Understanding the difference between whiskey and bourbon is probably confusing for many people because all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. So you are not wrong by calling Jim Beam white label “whiskey” or “bourbon.” However, you wouldn’t want to call Crown Royal “bourbon” because it doesn’t meet the criteria designated by international law.
The three criteria for whiskey to qualify as bourbon are as follows:
- it must be made in the United States
- it must be made from at least 51% and no more than 79% corn
- it must aged for at least two years
Whiskey (also spelled “whisky”) can be made anywhere and can be made from a variety of mash ingredients with a higher or lower corn ratio. For example, rye whiskey uses more rye than corn, scotch is made with malt and grain, Canadian whiskey is often made with a fermented mash of cereal grain, and so on.
Also, although a lot of bourbon is made in Kentucky, bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S. However, only bourbon made in Kentucky can be designated with a “Kentucky Bourbon” label. The name “bourbon” actually comes from a county in Kentucky called Bourbon County.