History of Cigars | BLEND Bar Cigar | Davidoff Cigars
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January 22, 2016
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February 18, 2016

Creating Bourbon: America’s Native Spirit

How Bourbon Is Made | BLEND Bar Cigar

While we love good cigars, we also thoroughly enjoy America’s native spirit — bourbon. Bourbon is nearly as old as the United States itself. While Scotch, German, and Irish settlers quickly began making rye whiskey in Pennsylvania in the 1700s, bourbon is a result of the US government promising incentives to those who agreed to moved to the wild frontier, Kentucky, to grow corn. We don’t know who decided to make whiskey out of corn, but we are thankful that they did. Over the last four centuries, America’s spirit has been perfected.

What makes bourbon, bourbon?

How Bourbon Is Made | BLEND Bar CigarPut simply, bourbon is always whiskey, but whiskey isn’t always bourbon. In fact, there are several kinds of whiskey — such as scotch, rye, Irish whiskey, and many more — and each is defined by their ingredients, how they are made, and where they are made.

To be bourbon, the spirit must abide by the following guidelines:

  • It must be made in the USA. Just like scotch must be made in Scotland and champagne must be made in Champagne, bourbon must be made in the United States to actually be bourbon. Although the spirit can be made anywhere in the US, 95% of America’s native spirit is made in Kentucky.
  • It must be made of at least 51% corn. Wheat, rye, and other grains are necessary bourbon ingredients, but these grains cannot account for more than 49% of the recipe.
  • It must be distilled at less than 160 proof and enter barrels at no more than 125 proof. If the spirit is higher than 160 proof (80% alcohol), the beverage is about as potent as moonshine and definitely isn’t bourbon.
  • The whiskey must be stored in new, charred, American white oak barrels. This is arguably bourbon’s most defining quality. While scotch and cognac distillers often reuse barrells and will even use an old cognac barrel to store scotch or vice versa, bourbon’s distinct taste is a result of using a new barrel for every batch.
  • It must age for a minimum of two years. While bourbon tends to be at its peak between years six and eight, the spirit can’t be called bourbon unless it has spent two years becoming developing its flavor.
  • Its flavor can’t be tainted. While honey bourbons and fruit bourbons are becoming increasingly popular, they aren’t truly bourbon. Essentially, anything that is flavored or has anything added to it other than water and the correct ratio of ingredients is not bourbon.

How is bourbon made?

With so many guidelines, creating one of America’s favorite spirits sounds like quite a task. However, the process has been perfected since bourbon’s creation in the late 18th century.

It starts with grains.

Corn is the primary ingredient in bourbon and can account for 51% to 79% of the recipe. Other ingredients include malted barley, rye, and — sometimes — red winter wheat. Once a distillery decides upon the grain mixture, the grains are stored in silos and ground into fine flour.

“Mash” is made.

After the grains are ground, each type of grain is placed in a mash cooker with iron-free water and cooked for approximately 30 minutes. The corn is cooked the longest at 220 degrees Fahrenheit, and the rye and barley are each cooked between 150 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit. After they are cooked, the grains are mixed together into what is called “mash.”

Yeast is added.

Once the mash cools to 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, yeast is added to the fermentation tank, which breaks down the sugar in the mash and converts it to alcohol over a three-day period. The alcohol created is 20 proof and is actually beer. The beer is drained from the fermentation tube into a beer well.

The beer is distilled.

To separate the whiskey, the beer is heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit at the bottom of a still. As the liquid boils at the bottom of the still, a gas moves to the top and is filtered into a tank where it is condensed. From there, the gas is condensed again, which further refines the flavor, and is called “high wine” or “white dog.” If the liquid is between 100 and 125 proof, it is sampled and ready to mature in a barrel.

The bourbon is aged in white oak barrels.

How Bourbon Is Made | BLEND Bar CigarAs mentioned before, bourbon must be stored in new, American, white oak barrels. To make a proper bourbon barrel, the wood of a white oak is cut into staves, which are then heated and bent into an ovular form to form a barrel. Then, the barrel is toasted in a small fire to caramelize the sugar in the wood for approximately 12 minutes. The barrel is then put through a larger fire for 6 to 12 seconds to char the inside of the barrel. The barrel must be charred evenly to ensure the whiskey has an even, consistent flavor.

After that, the barrel is closed and transported to a distillery, where barrels are stored for at least two years to expand and contract. When temperatures rise in the summer, the bourbon expands, and when temperatures become frigid in the winter, the bourbon contracts. This movement gives bourbon its oak flavor and amber color. Once the bourbon reaches what the brand deems acceptable, it is bottled and shipped.

Over the last four centuries, several brands have perfected the bourbon recipe, and some of the most respected, premium brands are regularly enjoyed at BLEND Bar • Cigar with Davidoff Cigars®. Bourbon brands, like Four Roses, can always be found on our shelf, and our reserve bourbon list features seasonal spirits, such as Pappy Van Winkle, that you won’t want to miss. You’re always invited to stop by and enjoy premium cigars and bourbon with us.


BLEND Logo Retina-01BLEND Bar • Cigar with Davidoff Cigars® is Indianapolis and Nashville’s premier cocktail lounge and cigar bar. BLEND’s selection of premium cigars is second to none, and our walk-in humidor is one of the largest in the US. BLEND is the only appointed merchant for Davidoff cigars in Indiana, so cigar aficionados are sure to find what they are looking for.

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