Finding, and even more importantly, understanding, the perfect whisky can be intimidating. Whether you’re trying to pick out the perfect bottle to add to your cabinet at home, or trying to order a whisky with dinner, it’s important to understand that whisky comes in a variety of options. We help break down a complete whisky guide for beginners below!


Bourbons – like a lot of American whiskies – are usually a lot younger than equivalent Scotches, and that’s generally due to high humidity and a significant angels’ share. That’s not to say they’re inferior though – they just mature more quickly. What you’re looking at with bourbon is sweetness, flavour (especially vanilla) and smoothness in abundance.

Another big difference between bourbon and whisky is geography. Bourbon is made in the United States and whisky is made predominantly in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Japan.

All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. A strict set of standards from the government regulates what’s what. Learn more about what defines “America’s native spirit” and the difference between bourbon and whiskey below.
1. Made in United States of America (not Kentucky)
2. Product from a fermented mash of 51% corn at least.
3. Distilled at no more than 160 proof
4. Stored at no more than 125 proof in new, charred oak barrels.
5. Aged for minimum two years.
6. Free from additives.
Because of this all bourbon is whiskey, not all whiskey can be called bourbon. Then there’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, like Jim Beam®, which in addition to the rules above, must also be made in Kentucky. We know, it’s a lot. But today, Jim Beam doesn’t just “fit the bill”, it’s the world’s #1 bourbon.


It is difficult to accurately taste and assess a whisky unless you are drinking it in the correct manner.  The best way to taste and assess a new whisky is:

Step 1: Pour it
Pour a small amount into a whisky snifter or Glencairn whisky glass.  They are tulip-shaped glasses that traps and concentrates the aroma of the whisky.

Step 2: Swirl it
Swirl the whisky around the glass so it thinly coats the sides of the glass.  This gives the spirit to breathe. Look at the colour of the whisky as it moves around.

Step 3: Dilute it (optional)
Many whisky drinkers like to add a small amount of water to their whisky.  This reduces the alcohol volume in the glass, which prevents the alcohol from overriding other flavours and aromas.  If you intend to dilute your whisky, continue to add small amounts until smelling the whisky does not cause a burning sensation in your nose.  This optional step is particularly useful for people without much experience with whisky as it makes the drink much more palatable.

If you are drinking very old whisky, you may not need to dilute it because the time in the barrel will have reduced the alcohol content and mellowed the flavour.

Step 4: Let it sit or chill it (optional)
If you have decided to add water to your whisky to obtain a mellower flavour, you might also want to let it sit for 10 minutes.  This will give the water time to interact with the whisky, mellowing the flavour even more.

If you are new to whisky, you might also like to chill the whisky slightly.  Ideally, this should be done with whisky stones or in a refrigerator so it does not dilute the whisky.

Looking to up your whisky game? Join us at Club 609 in downtown Joplin MO!