Water of Life (Whiskey/Whisky)

Whiskey or Whisky is a distilled beverage produced by distillation of grains, regularly different varieties are used including barley, corn, rye, and wheat. Nevertheless, the product differs widely depending on the base product used, alcoholic content, and quality. The typical unifying characteristics of the different classes and types are the fermentation of grains, distillation, and aging in wooden barrels.

The name comes from Latin aqua vitae which means water of life, widely used during the 15th century; also well known as uische beatha in Irish Gaelic and uisge beatha in Scottish Gaelic. It’s complicated clarify where the whiskey production comes from, however, the beginning of the art of distillation spread around Ireland and Scotland, and the rest is history.

As most of the spirits, Whiskey has evolved from use in medicine to an object of commerce in the spirits industry. Whiskey is a strictly regulated worldwide spirit and there are many classes and types of them.  It is important to clarify that after distillation, Whiskey is colourless. Aging is an essential process which gives character, aroma, taste and colour. Typically aged in wooden casks, generally made of charred white oak, depending on the manufacturer and the country originated.

The Scots spell whisky and the Irish spell whiskey, with an extra ‘e’, so, both are correct, however, the way of writing the word does not provide any detail about the quality or processing.

The differences between one whiskey from another are the type of grain that is used, the way that is distilled and how is aged, which give the notable profile to each whiskey. The grain used for whisky production traditionally changes depending on the geographical location of the country where it’s made.

Production

As we said, the fermentable base for this spirit may be derived from grains, such as barley, corn, rye, wheat and the malted variety of themThe fermentation of the grain mash produces alcohol (like a beer). 

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Jameson Distillery

Find below some type of whiskey depending on the grains and other facts:

  • Malt whisky is made essentially from malted barley.
  • Grain whisky is made from any type of grain.
  • Single malt whisky is whisky from a single distillery that uses only one particular malted grain.
  • Bourbon whiskey made from at least 51% corn (maize). The rest is a mixture of some barley as well as rye or wheat.
  • Corn whiskey made from at least 80% corn.
  • Rye whiskey made from at least 51% rye.
  • Rye malt whiskey made from at least 51% malted rye.
  • Wheat whiskey made from at least 51% wheat.

A remarkable difference between whiskeys is due to the distillation process. Regularly, Scottish and American whiskies are distilled twice while Irish whiskey is distilled three times. Distilling three times produces a lighter and smoother spirit. In Ireland and much of America, pot stills are frequently used whereas in Scotland distilleries use a wide variety of shapes and size of still and this gives a diversity of characters and flavours to whiskeys.

After distillation, the new made spirit is not yet whisky. It only becomes whisky by being matured. Therefore, the cask maturation of whisky is one of the most influential processes that define its taste. Nowadays, many kind of woods are used around the world, the wood of the cask adds complex flavours to the distillery character of the new made spirit. Different casks offer different flavours.

The type of cask determines the duration of the maturation, depending on the country and the type of whisky, by law, the spirit must mature for at least 2 years (USA) or 3 years (Scotland, Ireland and Europe). Aging whisky for longer than the minimum required time affects the quality and consequently the price of the whisky.

Types of Whiskeys

  • Single Malt must be distilled at a single distillery using a pot still distillation process and made from a mash of malted grain. In Scotland, the only grain allowed to be used in a single malt whisky is barley.
  • Peated, In Scotland, it is common to use peat to dry the malted barley so that it is ready for milling and mashing. The type of peat used and the length of time the barley is drying in the peat smoke will influence the flavour in the final spirit. This gives Scottish whisky its fullness and traditional smokiness.
  • Malt Whisky ranks among the best whiskies and is predominantly produced in Scotland. It might only be made from malted barley and has to be distilled in pot stills.
  • Grain Whisky can contain any type of grain or a mixture. Grain whisky can be distilled higher than malt whisky in column stills, but it contains less flavours.
  • Blended Whisky can contain any mixture of different whiskies (malt, grain). The character of a blended whisky is determined by the ratio of whiskies from different distilleries since each distillery produces different flavours.
  • Single Pot Still Whiskey, this special type of whisky is from Ireland. It may contain grain, also unmalted barley, but it is exclusively distilled in pot stills.
  • Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey can be produced anywhere in the USA, but most Bourbons are produced in Kentucky. An exception is the state of Tennessee, which could establish the category “Tennessee Whiskey”. Bourbon must contain at least 51% corn. The rest is a mixture of some barley for the fermentation process, as well as rye and/or wheat. American whiskey is mainly distilled in column stills. According to U.S. law, bourbon must be aged for at least 4 years in fresh, toasted casks made from American white oak. Tennessee Whiskey differs from bourbon in the process as it is additionally charcoal-filtered before it is filled into casks.
  • Rye Whiskey, this type of whisky used to be produced mainly in the USA, and still today in Canada. It contains at least 51% rye and must also be matured in oak casks for at least 2 years.
  • Corn Whiskey is also from the USA since corn was the predominant type of grain grown there. To be called corn whiskey, it must be produced from 80% corn.

Facts

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Bushmills-Bottle

  • In Scotland, there are currently over 80 distilleries in the different regions.
  • The first American distilleries were set up in the late 18th century in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
  • The second major production area in America is in Tennessee.

Notable brands and Recommendations

AMERICAN SINGLE MALT Balcones
Westland
Whisky Del Bac
BLENDED SCOTCH Black Bottle
Compass Box Spice Tree
Johnnie Walker
Ballentine’s
BOURBON Maker’s Mark
Jack Daniel’s
Buffalo Trace
Bulliet
IRISH Bushmill’s
Green Spot
Jameson
Red Breast
JAPANESE Nikka Coffey Grain
Yamazaki 12yr
Hibiki Harmony
RYE Bulliet
Sazerac
Redemption Rye
SCOTCH Macallan 12yr
Glenmorangie Original 10yr
Dalmore 12yr

Classic Whiskeys cocktails

  • Irish Coffee
  • Lynchburg Lemonade
  • Manhattan Cocktail
  • Mint Julep
  • Old-fashioned
  • Rusty Nail
  • Sazerac
  • Whiskey Sour

References

ESPAÑOL

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