Whiskey is a spirit made from a fermented mash of grain, distilled under 190 poof and stored in oak barrels before bottling at no less than 80 proof or 40% abv. (alcohol by volume). Whiskey must be made exclusively from grains, either as a single grain or a blend. Barley, corn, rye, and wheat are most commonly used in whiskey production. Preparation and distilling methods change depending on the style. Scots and Canadians spell whiskey without the “e,” while Americans and Irish spell whiskey with the “e.” Whiskeys are often labeled with an age statement which denotes the youngest whiskey used in the bottle. Origin: It is generally believed that the Celts were the first to produce whiskey in Ireland in the 15th century. The present day name of “whiskey” comes from the Celtic “uisgebeatha” (pronounced whis-geh-BAW), meaning water of life. The name was anglicized to “whiskey” when the spirit was brought to England.
America’s native spirit, follows a rigid set of rules and federal guidelines for production. Bourbon must be made in the United States.It must be made of at least 51% corn.The remainder can be made up of more corn, a portion of rye, or a portion of wheat, and usually barley, but in smaller amounts. A bourbon’s recipe is usually known as it’s “Mash Bill”. Bourbon cannot come off the still at the distillery higher than 160 proof, and then, it cannot go into the barrel any higher than 125 proof. Speaking of barrels, that is what really separates bourbon from its other cousins in the whiskey world. Bourbon can only come from barrels that are made from new, charred, American oak. All other types of whiskey can legally use previously used American Bourbon Barrels, or second use barrels. Also, it must be bottled at no less than 80 Proof. To be classified as “Straight” Bourbon, it must be aged a minimum of 2 years.To be classified as Kentucky Straight Bourbon, the mark of most fine bourbons, it must be distilled and aged in Kentucky for at least two years.
“Wheated bourbon” is thrown around a lot these days.It simply means that wheat was used as the second grain in the mash bill, instead of rye. Most bourbons use rye as the majority second grain. Van Winkle, Weller, Makers Mark, Old Fitzgerald, and Larceny are usually the brands most associated with wheated bourbons.
Tennessee Whiskey, follows the same rigid federal guidelines as it’s Kentucky cousin .However, what separates Tennessee whiskey from Kentucky bourbon is something called the “Lincoln County Process”.This process runs the new distillate off the still through sugar maple charcoal before it enters the barrel and ages.This charcoal filtration removes certain aspects and flavors of the distillate creating subtle differences with Kentucky Bourbon.
Rye Whiskey, in the United States, follows very similar guidelines as bourbon. The only change is that it must be made of a minimum of 51% rye instead of corn.The remaining ingredients are typically corn and barley.Although, there are a lot of U.S. rye whiskies out there that are 95% rye and 5% barley.
Wheat Whiskey also follows the same federal guidelines of Bourbon, but it must be made of at least 51% wheat. This style of whiskey is not made by many distilleries. Bernheim Wheat Whiskey is the main brand associated with the style, however, the rise of craft distilleries in the U.S. has led to some more popping up regionally.
Canadian whiskey is often known as “rye” since historically the rye grain was a dominant flavoring component. Today a variety of recipes exist that include the use of corn, wheat, and barley. Canadian distillers produce and age each grain separately, then blend the aged whiskies together to create the desired flavor profile, which is typically soft and light. It is ideal for mixing or pouring over ice.
All Scotch whisky is made from malted barley and aged in Scotland for no less than three years in an oak barrel. Scotch is double-distilled and often uses peated malt to impart a smoky flavor. Two main types of barrels used are American oak and French oak, which impart different nuances into the whisky as the spirit ages. Scotch can be single malt or a blend. Single malts are produced from 100% malted barley from one single distillery. A Scotch blend is made by combining whiskies from various distilleries and can be a blend of malted barley and grain whisky.
Irish whiskey is distilled from a fermented mash of grains, including malted & unmalted barley, corn, rye, wheat, and oats. It is different than Scotch in that Irish whiskey uses unpeated malt and is triple-distilled before aging a minimum of four years in oak barrels. The whiskey that results is light and fruity, with some leathery, earthy overtones.