Table of Contents
Basics of Whisky
Understanding the basics of whisky, and appreciating it, starts with knowing where it comes from. The geography of whisky is VERY important!
Whisky is a popular drink of choice in many countries and I am sure you are familiar with the classics: Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and the United States. But there are several other countries like Australia, Finland, Taiwan, Japan, India, and Germany, that also have a presence in the production of whisky. So many culture ties with whisky!
Whisky without the ‘e’ is from Scotland (plural is whiskies)
Whiskey with the ‘e’ is from Ireland (plural is whiskeys)
The rest of the world tends to spell it without the ‘e’, while the USA and Ireland continue with the ‘e’. There truly is no rule on how to spell it.
For the purposes of this article, I am spelling Whisky without an ‘e’ because that is how we spelled our dog’s name. (shameless pet pictures 😊)
Chart of Different Types of Whiskies
While distilleries around the world call their drink the same thing, there are many distinct differences between whiskies, as seen in the charts above.
Bourbon is a type of whisky, but whisky is not a type of bourbon, which is because bourbon has to have at least 51% of corn. Bourbon can only be made in the USA, whereas whisky can be made all over the world. Scotch whisky is Scotch because it comes from Scotland. 😋
Basic Steps in Making Whisky
Malting: The grain is soaked in water and allowed to germinate. This process produces enzymes that convert the starches in the grain into sugars.
Mashing: The malted grain is milled and then mixed with hot water. This process extracts the sugars from the grain.
Fermenting: The sugary liquid is fermented with yeast. This process converts the sugars into alcohol.
Distilling: The fermented liquid is distilled to increase the alcohol content.
Aging: The distilled liquid is aged in wooden casks. This process gives the whisky its flavor and color.
Bottling: The aged whisky is bottled and ready to be enjoyed.
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For most of my life, I turned down the opportunity of drinking whisky.
Why hadn’t I considered drinking whisky before? I probably have the memory of my early days downing a whisky at some point and it gave me the heebie-jeebies.
Later in life, I would see my husband join the men at the end of a night out with friends to enjoy a glass (or 2) of whisky. I never joined in with them because I am gluten-free and I knew that whiskies were made from various grains such as barley, wheat, and rye.
With a little research, I found from Celiac.com, “Nearly all whiskeys are made with gluten-containing cereal grains. The final product does not contain gluten, but cannot be advertised or labeled as gluten-free. Many people with celiac disease choose to avoid whiskey, while many others drink it with no adverse effects.” I do not have Celiac disease, so I gave it a try.
I next experienced whisky after writing to a friend of mine in Scotland, Iain Scott. Iain has a business in Scotland, Bucket List Scotland, and if you fancy a whisky tour, along with Outlander and/or golf in Scotland, Iain Scott is your go-to guide: https://bucketlistscotland.net/.
Like any good Scotsman, Iain made scotch sound so elegant and flavorful. In the glossary below, he also gave the following colorful description of what a dram is and how scotch whisky should be appreciated.
Casks: A wooden barrell in which the wood can enhance the flavor of the whisky.
Cooper: A person who makes and/or repairs wooden casks or barrells.
Dram: “Do you know what a dram is? Basically, it’s a shot of whisky, but for God’s sake don’t drink whisky like it’s a shot of tequila. Scotch whisky is a spirit to be appreciated, savoured, and sipped. Scotch whisky takes time to make and quite often is aged for several years in casks, so to swallow it in a oner is @^&%!*$&# sacrilegious.”
Nose: gently sniffing or smelling the aroma of whisky while swirling it in the glass. This is best done in a Glencairn glass (tulip-shaped).
Single Malt: Whisky made at one (single) distillery from malted barley.
Well, I guess I am @^&%!*$&# sacrilegious because my first experience was drinking it like a shot – tongue sticking out, eyes clenched tight, chill going down my spine with the shivers. Through my conversations, research (watching Scotch: A Golden Dream on Amazon Prime), and practice 😊, I have found the following techniques to be the most effective at bringing the most flavor out of whisky.
4 Ways to Savor Whisky
“Water opens up a single malt. Totally changes it. Just be careful not to drown it.” – Iain Scott, Bucket List Scotland
I seem to smell so much of the alcohol when I smell it with my nose, but I can pick out specific notes – like vanilla, pepper, citrus, etc.
When I smelled it with my mouth slightly open, after I coughed, it seemed like all of the individual notes were blended together and the alcohol smell wasn’t there.
Experience of the full-bodied approach.
Reduces the burn and allows you to taste the spirit more fully.
A gentler approach to enjoying the taste is to add maybe a little soda like club soda, 7-Up, Sprite, or Coke to a bourbon until you are familiar with the taste. Adding a soda to a single malt whisky is a complete insult to master distillers.
In researching for this article, I have found that the subject of whisky is vast, complex, and cannot be fully understood in one day or in one article. I encourage you to try whisky, be adventurous, try it in a cocktail, read up on it, understand the history, try a variety of them, or find your single favorite. There’s so much more to whisky than just putting it into a glass and drinking it. Whisky has an incredible history that deserves attention from men and women alike. When you understand this history the experience of drinking it becomes so much more meaningful. I can see why whisky is meant to be shared with friends! Cheers, my friends!
This article is to enlighten you about the culture ties surrounding whisky. Please drink responsibly.
“Whisky has less calories than any other alcoholic drink.” – BONUS!!!