The flavors of bourbon can be attributed to a few things, such as aging and barrel type, but the most crucial factor at play is the mash bill. A unique mixture of grains that are cooked, fermented, then distilled, the mash bill is the DNA that makes each bourbon different in taste.
By law, every bourbon mash bill must contain 51 percent corn, leaving the other 49 percent up to the distiller. Though barley and rye are most commonly used to round out the bill, other grains such as wheat or malted barley can also be added. Each grain imparts its own noticeable flavor, adding depth to the sweetness developed by the corn.
With almost half the composition to experiment with, distillers are tasked with creating a blend that is well balanced and distinct to their brands. For consumers, understanding the mash bill of a particular bourbon can be a helpful way to determine whether or not its taste will suit your preference. For instance, George Dickel, whose mash bill is 84 percent corn, 8 percent rye, and 8 percent barley, is known to have a sweet and decadent flavor likely attributable to the bill’s high percentage of corn.
Whether your preference is a high-rye bourbon or an elusive wheated style, a small amount of mash bill knowledge can go a long way. Here, we’ve broken down the mash bills of a few popular bourbons to help guide your taste exploration. Read on to see the numerical makeup of your favorite.
|Four Roses Single Barrel||60%||5%||35%||–|
|Old Grand-dad Bottled in Bond||63%||10%||27%||–|