September is National Bourbon Heritage Month. Before you tip your glass back, make yourself look really cool by first understanding the difference between bourbon vs whiskey.

What's the difference between bourbon and whiskey?

In order to be bourbon whiskey, it legally must consist of 51% corn, be aged in virgin barrels for at least 2 years, and hover between 80 and 101 proof. While reading up about bourbon, I found a few things I thought were most important to know.
5 Things you need to know about bourbon

Five Things You Should Know About Bourbon vs Whiskey

1. All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon.

2. Bourbon is all-American spirit. In 1964, under President Lyndon Johnson's administration, Congress declared bourbon America's Native Spirit.

3. The only thing that can be added to bourbon is water (and only to bring it down to proof). Other whiskey makers can add colors and flavors to their products.

4. Whiskey can age in re-used barrels. By law bourbon must use NEW charred American white oak barrels.

5. It can't say “bourbon” on the label if it's not distilled in the United States. And it can't be “Kentucky Bourbon” unless it's distilled in Kentucky.

Source: Jim Beam

Here are a few unique bourbons, all American made of course:

Pecan Bourbon

William Wolf Pecan Bourbon uses real pecans and real maple syrup to blend with Kentucky bourbon. We wanted to stick to the original prohibition era recipe, says William Wolf representative, James Landis.

Bourbon vs Whiskey on

If you haven't tried drinking bourbon yet, I'd suggest starting here. The taste is smooth and finishes with a great nutty pecan flavor without being overly sweet. It's nice to drink on the rocks or to blend and make an adult milkshake!

Complex & Silky Smooth

Widow Jane 10 Year Straight Bourbon Whiskey ages 10 years making it one of the smoothes finishes I've tried when it comes to bourbon. It starts with buttery, deep cherry notes and ends with a citrus and spice undertones. While it's complexity would make it great for a simple cocktail, I suggest drinking this neat or on the rocks.

Widow Jane 10 Year Straight Bourbon Whiskey


If you prefer a smokey cocktail, then you'll enjoy Bulleit Bourbon. “Kentucky limestone-filtered water provides a foundation for the bourbon's character, while charred American oak barrels lend a smoky backbone.” Bulleit Distilling Company makes its sprits in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

Bulleit Bourbon From Kentucky

While I can drink some bourbon on the rocks, this isn't one I could enjoy on its own. I think it would make for the perfect bourbon for a complex mixed drink . 

Delicate and Spicey

While most of us equate bourbon with Kentucky, Traverse City Whiskey Co. has reconstructed its whiskey recipe that's been lingering in the family for three generations while making it in northern Michigan. Traverse City Whiskey Co. XXX Straight Bourbon Whiskey offers delicate notes of vanilla with a subtle spiciness after being aged at least four years in new American white oak barrels.

Traverse City Whiskey Co. Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Smooth and Delicate

Buffalo Trace Distillery have been making Kentucky bourbon for over 200 years. Its namesake bourbon is complex without being overly bold. Its whiskeys are distilled with non-GMO corn too.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon Made in Kentucky Bourbon vs Whiskey

The unique balance of vanilla and oak makes Buffalo Trace perfect for sipping or to mixing into cocktails. 

Crisp and Bold

Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey is made at an elevation of 9,600 feet with and Breckenridge snowmelt water from the Rocky Mountain used for proofing. Is that cool, or what? It's aged for a minimum of two years in new charred American oak barrels.

Bourbon vs Whiskey Breckenridge Bourbon Winner

Breckenridge's balanced grain blend, {56% Yellow Corn, 38% Green Rye, 6% Barley}, imparts a uniquely rounded flavor and finish. The corn imparts sweetness, while the rye adds a spicy kick. 

Double Oaked

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked is matured in twice, first in new chared oak barrels and second is deeply toasted before its light charring, hence imparting a sweeter notes, as opposed to smokey notes.

Bourbon vs Whiskey Woodford Reserve

Despite the fact that its double oaked, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, features sweeter notes, as opposed to smokey notes from the charring. It makes for a great after dinner sipping bourbon.

The Small Batch Collection: Created by Booker Noe, grandson of Jim Beam

Jim Beam has also been making bourbon for more than 200 years in Kentucky. They make Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Baker's, Booker's, Jim Beam, and Maker's Mark. Last year it was sold to a Japanese company and its now owned by Beam Suntory, but its bourbon is still made in Kentucky.

Bourbon vs Whiskey via

Baker's is aged seven years and bottled at 107 proof. It utilizes a special strain of jug yeast which results in a silky smooth texture.

Basil Hayden's is bottled at 80 proof and utilizes twice as much rye in it as the other bourbons in the Small Batch Collection, which gives it a gentle yet spicy flavor.

Booker's is aged six to eight years and bottled between 121 and 127 proof. It's bourbon bottled straight-from-the-barrel, uncut and unfiltered.

Knob Creek is aged for 9 years and bottled at 100 proof.

Bourbon vs. Whiskey America's National Spirit See Our Top Picks at

Disclosure: USA Love List received some products mentioned in this post unconditionally. Our opinions are always our own, and we aim to write fair and balanced reviews to promote only the very best of American-made products.