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3 Bourbon Mash Recipes Explained (2024 Updated)

Bourbon Mash Recipes

Last Updated on February 26, 2024 by Lydia Martin

There are different recipes for bourbon mash, but all of them have the same basic ingredients. 

We’ll discuss the common grains used and some of the different variations you can try. If you are interested in making your bourbon, this is the perfect place to start!

3 Different Bourbon Mash Recipes 

4 Different Bourbon Mash Recipes 

1. Traditional Mash Bill Recipe

Elmer T. Lee Bourbon

A traditional mash bill recipe contains three essential ingredients: corn, rye, and barley. The proportions of these ingredients vary depending on the style of whiskey being produced, but they must all be present for the whiskey to be considered a traditional mash bill. 

Corn is the grain that provides most of the whiskey’s sweetness, while rye gives it its characteristic spicy flavor. Barley is responsible for both the whiskey’s color and its distinct maltiness.

Together, these three grains create a well-balanced whiskey that is perfect for sipping neat or enjoying a classic cocktail.

Some of the most popular bourbons with a traditional mash bill include Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Elijah Craig, and Booker’s.

2. High-Rye Mash Bill Recipe

Blue Run High-Rye

A high-rye mash bill is a whiskey recipe that uses a large proportion of rye grain. Rye is a type of grass that imparts spicy, complex flavors to whiskey. In contrast, a low-rye or rye-free mash bill will result in a smoother, sweeter spirit. 

Most Bourbons are made with a high-rye mash bill, as are many American whiskies. High-rye mash bills can vary significantly, but they typically contain at least 20 to 35% rye grain. 

The exact ratio of grains will impact the flavor of the finished whiskey. For example, a high-rye Bourbon will have bolder flavors than a low-rye Bourbon. Ultimately, it’s up to the distiller to decide how much rye to use in their mash bill.

Some of the best high-rye bourbons available today are Old Grand-Dad, Bulleit, Redemption High-Rye, and Basil Hayden’s.

3. Wheat Mash Bill Recipe

Weller Wheated Bourbon

With the wheat mash bill, wheat is used as a rye substitute or added to the mash bill recipe to make it a four-grain bourbon.  

The result is a softer, smoother, and sweeter flavor profile different from bourbon made with rye, which is spicier. 

Some examples of wheated bourbon are Maker’s Mark, Weller, Larceny, and Van Winkle.

Common Grains Used in Bourbon Mash

Common Grains Used in Bourbon Mash


Corn is the most common grain used in bourbon mash. It gives bourbon its sweetness and characteristic flavor. Most bourbons are made with a mash bill that is at least 51% corn.

Read: Top 100% Corn Bourbon Brands

Rye & Wheat


Rye and wheat are other common grains used in bourbon mash. They contribute to the flavor and body of the bourbon. Bourbons made with a high rye content tend to be spicy, while those with a high wheat content are softer and smoother.


Barley [1] is another grain sometimes used in bourbon mash. It gives the bourbon a distinct flavor and aroma. Bourbons made with a high barley content are often called “single malt” bourbons.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What percentage of corn mash makes bourbon?

According to law, a bourbon mash bill must contain at least 51% corn, leaving the other 49% to the discretion of the distiller.

Do Eagle Rare and Buffalo Trace have the same mash bill?

Yes. Eagle Rare and Buffalo Trace bourbons use the same traditional mash bill also referred to as Mashbill #1. They also have the same ABV.

How is bourbon mash made?

Bourbon mash is crafted through a meticulous process that begins with a combination of grains, predominantly corn, along with secondary grains such as barley and rye. This mixture forms the mash bill, which undergoes grinding to facilitate the release of fermentable sugars. The finely ground grains are then cooked in water to create a thick porridge-like substance known as mash. Heat activates enzymes, converting starches into sugars, setting the stage for fermentation.

How long to ferment bourbon mash?

Fermentation duration is a crucial element in the bourbon-making journey. Typically lasting around three to five days, this stage involves introducing yeast to the mash. The yeast interacts with the sugars, producing alcohol and imparting distinct flavors to the liquid. The duration of fermentation plays a role in shaping the final bourbon product, influencing its complexity and character. Once fermentation is complete, the result is a liquid referred to as “wash” or “beer,” with an alcohol content around 6-10%.

How do you make bourbon?

Crafting bourbon involves a specific set of guidelines to earn the coveted title. The process begins with the creation of a mash bill, featuring a majority of corn, followed by the addition of secondary grains like barley and rye. After grinding and cooking the grains, the mash undergoes fermentation, transforming sugars into alcohol. The fermented wash is then distilled in traditional copper pot stills, separating alcohol from impurities and concentrating flavors.

The distilled liquid, known as “white dog” or “new make spirit,” is then transferred into charred oak barrels for aging. The aging process, a minimum of two years for straight bourbon, imparts color, flavor, and character to the spirit. The final step involves bottling the aged bourbon at a minimum of 40% alcohol by volume (ABV), ready for enthusiasts to savor its unique profile.

What is the difference between whiskey mash and bourbon mash?

While both whiskey and bourbon share similarities, their distinctions lie in specific production criteria. Bourbon, a type of whiskey, must adhere to strict standards to earn its title. The mash bill for bourbon must consist of at least 51% corn, giving it a sweet and robust flavor profile. Additionally, bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 proof, entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof, and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof.

Conversely, whiskey encompasses a broader category that includes various styles such as Scotch, Irish, and rye whiskey. The mash bill for whiskey is more flexible, allowing for diverse grain combinations. Unlike bourbon, whiskey may not have the same aging or proof regulations. Therefore, bourbon represents a specific subset within the larger family of whiskies, defined by its unique production standards and distinctive taste.

What are the 4 ingredients in bourbon?

Bourbon, renowned for its rich and complex flavor profile, is crafted from a precise combination of four primary ingredients: corn, rye, barley, and water. The majority of the mash bill, constituting at least 51%, is typically composed of corn, contributing a sweet and mellow foundation to the spirit. Rye and barley complement the flavor profile, while water serves as the essential solvent for extracting flavors during the mashing and fermentation processes.

What is bourbon mash?

Bourbon mash is the foundational mixture of grains that undergoes a series of crucial processes to transform raw ingredients into the iconic American spirit known as bourbon. The mash typically includes corn, rye, and barley, each playing a specific role in shaping the final flavor. This combination is ground and cooked to facilitate the release of fermentable sugars, initiating the fermentation process that ultimately yields the alcohol-rich liquid known as wash or beer.

How to make the best bourbon mash?

Crafting the best bourbon mash involves a meticulous and well-honed process. Start with a carefully measured and balanced mash bill, ensuring that the majority is comprised of high-quality corn. The grains are finely ground to maximize surface area, promoting efficient sugar extraction during the cooking phase. Precise control of temperature during cooking is crucial to activate enzymes that convert starches into fermentable sugars, setting the stage for a robust fermentation process.

Yeast selection is a critical aspect of creating a high-quality bourbon mash, as different strains impart unique flavors. Fermentation time, typically ranging from three to five days, allows the yeast to work its magic, producing alcohol and infusing the mash with distinctive characteristics. Once fermentation is complete, the wash is ready for distillation, where copper pot stills play a vital role in concentrating and refining flavors.

Can mash ferment in 3 days?

Yes, mash can indeed ferment in as little as three days, although the duration can vary depending on factors such as temperature, yeast type, and the specific recipe. A relatively shorter fermentation period may produce a lighter and fruitier wash, while a longer fermentation time can result in a more complex and robust flavor profile. Monitoring the fermentation process is crucial to achieving the desired balance of flavors, and distillers often tailor the duration based on their preferences and the unique characteristics they aim to impart to the bourbon.

What is the mash ratio for bourbon?

The mash ratio for bourbon, also known as the mash bill, typically includes a majority of corn, constituting at least 51% of the total grain content, with the remaining portion being a combination of secondary grains such as rye, barley, and sometimes wheat, each contributing distinct flavors to the final product.

What are the 5 rules of bourbon?

The five rules of bourbon, established by the U.S. Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, outline the specific criteria a spirit must meet to be legally classified as bourbon. These rules include the use of a mash bill containing at least 51% corn, distillation to no more than 160 proof, entry into the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof, aging in new charred oak barrels, and bottling at a minimum of 80 proof.

What are the three main ingredients of bourbon?

The three main ingredients of bourbon are corn, rye, and barley. Corn, with a minimum requirement of 51% in the mash bill, contributes sweetness and depth to the spirit. Rye adds spice, complexity, and a slight fruity character, while barley contains enzymes crucial for converting starches into fermentable sugars during the mashing process.

What is the main ingredient in bourbon?

The main ingredient in bourbon is corn. As per bourbon regulations, the mash bill must contain a minimum of 51% corn, distinguishing it as a corn-based whiskey. This significant proportion of corn is fundamental to bourbon’s character, imparting a natural sweetness that distinguishes it from other types of whiskey.Top of Form

Key Takeaways  

The mash gives bourbon its distinctive flavor and aroma, so it’s important to get it right. The cooking time for the mash will vary depending on the type of bourbon you’re making.

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of bourbon mash and how it affects the flavor of your finished product. There is no right or wrong way to make a bourbon mash, so feel free to experiment and see what works best for you. 


  1. What are the health benefits of barley?
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