SpiritsScotch & Whiskey
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The Words on Whisky Although there are different grains, stills, flavors and countries of origin - Whisky by another name can still be whisky. Scotland, Ireland, America and Canada all produce a unique style of whisky. (Or 'Whiskey') With so many different whiskeys being made - you're sure to find one that suits your specific palate. Below you will find some basic definitions that will help you understand the world of whisky.
- Single Malt Scotch
- Blended Scotch Whisky
First things first: Whether it's called Rye, Bourbon or Scotch - they're all liquor that is distilled from a grain and therefore are all Whiskies.
Why two different spellings?: Traditionally, whiskies made in Scotland and Canada are spelled without an "e". Ireland and the U.S. spell it with an "e" (Whiskey).
Blended Whiskey - A combination of two or more (100 proof) whiskies. The blend is then placed into a cask for a period of time but only after each liquid has itself has been aged. The amount of straight whisky in the blends will vary depending on the country and the brand's formula. Blended Whisky is the preferred style for cocktails that call for them.
Bourbon - Named after Bourbon County, Kentucky - this whiskey must be made from a mash of between 51 & 79% corn grain. If that percentage hits 80% or higher, it becomes known as a Corn Whiskey. Bourbon is usually distilled at 160 proof which is equivalent to 80% alcohol. It must also be aged for at least 2 years in new charred oak barrels. Blending and additives other than water are unwelcome in any Bourbon making process.
Canadian Whisky - With a style considered more light-bodied and versatile - blended Canadian Whisky is a popular choice for mixed drinks. Corn and wheat - supplemented by rye, barley or barley malt are the primary grains used. While most are aged from 4-6 years in oak barrels - the minimum allowed is 3 years.
Irish Whiskey - There are different types of Irish whiskey. A single malt whiskey made from 100% malted barley distilled in a pot still and a grain whiskey made from grains distilled in a column still. Pure pot still whiskey (100% barley, both malted and un-malted, distilled in a pot still) is unique to Irish whiskey. The un-malted barley gives the pure pot still whiskey a spicy, uniquely Irish quality. Irish whiskey malt is dried on a closed kiln, away from fire and smoke - which separates it from Scotch.
Rye Whiskey - United States law says that Rye must be made from at least 51% of any grain. The most common grain used in Rye are wheat and barley. While there are many similarities Bourbon, Rye's spicy and slight bitter flavor set it apart. Few distilleries restarted production after prohibition was repealed, but Rye is currently making a trendy resurgence.
Scotch Whisky - Named for whisky made in Scotland, 'Scotch' is usually double-distilled, and will have a degree of smoky flavor that is derived from its barley (into malt) drying process. A peat fire allows smoke to come in contact with the malt - giving the Scotch a level of "peatiness". The two types of Scotch are blended and single-malt.
Single-Malt Scotch Whisky - To be called a 'single-malt' Scotch - it must be produced by a single distillery - in one season from a single batch of whisky. There are approximately 100 distilleries in Scotland that create single-malt whisky - each with it's own well-guarded recipe. One could spend a lifetime learning the different the different nuances and notes of the distilleries. The casks (wooden barrels) used to age the single-malts include, Sherry, Port, Burgundy, Rum, Madeira, Sauterne and many more.
Tennessee Whiskey - This is a type of American whiskey similar to bourbon, in that it is composed of at least 51% corn and aged in new, charred oak barrels, typically for four or more years. The difference between Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey is that Tennessee whiskey goes through a filtering stage called the "Lincoln County Process". This process consists of the whiskey being filtered through a thick layer of maple charcoal. This step gives the whiskey a distinctive flavor and jump-starts the aging process. The process is named for Lincoln County, Tennessee, which is where the Jack Daniel's distillery was originally located. In 1871, the Jack Daniel's distillery, and the surrounding area became part of the newly created Moore County. See: Jack Daniel's and George Dickel.
Private / Independent Bottler - A company that will contract with a malt distillery to buy individual casks of malt whisky. The 'bottler' will use it's own label on the bottle but will indicate the distillery of origin. Independent bottlers include, Cadenhead, Gordon & MacPhail, Hart Brothers and Montgomeries.
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