Bourbon Whiskey Terms & Definitions

Bourbon Whiskey

In 1964 Bourbon was officially proclaimed as a spirit exclusive to the
United States of America.

Bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S. and, by law, it is a product distinctive to the U.S. that must be made from a fermented “mash” of no less than 51% corn.
Other rules include being distilled at no more than 160 Proof (80% abv) and aged at no more than 125 proof (62.5% abv) for at least 2 years in new charred oak barrels.
It must be bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume / abv)

Barrel Proof Taylor bottle with canisterBarrel Proof:
Barrel Proof refers to Whiskey that is bottled at the proof it comes out of the barrel after minimum aging of four years.
For example, a recent bottle of Colonel E.H. Taylor Barrel Proof was bottled at 127.5 proof.

To figure out the alcohol level, or abv (alcohol by volume) divide the proof by half, which equals 63.75 abv.
If the whiskey has a secondary package, like the canister for Colonel E.H. Taylor, the canister will state “Proof Varies by Batch”.

The label on the bottle inside will usually indicate the proof and / or alcohol by volume content.


Bonded Bourbon Whiskey:

There is a requirement for some whiskies to fall into what’s known as the:
“Bond Act of 1897”
Bonded Bourbon Whiskey” has been aged and bottled according to the requirements of that act. The definitions include it being a:
Straight Bourbon Whiskey which is defined as:
> Distilled from a fermented mash containing at least 51% corn.
> Distilled at no more than 160 proof.
> Aged at no more than 125 proof for at least two years in new charred oak barrels. If the whiskey is aged for less than four years, its age must be stated on the bottle.
> No coloring – like caramel coloring – or flavoring, can be added.

Bonded Bourbon Whiskey must also be made at one time or season, in one location.
All Bonded Bourbon is aged in government-supervised warehouses for at least 4 years prior to being bottled at 100 proof aka 50%abv.

Mash Bill:
A “Mash Bill” is a recipe the distiller uses to make the whiskey. Keep in mind that for Bourbon, the Mash Bill must contain at least 50% corn … but most are made with up to 70% corn grain.

Small Batch:
When you see the term “Small Batch”, it refers to a style of Bourbon that is distilled in small quantities. Typically that’s about 20 barrels … or 1,000 gallons.
But it could also involve blending whiskey from a small number of selected barrels.

It’s important to note that whiskey will age differently depending on where the barrel is stored in the rackhouse. Generally, the sweet-spot is considered to be the center of the storage facility.
But a skilled master blender can pull barrels from various sections of the rackhouse, marrying the whiskies from various barrels, to achieve the consistent flavour for the house-profile.

Sour Mash:
Almost all American Whiskey is “Sour Mash” … meaning a portion – typically 20% of the mash – is held back before distilling.
This set-aside portion is then added to the next batch of distilling, and so on.
This assures consistency of the “yeast strain” which is critical to the Bourbons character.
The Sour Mash process was developed in the mid 1800’s by Dr. James C. Crow as a method to ensure uniform production for Bourbon.

Angel’s Share:
Whiskey is aged in oak which is porous, allowing for both an exchange of oxygen & the release of alcohol into the air.
Angel’s Share is the amount of whiskey that evaporates to the heavens from the barrel during the aging process.
Cooler climates, like Scotland or Canada will see an evaporation rate anywhere from 1% to 3% per year. In warmer climates, that rate can go higher.
Hot climates, like India, will often see evaporation rates of over 10%.
The other thing that affects evaporation is humidity. More water than alcohol will evaporate in low humidity – therefore increasing the a barrel’s alcohol content.
On the flip side, in humid conditions, more alcohol than water will become the Angel’s Share.
That’s why, when you’re looking to purchase an older bottle of whisky, the price will increase due to the lost yield as a result of the Angel’s Share.


Whisky Selection:
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Johnnie Walker Green Label
Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
Trinidad Vigia

There will be several tasting notes to track the changes to all the whiskies & the cigar as the tasting progresses.


Whisky Tasting Notes Prior to Trinidad Vigia Pairing:

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye 45% abv.:
Nose: Cotton Candy. Apple. Mint. Candied Apple. Sultana
Palate: Cinnamon Hearts. Toast. Tangerine. Coffee.
Mouthfeel: Oily. Med+ heat on lips. Medium tannin at the gums.

Johnnie Walker Green Label 43% abv:
Nose: Cereal – Malt. Pomegranate. Oak. Banana. Tobaccojohnnie green
Palate: Feinty (aroma lift) Peat. Toffee. Red Currant. Burnt Toffee
Mouthfeel: Heat on the gums. Otherwise, very clean.



Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon 51.6% abv:

Nose: Red Berry Fruit. Cinnamon. Pineapple. Toffee. Vanilla. Fresh Corn
Palate: Band-Aid retro. Ginger. Praline Skor Bar/light chocolate. Nougat.Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2013
Mouthfeel: Clean. Med+ Tannin. Numbing sensation on gums.





Cigar Tasting Notes – Raw Draw,  Ignition & 1st Puffs.
Viaga with Xikar cutterTrinidad Vigia Cigar
Nose at raw draw: Heavy earth aroma.
Wrapper raw: Barnyard. Chocolate.
Filler aroma at Foot: Cinnamon. Manure. Dry Grass.Trinidad Vigia Foot

4/38 x 56

Holy Doodle! Talk about a loose pack on this cigar.
Trinidad Viaga PigtailI barely clipped the pigtail off and I’m getting huge mouthfuls of smoke.
It’s a little bitter to start. The smoke is sticking to the hard palate.
Trinidad Vigia Canister & Cigar
The Trinidad Vigia is all earth. Lots of tannin. Aromas of moss & mushroom.
Heavy tobacco taste at the back of the throat.

1st third: A hint of peppermint is quickly overcome by roasted meat. Oily impression on the mouthfeel. Roast Lamb smoke flavor.

First 3rd of Trinidad Vigia Cigar
Whisky Tasting Progression

CRNHR ViagaCrown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Sip of whisky. The nose has maple fudge and butterscotch now.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia – they’re a little at odds. They aren’t bad – but they aren’t enhancing each other either.
A puff of the Trinidad Vigia and I get popcorn.

Viaga with Johnnie GreenJohnnie Walker Green Label
Nose has become sweeter. Mincemeat.
Sip of Green label: Have you ever had Puffed Wheat Cake? It isn’t a universally recognized tasting note – but that’s what I’m getting.
Corn Syrup with a bit of dry cocoa & butter melted over wheat cereal.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
Harmony with the whisky. Vanilla on the mouth / fresh linen aroma. The cigar palate lightens with the JW Green influence.
The aroma is now hints of dried flowers.

Viaga w Four Roses LE Small BatchFour Roses Small Batch LE:
Nose: Hint of citrus. Lemon & Orange. Werther’s hard candy.
Palate: The drying effect of the alcohol is even more pronounced now. Sweet, heavy corn. Cream. Red Berry fruit.

Trinidad Vigia Cigar: Mincemeat taste. Coffee. Savory spice – like thyme.
It’s evolved to a mild+ cigar. No more hard-palate coating.
The burn is uneven and the ash fell at the 1st third.
Hint of iodine aroma.

Second 3rd of Trinidad Vigia.
Whisky Tasting Notes have evolved with the Cigar.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Nose: Carmel Corn. Sweet Corn.
Palate: The smoke kills any flavors in the mouth, but there is a bit of caramel lift on the back palate.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
Toasted Marshmallow aroma. Nutty. Brazil nut taste.

Johnnie Walker Green Label
Nose: Buttersctoch. Oats. Brown Sugar.
Palate: Coffee. Meaty.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
The Scotch wins this round, overpowering the reduced strength of the cigar on the palate.
Peat rises from the Johnnie Green.
Tar from the ‘gar.

Uneven burn continues. Trinidad Vigia Cigar is back to being med+ body.

Trinidad Vigia Cigar: Burnt popcorn. Black pepper.

Four Roses LE Small Batch Bourbon
Nose: White Flowers – which kind of surprised me. Brown Sugar.
Palate: Ginger. Orange Peel.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
½ way point. It’s getting a little hot.
Not a lot of flavour coming through – mostly just smoke.

Trinidad Vigia: Completely smoky cigar on the palate. Not unpleasant, but no complexity. I keep looking for flavors, but none to be found other than smoke.
Really, nothing but burnt popcorn.


Final 3rd of Trinidad Vigia.
Whisky Tasting Notes have evolved with the Cigar.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Canadian Whisky:
Nose: Mandarin Orange. Tangerine
Palate: Red Currant and bitter almond
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
The whisky tames the smoke, but doesn’t coax any flavours from the cigar.

Johnnie Walker Green Label
Nose: Smoke. Cereal – Porridge.
Palate: Honey. Oily/Waxy mouthfeel.
Paired with Trinidad Vigia Cigar: light molasses.
The JW Green pairs well with the Trinidad Vigia.
Spicy aroma – cloves.

Four Roses LE Bourbon
Nose: Lemon. Poppy. Caramel

Trinidad Vigia Cigar:
Nose: Dust. Cardboard. Lemon
Palate: Venison. Roasted meat.
The cigar loose pack increases as it hits the final 3rd.
Ash is ragged; really loose.
Stirations are dark grey with grey.


Best Pair for the Trinidad Vigia: Blended Scotch Whisky:
Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker Green Label keeps its aroma & flavour profile consistently good from beginning to end

Four Roses LE Small Batch Bourbon aroma is diminished. Palate is light Bourbon-esque.
Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye is unable to take on a cigar of this style.

Trinidad Vigia Cigar maintains it dominance in terms of smoke, but is without complexity from the half to the finish.

Trinidad Vigia Finish Crack wrapperWrapper lifts & cracks towards the nub. Bitterness ensues.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Trinidad Vigia Cigar – an average cigar. But hey, it’s a Cuban!

It was a fun exercise to write down all the changes/evolutions that took place in the whiskies & the cigar.
Viaga VB promo Canister