9 Bourbon Grains

By: Jackie Martin    Last Updated: January 6, 2023       


10 Bourbon Grains

Bourbon grains are the kernels of the corn used to make bourbon whiskey, and they have a distinctive flavor that is very different from other types of grain.

Understanding bourbon grains can help you understand how bourbon is made, and gain a better understanding of the overall process.

Types Of Grain Used In Bourbon

There are two main types of grain used in making bourbon: corn and rye. Corn is the most common type of grain used in producing bourbon, while rye is another popular choice that can add unique flavors to the finished product.

1. Corn

Most bourbons contain a combination of corn and barley grains. The ratio of corn to barley varies depending on the style of bourbon.

For example, straight bourbon contains more corn than other styles of bourbon. On the other hand, blended bourbons tend to use a higher percentage of barley.

Some of the advantages of corn include:

It Creates A Smooth Flavor Profile

One of the key benefits of using corn is that it creates a smooth flavor profile, and this makes the end result appealing and delicious, and easy to drink.

It Produces A Rich Taste

Another benefit of using corn is that the flavor produced by the grain is rich and robust, ensuring that the taste is not watered down or reduced.

The Grain Is Easy To Grow

One of the key advantages is that corn is one of the easiest grains to grow. This means that farmers can easily produce enough corn to make up a significant portion of the grain used in bourbon production.

2. Rye

While corn is often associated with American bourbon, there are many different varieties of rye available. Rye has been used in the production of bourbon since the 1800s. Some of the benefits of using rye include:

It Adds Complexity And Depth Of Flavor

Using rye adds complexity and depth of flavor to the final product. This allows the end result to be much richer and fuller tasting than if only corn was used.

It Makes The Finished Product More Resilient

A key advantage of using rye is that it helps to ensure that the end product will last longer. This is because the grain tends to absorb moisture better than corn does.

3. Wheat

Though less common, wheat is also a grain that can be used in bourbon, and even though it may seem like an odd addition, it actually works well when combined with rye.

One of the benefits of using wheat is that it produces a smoother flavor profile than corn, and it can help to balance out the richness of rye.

Other Types Of Grain That Can Be Used In Bourbon Production

In addition to corn and rye, other grains can be used to create a variety of different styles of bourbon. These include malted barley, oats, rice, and sorghum.

Each of these grains provides its own set of benefits, so you’ll want to consider which ones work best for your specific needs.

4. Barley

Barley is another grain that can be used to create bourbon. It is sometimes referred to as “the heart” of the grain. Like rye, barley is another grain that absorbs moisture better than corn, and this makes it ideal for creating a more resilient bourbon.

5. Malted Barley

Also worth a mention is a malted barley; this is a special kind of barley that has been germinated before being processed into malt.

Malt is then added to the mash during the brewing process, and this gives the beer its characteristic sweetness. When used in bourbon making, the resulting whiskey is known as “malt bourbon.”

6. Oats

One of the grains much less commonly used in bourbon is oats – and this is large because they can be tricky to process. However, oat is a versatile grain that can be used alone or in combination with other grains.

7. Rice

Rice is another grain that can add complexity and depth of flavor, but it is rarely used on its own. Instead, it is usually mixed with other grains to create a unique blend.

8. Sorghum

Sorghum is a grain that is native to Africa, and it is becoming increasingly popular in the United States (see also ‘What Is Sorghum Flour?‘). It is typically used in conjunction with other grains, such as corn and rye.

9. Other Grains

Several other grains can be used to make bourbon. These include amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, teff, and triticale.

Many of these grains have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to research them thoroughly before deciding whether they 

would be suitable for use in your particular recipe.

How Does Bourbon Taste?

How Does Bourbon Taste?

When people think about bourbon, they often imagine a spirit with rich caramel notes and hints of vanilla. However, there are many different kinds of bourbons, each with its own distinct taste.

Some bourbons are sweet, while others are dry or spicy. Each type of bourbon also has its own unique characteristics, including color, aroma, and flavor.

For example, some bourbons are light-colored because they use lighter malted barley varieties. Others are dark-colored because they use darker malted barley varieties. Light-colored bourbons tend to be sweeter than dark-colored ones.

Some bourbons are flavored with spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. Others are not flavored at all.

Understanding How Bourbons Are Made Can Help You Understand Their Flavors

Several factors influence the flavor of a particular bourbon. These include:

Type Of Corn

The type of corn used to make the mash is a key element in the flavor of bourbon – corn is one of the most important ingredients in bourbon production.

Different types of corn produce different levels of sugar, which affects the amount of alcohol produced during the distillation process.

Type Of Yeast

The type of yeast used to ferment the mash is another major factor. Yeast is added to the mash to convert the starch into sugars. Different yeasts produce different amounts of alcohol.

Amounts Of Sugar

Sugar is added to the mash as part of the fermentation process. The more sugar present in the mash, the higher the level of alcohol produced by the yeast.

Aging Time

After the mash is fermented, it is distilled multiple times. As the distillate ages, it becomes increasingly concentrated. Aging time is a critical factor in determining the flavor of a particular brand of bourbon.

Storage Conditions

Temperature and humidity are both important factors when storing bottles of bourbon. If stored correctly, your favorite bourbon will continue to develop its full flavor over time.


As mentioned above, the aging time is a crucial factor in developing the flavor of a particular batch of bourbon.


Bourbon is matured in oak barrels for varying lengths of time. Oak barrels impart a variety of flavors and aromas to the bourbon.

Bourbon Whiskey Distillation Process

The first step in making bourbon is to mash the corn into a liquid called “mash” using heat and water. The next step is distilling the mash. This process involves heating the mash and then adding yeast to convert it into alcohol.

When the temperature reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius), the distillation process begins.

This mixture is then placed in large copper stills, where it is heated until the water evaporates.

The resulting vapor passes through condensers, cooling the vapors back down to their original temperature before being collected in the form of whiskey.

This entire process takes place in an extremely controlled environment so that the exact temperatures and pressures can be maintained throughout the distillation process.

After this conversion takes place, the resulting mixture is distilled again, producing an even stronger form of alcohol.

The final product of the distillation process is called “whiskey.” It has been aged for at least two years before being bottled. During aging, the whiskey develops its unique flavors and aromas.

This entire process takes place in an extremely controlled environment so that the exact temperatures and pressures can be maintained throughout the distillation process.

How To Store Your Favorite Bourbon

If you want to keep your favorite bourbon fresh, store it properly. Here are some tips on how to do just that:

Store It In A Cool Place

Keep your favorite bourbon away from heat sources such as radiators, stoves, ovens, etc. Heat can cause the alcohol content to drop, affecting the taste of the bourbon.

Store It Away From Light

Light exposure can also have a negative effect on the flavor of your favorite bourbon. Keep your bottles away from direct sunlight or fluorescent lights.

Store It Properly

When storing your favorite bourbon, avoid letting it sit out at room temperature for too long. Also, don’t let it get too cold. You should always store your favorite bourbon between 50-70 degrees F (10-21 degrees C).

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many different types of grains that can be used in the production of bourbon. Some of these are more common than others, but all of them offer their own unique set of benefits.

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