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View Full Version : What makes a bourbon?



Megawatt
05-01-2010, 17:20
Funny question, I know. I'm trying to figure out exactly what makes bourbon taste so much different from other types of whisky. Why such a heavy, oily flavour? I know the new oak casks have a lot to do with it, but what else? Is the distillation process markedly different from that of Canadian whisky or blended Scotch, for instance? In comparing Eagle Rare to Forty Creek the differences in flavour are obvious. But why? Forty Creek Double Barrel uses first-fill bourbon casks as opposed to new oak, which accounts for some of the difference. But what about the rest? Both are pot-distilled (twice, presumably). Both are composed of various grains, though Forty Creek is distilled and aged separately and then blended whereas in Eagle Rare or other bourbons the grains are mashed together and distilled as one. Is it all about the final distillation proof?

Hawg73
05-01-2010, 17:49
I'm no expert but I believe it is the nature of the corn. Although I am pretty sure that is a simplistic explanation.

Dramiel McHinson
05-01-2010, 20:09
I'm no expert but I believe it is the nature of the corn. Although I am pretty sure that is a simplistic explanation.

That would be part of the answer no doubt. With all the permutations in the process of making whiskey the possibilities are endless. Maybe the biggest impact is in grains, yeast, distillation and still type, wood and environment.

The truth is in the details. Does anyone have a junior woodchuck high performance liquid chromatography kit at home? That would surely tell us the difference.

Hawg73
05-02-2010, 08:26
That would be part of the answer no doubt. With all the permutations in the process of making whiskey the possibilities are endless. Maybe the biggest impact is in grains, yeast, distillation and still type, wood and environment.

The truth is in the details. Does anyone have a junior woodchuck high performance liquid chromatography kit at home? That would surely tell us the difference.

Maybe I could have Abby on NCIS run it through the GC to analyze it. :)

sailor22
05-02-2010, 10:12
Does anyone have a junior woodchuck high performance liquid chromatography kit at home?

There is an industrial strength one just down the hall at work but I can't get those wankers to do a few free runs for me.

Dramiel McHinson
05-02-2010, 18:16
There is an industrial strength one just down the hall at work but I can't get those wankers to do a few free runs for me.

Sailor, you are our only hope. Work on em! Maybe they'll give in and do a run on their lunch break. :grin:

cowdery
05-02-2010, 20:35
It's the new charred oak barrels that make the difference. Corn imparts very little flavor. The grain flavor come from the rye or, in some cases, wheat. Rye especially is often used in very small quantities--less than 10%--because a little goes a long way. But the flavor that sets American whiskey apart is the new barrel.

The best way to illustrate how important the new barrel is this: make two cups of tea with one tea bag. Take the new bag, make one cup, let it steep fully, then use the same tea bag to make a second cup. That's the difference between a new barrel and a used barrel.