What grain is bourbon made from?

Answered by Nicholas Phillips

, a beloved American , is made from a combination of grains, , and . The primary grain used in bourbon is corn, which must make up at least 51% of the mash bill. However, it is worth noting that most bourbons have a higher corn content, typically around 70%. This higher corn percentage contributes to the sweetness and smoothness that is often associated with bourbon.

In addition to corn, other grains are also used in the bourbon-making process to add complexity and flavor. , malted barley, and wheat are commonly used as the “flavor” grains in various combinations. Each of these grains brings its own distinct characteristics to the final product.

Rye, for example, adds a spicy and robust flavor profile to bourbon. It can create a slightly drier and more assertive taste, adding a touch of complexity to the overall flavor profile. Malted barley, on the other hand, contributes enzymes that help convert the starches in the grains into fermentable sugars during the mashing process. This is crucial for the fermentation process and ultimately affects the final taste of the bourbon.

Wheat, often used as a flavor grain in wheated bourbons, offers a softer and smoother mouthfeel. Wheated bourbons are known for their mellow and delicate flavor profiles, with wheat providing a subtle sweetness and creamy texture. This grain variation is popular among bourbon enthusiasts and has gained a devoted following over the years.

The combination of these grains, along with the unique yeast strains used by each distillery, creates the intricate flavors and aromas found in different bourbon brands. It is fascinating to explore the various mash bills and how they influence the final product.

As a sommelier and brewer, I have had the pleasure of tasting and studying numerous bourbons with different grain compositions. It is remarkable how the choice and proportions of grains can dramatically impact the flavor, mouthfeel, and overall character of the bourbon. Each grain brings its own contribution to the final product, creating a harmonious blend of flavors that excites the palate.

Bourbon is made primarily from corn, with a minimum requirement of 51% in the mash bill. However, most bourbons use a higher percentage of corn, typically around 70%. Rye, malted barley, and wheat are also used as flavor grains to add complexity and unique characteristics to the bourbon. The combination of these grains, along with the yeast and water, forms the foundation for crafting the rich and diverse world of bourbon.