You’ve heard of Urban Dictionary? Well, welcome to the Burban Dictionary – the official Bourbon’s Backyard Dictionary for everything you need to know when ordering or discussing bourbon. Don’t worry about knowing where to start, your friends in Bourbon’s Backyard have you covered!
Proof. Quite simply the proof of alcohol (any alcohol) is double the percentage of alcohol. 100 proof is 50% alcohol
Neat. For a bourbon served without ice or a mixer, you’d order it “neat”. In other words straight out of the bottle.
On the rocks. For a bourbon served over ice, this is your request. (You might consider trying it neat before adding your rocks.)
Bourbon or Whiskey? All bourbons are whiskies but not all whiskies are bourbon.
Bottled in bond. In order for a bourbon to be considered bottled in bond it must be from the same distilling season of the same distillery, age a minimum of four years and be bottled at 100 proof.
Angel’s share. These are your “free smells” when you visit a rickhouse. As a natural part of the aging process there is a percentage of evaporation annually, also known as the angel’s share.
Barrel Proof. The bourbon is bottled at the proof at which it comes out of the barrel.
White Dog. What we call the bourbon distillate before it gets cozy in the barrel.
Single Barrel. This is just what it sounds like. Each bottle contains bourbon from only one barrel.
Small Batch. There is no real definition of what constitutes a small batch. What is considered a small batch for one distillery might be another’s general batch. Typically they like to say that it’s 50 or so barrels per small batch. Though it’s completely arbitrary.
Mashbill. This is the recipe the distiller uses. All bourbon will start with corn (usually 70-80% range), you’ll have a secondary grain of either rye or wheat (most often rye) and the malted barley. The all-important yeast is added after the mash is cooked.
Sour Mash. This is the process in which part of the previous cooked mash is used as a starter for the current mash cook. Much like sourdough bread.
What makes bourbon bourbon? Bourbon, by law, must be made in the United States, contain at least 51% corn as the primary grain, be aged a minimum of two years (for straight bourbon) in a new charred oak barrel and have no additional colors or flavors. There are some other rules like it can’t be distilled at higher than 160 proof or go into the barrel at more than 125 proof, but that’s the gist of it.
Rickhouse, rackhouse, warehouse? Whatever you call it this is where the magic happens. Bourbon gets 100% of its color and a good portion of its flavor from its time in the barrel. As the temperature changes the alcohol expands and contracts interacting with the charred barrel imparting color and the caramel, vanilla and oak flavors (to name a few). Most Kentucky warehouses have an open rick or rack system that stores barrels 3 high on each floor thus the term rickhouse or rackhouse.