Whiskey poured from bottle into glass
What Causes A Bourbon To Taste Spicy?
Bourbon has a complex flavor ranging from sweet to slightly nutty to surprisingly spicy, a dimension that is achieved by incorporating rye into the mash.
Bourbon is made of a mash consisting of mostly corn with some rye and malted barley. While the corn adds sweetness, the barley adds nuttiness, and the rye adds a spicy dimension.
More rye makes a spicier bourbon, such as rye-forward Bulleit Bourbon and Four Roses Single Barrel, both of which incorporate double the rye percentage of a typical bourbon.
Since bourbon must be made of a mash containing at least 51% corn, the most rye a bourbon could have is 49%, but there are rye whiskeys that use rye as the dominant grain.
On the other hand, you can opt for a wheated bourbon like Maker's Mark, which swaps wheat in for rye, eliminating that distinct black pepper spiced layer.