Choosing the proper bourbon can make or break your mint julep cocktail. So, which bourbon should you use? Well, the most important answer is whatever tastes good to you, but if you’re looking for a little more direction, we’ve got you covered.
Bourbon is the All-American spirit. Whiskey may be made everywhere but in 1964, Congress declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit.” That means to be called bourbon, it must be made in the U.S., have a mash bill that is at least 51% corn, be distilled in charred oak barrels, and be a maximum of 80% ABV.
95% off all the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky. In fact, in Kentucky, there are more barrels of bourbon (4.7 million) than people (4.3 million). When choosing bourbon for the official cocktail of the state’s most celebrated event, you might want to go with a Kentucky brand.
There are three types of bourbon available – Traditional, Wheat, and Rye. Each one offers a distinctive difference in the taste of the final bourbon.
1. Traditional Bourbon has a mash that is made out of over 70% corn with the remainder being equal parts rye and barley.
2. Wheat Bourbon is made similarly to traditional bourbon, but the wheat replaces rye in the mash mixture, providing a sweeter flavor and less burn.
3. Rye Bourbon is best known for its bite. The mash mix will have less corn, very little barley, and double the rye.
Of course, these three basic types of bourbon are broken down further into sub-categories including:
4. Small Batch Bourbon
Unless stated otherwise, most bourbons and whiskeys are a blend. Small batch just means they are a blend of a small number of barrels.
5. Single Barrel Bourbon
Single barrel is not blended but rather this liquor is from a single barrel.
6. Blended Bourbon
Harder to find and defined legally as containing at least 51% straight bourbon whiskey. It doesn’t say what the other 49% must be.
7. Unfiltered Bourbon
This bourbon is not run through a filter and may have a hazy appearance.
The longer it ages the more complex and richer the flavor will be. The aging process tends to increase the price point, and if you’re covering all those nuanced details with a cocktail, you might want to use a younger bourbon solely for financial reasons.
This new variant is a barrel strength version of Bulleit Bourbon with the same high-rye mash bill. Featuring tones of maple, oak, and nutmeg with a long, dry and satiny finish highlighting a light toffee flavor with deepened oak notes.
A straight whiskey using a high-rye mash bill resulting in a spicy and rich bourbon that’s complex, full-bodied and surprisingly smooth with a delicate, long finish that’s unbelievably mellow.
Surprisingly smooth, this bourbon retains the signature, front-of-the-palate flavors of Maker’s Mark while amping up the notes of oak, caramel, vanilla and spice.
Uncut with water, Rare Breed is an uncompromised Kentucky bourbon with tones of sweet tobacco and hints of orange and mint, making it a remarkably smooth whiskey legend.
Bourbon in its purest form—uncut, straight from the barrel, and without chill filtering. Rich vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch on the palate along with spices of black pepper and cinnamon at the back of the palate.