Have you ever faced the issue of not knowing how some of the most common and famous whisk(e)y styles differ from each other? Anyone who calls themself a “Whisk(e)y Lover” should be aware of the wide variety of this world-famous beverage which is now readily available in your local bar or retailer.
The key differences that arise in Whiskies produced worldwide can be attributed to four major factors:
1. The type of grain used.
2. The production process.
3. The location of origin.
4. The maturation period.
Based on the factors mentioned above, Whiskies are divided into numerous types globally. Here, I have compiled for you a list of different whiskies produced on the planet so that the next time you’re looking to make a purchase you’ll know how they differ from one another.
1. SCOTCH WHISKY
All producers have to follow a very strict set of rules to be able call their spirit Scotch Whisky. Made entirely in Scotland with either malt or grain, the spirit has to be mixed and aged in oak casks of a maximum 700 liters volume for a minimum of more than three years. Only when these Scottish whisky-making laws are followed to precision can a bottle be labeled Scotch, with a generally smoother earthy and smoky flavor profile that differs with regions.
2. IRISH WHISKEY
Typically distilled three times, Irish whiskey must be made in Ireland by law. Distilled using water and caramel coloring, a yeast-fermented mash of grain or malted cereals is aged in wooden casks for at least three years to make this signature drink. The Irish like to boast that their whiskey has a smoother finishing flavor in comparison to Scotch. This is debatable.
3. JAPANESE WHISKY
As the name suggests, Japanese whisky is explicitly produced in Japan. Made using double malted or peated barley, the Japanese brewers age the spirit in a wooden cask by a process similar to making Scotch. Japanese whisky comes only as single malts or blends, has a drier and smokier flavor, and is world-famous for its high quality. The first Japanese distiller served an apprenticeship in Scotland and started distilling in Japan in 1923. Japanese & Scotch whisky have many similarities for this reason.
4. BOURBON WHISKEY
Primarily made from a mash containing at least 51% corn, this distilled American whiskey must be stored in charred oak casks and made entirely in America to qualify as Bourbon. Sweet tasting Bourbon available in American liquor stores does not contain any additives and has a bit of smoky flavor and reddish appearance due to fermentation in charred oak casks.
5. TENNESSEE WHISKEY
Classified as bourbon under NAFTA, Tennessee whiskey defines a unique whiskey style produced in the Tennessee state of the USA. State law requires all Tennessee whiskey producers to make the beverage in-state and filter it through sugar maple charcoal using the Lincoln County Process before aging. The rest of the distillation process is similar to Bourbon.
6. RYE WHISKEY
Like bourbon, Rye whiskey is also produced in North America but with a mash of at least 51% rye and is aged for at least two years in charred barrels. Since rye is a type of grass and a member of the wheat family, it imparts a spicy or fruity flavor to the rye whiskey found in any spirits store and is excellent for making whiskey cocktails.
WHISKEY OR WHISKY?
What do you call it? Whiskey or Whisky? Even though this question confuses even the most veteran drinkers, how it is spelled depends on where it was made. Irish traditions dictate using Whiskey with an e, which was carried to the Americans. On the other hand, Scottish distillers prefer using Whisky without an e, followed by the breweries in Japan and all other countries.
Now that you’re aware of all the vast varieties of whiskey and their differences, I’m sure tackling tricky whiskey situations at the local supermarket or having spirited discussions with fellow whiskey lovers will not be a problem.
Andrew Christian works as a store manager in Arrow Liquormart, a famous liquor and wine store in Littleton, Colorado. He loves his combination of nature, wine, and nerdy friends who appreciate his homemade wines.
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