Can You Substitute Whiskey for Bourbon? (2023 Updated)

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin

There is a lot of debate surrounding the topic of substituting whiskey for bourbon. Some people swear that it’s a sin to do so, while others think that it’s no big deal.

So, what’s the truth? Can you substitute whiskey for bourbon in recipes? Let’s take a closer look at the two spirits and find out!

Substituting Whiskey For Bourbon

Arran Scotch Whisky

Since bourbon and other whiskeys have similarities in grains, production process, and maturation, you can substitute whiskey for bourbon in a recipe. Bourbon is just a specialized form of whiskey, so some of the flavors may be a bit different, but overall they work in a very similar fashion.

For instance, a Scotch whisky that tastes woody, fruity, and sweet may complement the flavors of your recipe if it has a similar profile to the bourbon it’s replacing.

Wheat whiskey is a great replacement in sweet dishes, while rye whiskey is ideal for dressings and fruit recipes.

Is Bourbon the Same As Whiskey?

Not really. All bourbons are whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbon, so technically, bourbon may not be the same as other whiskey types like Scotch. They may share some similarities like their grain, production, and maturation process, but their differences set them apart.  

In 1964, the US Congress designated bourbon as a distinctive product of the United States [1], so unlike other types of whiskey, bourbon production is highly regulated. 

Is There A Difference in Taste? 

A glass of whiskey with stones

Yes, bourbon and other whiskey types may have different tastes. Since the bourbon mash bill is different from other whiskeys (at least 51% corn), it tends to be sweeter with notes of oak, caramel, and vanilla. 

Rye whiskey tends to be spicier because of the rye content, while wheat whiskey is drenched with caramel and hints of citrus. Scotch whisky is buttery and malty, Irish whiskey is fruity and light, while Tennessee whiskey is sweet and mellow. 

If you substitute bourbon for another whiskey, expect little difference in taste, especially if used in a small amount. 

Read: What’s the Best Bourbon Substitute For Cooking?

Can You Use Bourbon Instead of Whiskey in A Recipe?

Yes, you can use bourbon instead of whiskey in a recipe. Bourbon is a versatile spirit, and this alcoholic drink is used for cooking and flavoring sauces and desserts.

If you use bourbon in a recipe as a substitute for another whiskey type, we don’t think there would be much change in the taste. It would be best to use the same quantity of bourbon if you want to substitute whiskey with another liquor. 

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Why Replace Whiskey, Anyway? 

Irish Whiskey

Most people replace whiskey with alcohol substitutes or non-alcoholic drinks for three reasons:

  1. Whiskey is out of stock
  2. To try something new
  3. They want non-alcohol alternatives

Since whiskey and bourbons have similarities, it is safe to use bourbon in a recipe to replace whiskey. You can also use the same amount of Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky as substitutes for bourbon. 

If you want non-alcohol substitutions, you can substitute two tablespoons of whiskey with the same amount of non-alcoholic bourbon vanilla extract. You can find this on Amazon or in grocery stores.

In cooking recipes, you can pour white grape juice, sparkling cranberry juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or sweet apple juice as a replacement for whiskey.   

What Other Liquors Can You Use? 

Dark Rum

You can replace bourbon or substitute whiskey with other liquors like brandy, dark rum, and cognac. If you love to drink alcohol, you’ll find the differences in the flavor profile of each whiskey and bourbon substitute a bit intriguing.  


Are bourbon and whiskey interchangeable?

Yes, bourbon and other whiskeys are interchangeable. Even though bourbon tastes sweeter than other whiskey types, it can be used as a substitute in recipes. Moreso, some ingredients like apple juice, apple cider, and white grape juice will greatly help in balancing out the flavors.

What is the closest thing to bourbon?

The closest thing to bourbon may be Scotch, which is also another type of whiskey. Other options include brandy and rum, especially in cooking.

Is bourbon sweeter than whiskey?

Yes, bourbon is sweeter than whiskey. If the bourbon mash bill contains malted barley and wheat instead of rye, it is more on the caramel and vanilla extract side. 

Key Takeaways

You can substitute whiskey for bourbon in a recipe because, after all, all bourbons are whiskey. However, you may notice a slightly different flavor profile on other whiskey types and bourbon.

Bourbons are sweeter than Scotch or Tennessee whiskey, but they can blend well when mixed with other ingredients and will go unnoticed. 



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here or feel free to give Lydia a tip.

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