By PureWow
Updated December 19, 2014
Credit: © David J. Green / Alamy

This piece originally appeared as Bourbon vs. Whiskey on Purewow.

There’s nothing better on a cold winter’s eve than curling up in your buffalo-checked onesie in front of a fire and sipping a nice glass of bourbon. Or is it whiskey? Is there really a difference? Does it matter?

In short, all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. And now that we know these essential distinctions, we can really taste the difference.


Bourbon is corn-based and must be made in the U.S. Originally, bourbon could only be called such if it was produced in Bourbon County, Kentucky. However, nowadays Bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S. as long as it’s made of 51 percent corn and distilled properly--in charred oak barrels over a period of three months to two years.

Our bourbon picks: Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve (both Kentucky-made). Another Kentucky brand, Pappy Van Winkle, is basically the unicorn of the bourbon world: It’s aged for 15 to 23 years, so when a batch is finally released--good luck getting your hands on a bottle.


Whiskey is wheat-, rye-, corn- or barley-based and can be made anywhere in the world. It must also consist of 51 percent of one specific grain and be aged in an oak barrel.

Our whiskey picks: The Scotch (The Glenlivet) and Irish (Jameson) whiskeys are the consistent choices, but let’s not discount a whiskey from Texas (Balcones), Tennessee (Jack Daniel’s), Illinois (Koval) or New York (Pine Barrens).