Whether you’re ordering a Manhattan at a bar or picking out a bottle at your local liquor store, understanding the difference between bourbon and rye whiskey will help ensure you end up with the drink of your dreams. Even if you love any and all types of whiskey, it still never hurts to have a little extra knowledge under your belt — and learning about the differences between bourbon and rye whiskey can be fun if your lessons include plenty of tastings.
Today, we’re discussing the difference between Ezra Brooks 99 Bourbon and Ezra Brooks 99 Straight Rye Whiskey.
Corn vs. Rye in the Mashbill
Both bourbon and rye whiskey are made from a blend of cereal grains. This blend is called the mashbill, but what sets the two apart is the ratio of grains in the mix. In order for whiskey to legally be called bourbon, it must contain at least 51% corn. Similarly, in order for whiskey to be called rye, it must contain at least 51% rye.
What constitutes the other 49% of ingredients in both rye whiskey and bourbon is up to the distiller, and other grains like wheat are often used. Some bottles, like Ezra Brooks 99 Straight Rye Whiskey, are made from just two grains (rye and barley), while others contain a more varied blend.
Where It’s Made Matters
When it comes to bourbon, where it’s made makes all the difference, with the US being the only country where it can be legally produced. A common misconception is that bourbon must be made in Kentucky, and although many distilleries (like Lux Row Distillers) call this state home, bourbon can be made anywhere in the country as long as it meets all the production requirements.
Alternatively, rye whiskey can be produced anywhere. The US produces its fair share of the spirit, as do other countries like Canada. It must still meet specific production requirements to be labeled as rye in the states.
Sweet vs. Spicy
Technical requirements aside, at the end of the day, one of the most important differences between bourbon and rye whiskey comes down to flavor. Every brand is different, and the flavor is determined by various factors, like the barrel in which the whiskey was stored and for how long it was aged. Generally speaking, bourbon whiskey tends to be sweeter, while rye whiskey features signature spicy notes.
Bourbon whiskey also typically features notes of:
- Dark fruits
Rye whiskey tends to highlight notes of:
- Baking spices
- Black pepper
Similarities Exist, Too
Ultimately, bourbon and rye are both types of whiskies, and recognizing the similarities between the two varieties is just as important as understanding the differences. Charred oak barrels are used to make both types of spirits, and they’re both usually (but not always) produced in column stills.
Remember how we said that distillers could decide which grains constitute the non-specified 49% of grains in the mashbill? Well, this means that some bourbons actually contain a good deal of rye, making ‘high-rye’ bourbons relatively similar in flavor to their full-fledged rye counterparts.
Taste the Differences with Lux Row Distillers
Now that you’ve put in the work learning about the difference between bourbon and rye whiskey in theory, it’s time for the fun part — tasting the differences in practice for yourself.
If you want to learn more about rye, we recommend Ezra Brooks 99 Straight Rye Whiskey or Old Ezra 7 Straight Rye Whiskey. Drink them straight or try them in a classic cocktail like a Sazerac or Manhattan.
You can also book a Lux Row Distillers tour or tasting to dive deeper into the world of whiskey. Of course, no matter which Ezra Brooks you prefer, you’ll have a great drink to enjoy!