How is Bourbon Made?

Do you wish to know how Bourbon is made? There are a number of steps in the process of bourbon making. Most distilleries follow the steps to produce what is known to the world as Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey or Tennessee Bourbon whiskey. These whiskeys are known for their high quality and are sold for a premium price.

Grain Selection

Grain mixture varies from distillery to distillery. The legal requirement of corn in Kentucky Bourbon is at least 51%, but generally, it varies from 60% to 80%. The mixture of grains is known as Mash bill, and it consists of rye and barley of 10-15% each.

Some distilleries add wheat to their mash bill, which makes the whiskey smooth and mild. Each of these grains is ground and stored separately for further steps.

Adding Water

Whiskey production requires fresh spring water, and Kentucky has a good source of this. Tennessee also has a good source of spring water and it is used by whiskey distilleries to cook the grains to produce starch.

Cooking the Grain

This is done using large equipment called grain cookers. These cookers can be used to cook the different grains to different degrees. Rye and corn generally take around half an hour to cook and produce the starch required for whiskey production.

Managing Yeast

Selecting and managing the yeast is an important step in the production of whiskey. Kentucky and Tennessee use different strains of yeast, and the strains help to vary the taste of the whiskey. Storing the yeast in the proper environment is essential. The separate strains of yeasts produce bourbons of distinct taste.

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After cooking the yeast, the mash has to be cooled down to 25 to 30 degrees centigrade and then put in the fermenter for conversion into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Stillage is added at this stage.


Most distilleries use column stills and a condenser for the process of distillation. The temperature of this column needs to be between 78 to 85 degrees centigrade. The alcohol can be extracted from the stills and stored for further processing.

Distillation Process of Making Bourbon

Sour Mash

The sour mash process involves adding the mash residue to the distiller again as they run the distillation process. This residue is known as the stillage, as previously mentioned. If there is only spring water in the mash, the yeast does not work optimally to produce the alcohol. Hence, the sour mash comes into play and adds some impurities to the mixture.

Animal Feed

During the distillation process, there are a lot of residues that accumulate in large drums kept below the stills. The solid particles accumulate on the surface of the drums.

These residues consist of fats, proteins, and fibers. They can be collected with the help of mechanical processes and sold to local farmers as animal feed. It helps to reduce the waste from the distillers as well.

Filling of Barrels

There are special barrels prepared for straight bourbon whiskey and can be used only once for each batch of whiskey. They have a capacity of 200 liters. These barrels pass over a fire with their closed-end facing the fire.

It caramelizes certain layers of the wood of the barrel. The process takes around 12 minutes. The inside of the barrel is burnt for 6 to 13 seconds. It forms a charcoal layer that adds a distinct taste to the Bourbon. The barrels are then filled and sealed with a bung for storing.

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Storing the Barrels

The barrels go to large storehouses that can store approximately 20000 barrels at a time. The temperature of the storehouse should be optimal for the best storage of the whiskey.

Storing Barrels of Bourbon

Bottling the Whiskey

The bottling process of whiskey is the final step of making commercial bourbon. Several bottling lines fill multiple bottles at a time from the barrels. The charcoal lines of the barrels are broken on the bottling lines, and the bottling process begins.

How is Hardywood Bourbon Cru Beer made?

The process of making Hardywood Bourbon cru beer is similar to that of Bourbon, but the distillation process is somewhat different.  Hardywood Bourbon cru beer has a malty taste and has a mahogany hue and medium body. The Hardywood Bourbon cru beer develops a good clarity after a few months of storage.

Why is Bourbon Made in Kentucky?

Some of the reasons why Bourbon is made in Kentucky is due to the following:

  • Appropriate demography,
  • Availability of fresh spring water,
  • An ideal soil for growing the raw ingredients, and
  • Perfect weather for enjoying the finished Bourbon product.

So, how is Kentucky bourbon made? The process is similar to any bourbon, but its distinct taste and popularity are due to yeast strains native to Kentucky that are used for the fermentation process.

How much Bourbon is made in Kentucky?

Kentucky is one of the leading producers of Bourbon whiskey in the world. All of the distilleries in Kentucky taken together accounted for 2.1 million barrels of Bourbon in 2019.

Needless to say, Kentucky generates a lot of revenue for its Bourbon distilleries every year. Apart from Kentucky, Tennessee is also known worldwide for its Bourbon.

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Parting Words

In this article, we discussed in detail how Bourbon is made, and each of the steps is equally important for making a quality bourbon whiskey. Due to its geographical location and availability of natural ingredients, Kentucky and Tennessee are renowned worldwide for their production of fine bourbon whiskeys.