As an expert sommelier and brewer, I can confidently say that a blended whiskey can indeed be classified as a bourbon. However, there are certain criteria that need to be met in order for a blended whiskey to be considered a bourbon.
According to the regulations set by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), in order for a whiskey to be classified as a bourbon, it must be made from a mash bill that consists of at least 51% corn. This means that the majority of the grains used in the production of bourbon must be corn.
Furthermore, a bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. The aging process imparts unique flavors and characteristics to the bourbon, making it distinct from other types of whiskey. The TTB also requires that bourbon be distilled to no more than 160 proof and enter the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof.
Now, when it comes to blended bourbon, the regulations state that it must contain at least 51% straight bourbon. This means that the majority of the blend must be made up of bourbon that meets the above criteria. However, the remaining 49% can include added coloring, flavoring, and other spirits, such as un-aged neutral grain spirits.
The inclusion of these additional spirits in a blended bourbon can provide a different flavor profile and can help to achieve a desired taste. However, it is important to note that the label of a blended bourbon must contain the age of the youngest bourbon in the bottle. This provides transparency to the consumer regarding the aging process of the bourbon blend.
In my personal experience, I have come across some excellent blended bourbons that have showcased a harmonious balance of flavors. The addition of other spirits and flavorings can enhance the complexity and depth of the bourbon, resulting in a unique and enjoyable drinking experience.
To summarize, a blended whiskey can be classified as a bourbon as long as it meets the criteria set by the TTB, which includes containing at least 51% straight bourbon and being aged in new, charred oak barrels. The inclusion of added coloring, flavoring, and other spirits is permitted, but the age of the youngest bourbon in the bottle must be stated on the label.