First we saw it on TV, then noticed the golden liquid in daddy’s cabinet with crystal friends. Curiosity killed the cat. Probably most of us tried it way before we were ready and put a distance to it. Yes! I am definitely talking about whisky. The spirit which you most probably met with some blend expressions if we are at similar ages.
Whisky has a distinct character in means of social rank. It has always been the sign of being rich, charismatic and powerful which are the things we encountered on TV and movies until now. This article will talk about what is whisky and what are the general types of whisky in simple means.
The word whisky comes from Gaelic word “Uisge Beatha” which means “Water Of Life”. This word evolved into whisky until today. Irish who claimed their spirit is better than the Scottish one renamed it as “Whiskey” and took this word with them to the USA. Canadians used the word “Whisky” and created a relationship with the USA just like the one between Scottish and Irish men. Generally, Scotch, Japanese, Taiwanese, Indian and Australian whiskies are named as “whisky” where as “whiskey” states American and Irish whiskies. Anyway, they are all marvelous!
Written documents tell that whisky history starts in early 1500’s on a purchase order for the funeral of a priest, John Corr. Order of 508 kilograms of barley for whisky is the first written evidence. However, it is believed that the production took place long before it between the families in Ireland.
Scotch whiskies can be classified in three branches which are Malt Whiskies, Blended Whiskies and Grain Whiskies. Blended whiskies can also be divided into two as Blended Scotch (malt + grain) and Blended Malt Whiskies. Blended whisky is the main type of whisky sold in the world with a big margin. Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal and Ballentine’s are some of the popular blended whisky brands.
Why Do We Call It “Scotch” Whısky?
A spirit can be named as Scotch whisky if it is distilled, aged and bottled in Scotland. Another thing is the raw materials that are to be used. Scotch whisky can only be made with water, grains and yeast which are distilled in copper stills and aged a minimum period of 3 years in oak casks lower than 700 litre volume. The final alcohol to be volumed should be at least 40%.
Sıngle Malt Scotch Whısky
Whisky produced using 100% malted barley from a single distillery in Scotland can be called a “Single Malt Scotch Whisky”. We can talk about 6 different whisky regions in Scotland which have whiskies in different characteristics.
Sıngle Graın Scotch Whısky
Single grain whiskies are the whiskies which are produced by a single distillery using grains other than barley. The main usage of the grain whisky is to blend it with malt whisky to produce blended whisky. Grain whiskies are getting more popular every day.
Blended Scotch Whısky
92% of whiskies sold in the market are blended whiskies. Plus, most of them are Scotch. Blended whiskies are made with blending of malt whiskies with grain whiskies.
Blended Malt Scotch Whısky
Malt whiskies produced in different distilleries get together to form blended malt whiskies. Monkey Shoulder, Johnnie Walker Green Label and Island Green and Chivas Ultis are the most renown blended malts in the market.
When American whiskeys are mentioned Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam are the first brands to come in mind. They both are American of course, but they are different in type. Bourbons are the most popular type of whiskey in the US. Tennessee and rye whiskies are the main other types. There are also grain and malt whiskies in the USA.
- Legislations in the US states the following rules for a whisky to be called as a bourbon.
- Distillation, maturation and bottling must be done in the US borders.
- Distillate should contain at least 51% corn.
- Distillate can contain at most 80% ABV(alcohol by volume) as it is distilled.
- Whiskey can contain at most 62.5% ABV at the moment it is put in the cases
- Bottled whiskey must have at least 40% ABV when it is bottled.
- The casks should be charred fresh oak casks.
Tennessee whiskey is mixed with bourbon time to time. Firstly, Tennessee whiskey should be distilled, aged and bottled in Tennessee. After distillation it has to be filtered drop by drop with charcoal in a large tank, which is also known as Lincoln County Process.
Straıght Bourbon Whiskey
- A bourbon can be called a “Straight Bourbon” under necessary conditions
- It should be aged at least for two years in oak barrels
- If the whiskey is under 4 years old it should be stated on the bottle
- If the whiskey is over 4 years old, the age youngest whiskey should be stated on the bottle
- Lastly, if all the process is handled in Kentucky, it can be called Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Rye Whıskey – Canadıan Rye Whısky
Rules for rye whiskeys in the US are similar with the rules for bourbons. The main difference is the raw material to be used. Rye should be used by 51% during the production. Also, it can be called “Straight Rye Whiskey” if the necessary conditions are met as in the conditions stated in “Straight Bourbon” topic.
Canada is the main origin for rye whiskies. However the rye mash can be lower in amount and the conditions for barrels are not that strict. The most important rule is, the maturation should be done at least for 3 years.
Generally speaking, Irish whiskeys are easy to drink, not peaty, soft charactered and more like a perfume when they are compared with Scotch whiskies. Most distinct difference in production is the number of distillation. In Scotland whiskies are generally distilled twice, while in Ireland whiskeys are generally distilled three times.
Irish whiskey lost its popularity due to numerous crisis, World Wars 1 & 2, and most importantly Prohibition time in the US which was the main client of the Irish whiskey market by that time.
Recently Irish whisky market is living a great moment since a huge investment can be observed towardsit. Quality is uprising. Jameson, Tullamore DEW, Teeling, Tyrconnell and Redbreast are great examples for Irish whiskeys.
Magic or hype? Nowadays everybody is rising an eyebrow when Japanese whisky is in the conversation. However, they have been distilling whisky since 1920s. Awards, advertisements in the last years made us to notice the beauty of the Japanese whiskies.
No argument that, Masataka Taketsuru’s Scotland journey is what made Japanese whisky this good. His education in Longhorn and Hazelburn Distilleries are the main pillars for Japanese whisky industry today. Taketsuru opens Nikka Distillery on the return and builds the foundations for Japanese madness. Right now there are 8 distilleries in Japan.
They import the peat and a great amount of barley from Scotland. They also import the barrels. However, they started to use Mizunara wood from their own forests in some of their brands now. Perfectionist Japanese people are also doing their best to create splendid whiskies. Yoichi, Taketsuru, Yamazaki are some of the awesome ones.
Whisky Or Whiskey?