wheat in their grain blend.

Bourbon distillers often employ rye, maize, and malted barley in it. So, in wheat bourbon, rye is replaced with wheat, resulting in a lighter, softer, and sweeter whisky.

Distillers avoid adding more maize to wheat bourbon to enhance the richness of the flavor notes. Some of the popular wheat bourbon brands include Larceny Small Batch Bourbon, Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whiskey, and Redemption Wheated Bourbon to name a few.

5. High-Rye Bourbon

High-Rye Bourbon

This is a style of bourbon whisky with a larger amount of rye grain in its mash bill, often between 20 and 35%. A standard bourbon, on the other hand, has a mash level of 7-10% rye.

When opposed to regular bourbon, which includes a larger amount of maize in its mash bill, this results in a hotter, drier flavor profile. Because of their peppery overtones, they also combine nicely with savory meals.

Four Roses, Bulleit Bourbon, and Wild Turkey 101 are some of the well-known high-rye bourbons. Overall, high-rye bourbons provide a distinct flavor experience for anyone wishing to delve into the realm of bourbon whisky.

6. Single Barrel Bourbon

Single Barrel Bourbon

Single-barrel bourbon is a whisky that has been bottled from a single barrel. Because each barrel has its own distinct flavor character, no two bottles of single-barrel bourbon are alike. Single barrel bourbon is often bottled at a higher proof than other varieties of whisky, ranging from 100 to 130 percent.

It is bottled individually with the aging process date and barrel number. You can enjoy Single Barrel Bourbon neat, on the rocks, or in a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. Cheers!

Also Read: Best Scotch Under $150 That You Must Try

7. Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon

Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon

If you like bourbon, you’ve probably heard the term “bottled-in-bond.” But what exactly does it signify, and why is it significant? Bottled-in-bond is an 1897 law that ensures the purity and authenticity of bourbon.

It signifies that the bourbon was made by a single distiller in a single season at a single distillery, matured for at least four years in a federally bonded warehouse, and bottled at a minimum of 100 percent proof compared to the normal 80 percent proof.

This assures that the bourbon has not been tainted or diluted with additions or coloring. Bottled-in-bond bourbon honors the heritage and tradition of American whisky production. It is a reliable indicator of quality and craftsmanship.

8. Sour Mash Bourbon

Sour Mash Bourbon

It’s a type of bourbon that uses some of the fermented mash from a previous batch to start the fermentation of the new batch. This gives it a distinctive flavor and aroma that is smooth, rich and complex. Sour mash bourbon is perfect for sipping neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails.

Tennessee Whisky uses a sour mash process to make bourbon. After crushing the grains, a key step in this process is to lower the pH level. The acids from the prior batch will have an effect on the batch’s overall pH values.

So, when you read “Sour Mash Whisky” on a spirit’s label, it signifies that it was distilled utilizing the sour mash procedure. Some of the top sour mash bourbon brands include Tiger Snake, Nelson’s Green Brier and Old Elk Sour Mash Reserve to name a few.

9. Organic Bourbon

Organic Bourbon

Ever heard of a bourbon whiskey that’s healthy for the environment? Look no further than organic bourbon. Organic bourbon is produced from maize and other grains farmed without the use of pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers. This suggests that organic bourbon has a smaller environmental effect than conventional bourbon.

The natural fermentation and aging process gives organic bourbon a rich and deep flavor. Organic bourbon may be enjoyed straight, on the rocks, or combined into your favorite cocktail.

Some of the top organic bourbon brands include Koval Bourbon Whiskey, Armorik Classic, and Western Reserve 8-Year-Old Organic Bourbon to name a few.

10. Small Batch Bourbon

Small Batch Bourbon

Small-batch bourbon, as the name suggests, is created by combining a limited number of barrels of whisky to create a distinct flavor character. Depending on the distillery, the number of barrels utilized in a small batch might vary.

It is normally matured for at least four years and bottled at a greater level than blended bourbon, usually between 90 and 100 percent. Due to the absence of official categorization, small-batch bourbons can be extremely subjective.

What’s Essential For a Bourbon To Be Called a Bourbon?

If you enjoy bourbon, you may have questioned what distinguishes bourbon from other varieties of whisky or what makes a bourbon, a bourbon. In order to be labeled as a bourbon, a whisky must fulfill certain legal conditions. Here are some of the main conditions:

  • It has to be manufactured in the United States. You can’t brew bourbon in Scotland or Ireland. Only American whisky can lay claim to this prestigious title.
  • It must include at least 51% maize. Other grains might vary, but maize is the most common. This imparts bourbon’s trademark sweet and silky flavor.
  • It must be matured in charred oak barrels that are brand new. The barrels cannot be reused for bourbon production, and they must be burnt on the inside to form a coating of carbon. This gives the bourbon color, fragrance, and depth.
  • It must be distilled to a strength of no more than 160 proof (80% ABV) and entered the barrel at no more than 125 proof (62.5% ABV).

So these were the key conditions for calling a bourbon a bourbon. Of course, there are many other types and kinds of whisky, such as rye bourbon, wheat bourbon, single barrel bourbon, and so on. But they must all adhere to these fundamental guidelines.


In conclusion, bourbon is a distinct and adaptable spirit produced in the U.S. that comes in a range of forms and types. There is a bourbon for everyone’s taste preferences, from standard bourbon to high-rye bourbon. All bourbon whiskies are technically standard bourbons since they fulfill the legal standards. However, it differs depending on their mash builds, which produce diverse types of bourbon.

Understanding the many varieties of whisky will help you make more educated selections when choosing a bourbon to drink or give as a gift.


1. Is Tennessee whiskey a Bourbon type?

The answer is yes and no. Tennessee Whisky satisfies all of the legal standards to be recognized as bourbon, but it also has its own specific personality that distinguishes it from other bourbons. As a result, Tennessee Whisky can be labeled as a bourbon as well as Tennessee Whisky.

2. What is the difference between bourbon and whiskey?

Bourbon is a whisky created mostly of corn and matured in charred oak barrels. Whisky, on the other hand, may be created from other grains such as barley, wheat and rye.

3. What is the difference between small-batch bourbon and single-barrel bourbon?

Small-batch bourbon is created by combining a limited number of barrels together to create a distinct flavor character. In contrast, single-barrel bourbon is bottled from a single barrel and has its own style.

4. Can bourbon be made outside of the United States?

No, bourbon can only be made in the United States. To be classified as bourbon, the whiskey must be made in the United States and aged in charred oak barrels.

5. How long does bourbon need to be aged?

Bourbon whisky must be matured in charred oak barrels for at least two years before being labeled as such. Many bourbons, however, are matured for far longer than two years.

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