Whisky has a reputation. Men who drink whisky are tough, smart, and confident. They know who they are and what they like to drink. Whisky isn’t an easy drink so to enjoy it, it helps to know a bit about it.
It Begins with the Grain
Whisky is a distilled beverage made from fermented grain mash. The grain that’s chosen has the most significant impact on the flavor of the whisky. Grains commonly used include barley, malted barley, rye, and malted rye. The grain is mashed first, which means water is added; it’s often heated, and then it’s allowed to sit and ferment. Whisky fermentation often takes place in oak barrels, which can have a significant effect on the flavor of the whisky.
Whisky is Beer
To make whisky you have to make beer first. The “wash,” a technical term for beer, is then distilled two or three more times. In fact, many whiskys, including Tennessee whiskys and bourbons use hops.
Regions and Types
While there is some dispute about how many types of whisky there really are, the primary regions and types of whisky include:
- Scotch Whisky – AKA, Scotch, this whisky has a smoky flavor due to the fact that it’s made from barley that’s been dried over a peat fire. Common brands include Macallan, Glenlivit, Tallisker, and Highland Park.
- Irish Whisky – Made using pure malted barley, it is triple distilled. Common brands include Jameson’s, Bushmill’s, Michael Collins, and Power’s. It’s clean, strong, and does not have the smoky flavor of some whiskys.
- Tennessee Whisky – This is the same thing as Bourbon or Kentucky Whisky except for the fact that it’s not made in Bourbon, Kentucky. Common brands include Jack Daniels and Jailer’s.
- Kentucky (Bourbon) – Made of mostly corn, it tends to taste sweeter than other whiskys. Good examples would be Wild Turkey and Maker’s Mark.
- Canadian Whisky – This is the most popular whisky in the United States. It’s made from malted rye and can be distilled several times. Common brands include Seagram’s and Crown Royal.
There are, of course, other whiskys available in other countries, including New Zealand, Japan, and Australia. There are also whisky blends. These blends are created from taking whiskys from other distilleries and blending them. Johnnie Walker is an example of a whisky blend, as is Dewar’s, Jameson, and Chivas Regal.
The Water of Life
Whisky literally means “Water of Life” in Gaelic and you might have noticed that the Scottish spelling of Whisky is different than everyone else. Many believe that when the Irish began making whisky their word for it sounded a bit different and an e was added. Regardless of how you spell it, learning to understand the different types of whiskys can help you find the one you prefer. On ice or straight, whisky may become your favorite drink.