Differences between Whiskey & Bourbon

The process behind distilling spirits is as complex as the differences between the various types of alcoholic beverages. Whiskey, or whisky, is a distilled alcoholic drink made from various grains. Not only does the spelling of the whiskeys vary based on the region, but there are also differences between the types of whiskeys in each area of the world. The different grains and distillation methods contribute to the range of flavors. Bourbon whiskey is one of those types of whiskeys with a unique distilling process. These are the differences that put bourbon whiskey in a category of its own.


  • Ireland is known as being the first country to create whiskey, although that is a debated subject. However, the earliest written records date back to the early 15th century in Ireland.
  • The two main types of whiskey can be categorized as a malt whiskey, which is made from barley, or a grain whiskey, which is made from any grain.
  • Distilling processes for whiskey vary including single malt whiskey, blended malt whiskey, blended whiskey, cask strength (barrel proof), and single cask (single barrel).
  • Some whiskeys add caramel, molasses, or other flavorings during the distillation process.
  • Whiskey types are also characterized by the different regions that it originated in. Whiskey is distilled all over the world, but some of the most well-known countries include Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Japan, and the United States.
  • Most of Europe, Scotland, and Ireland require whiskey to be matured for at least three years. The minimum duration that whiskey must mature varies for other countries.
  • Whiskey has various flavors including, but not limited to, sweet, spicy, smooth, and smokey.


  • Bourbon is an American Whiskey with roots dating back to the 18th It is often associated with Kentucky.
  • Historically, bourbon was only distilled in Kentucky, but current regulations allow bourbon to be legally produced anywhere in the United States.
  • A distinct feature of bourbon is that it is made from predominately corn mash. Bourbon has to be made with at least 51% corn, the rest can be a blend of rye, wheat, or barley.
  • Bourbon must also be distilled without any additives.
  • Another requirement of bourbon is that it must be distilled at less than 80% alcohol-by-volume (ABV), or 160-proof, and then barreled at no more than 62.5% ABV, or 125-proof.
  • Straight bourbon must be matured for at least two years in new, charred, oak barrels and kept unblended.
  • Bourbon is known for having a sweeter taste than other whiskeys.

To experience the various types of whiskey and taste the difference compared with bourbon, stop by Shooters Wood Fire Grill, a Rapid City restaurant, during Happy Hour from 4pm to 6pm or 9pm to close, every day.