Can You Tell the Difference: The Different Kinds of Whiskey
Whiskey is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks known to man. In fact, you can order a glass of this drink in almost every bar, pub, or club in any country. In the Philippines, Jack Daniel’s – a notable alcoholic brand – offers one of the many variations of whiskey.
It is important to note, however, that there are more variations of whiskey apart from that. This would include bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey to name a few; some parts of the world even have their own variants that you may not have probably heard of. These locations have their own way of producing this drink in order to create unique aroma, character, and taste from one another.
By reading this article, you will be introduced to the world of whiskey, and for starters, you will have a quick overview of whiskey, its creation process, and of course, its different variants – from basic to regional types of whiskeys.
What is the creation process of whiskey?
Whiskey, in its most technical sense, is a distilled beer. It is the final product when you heat grains such as corn, rye, barley, wheat, or sorghum with water and ferment it to create mash. This mash is then distilled to create the whiskey base, which is aged in wooden casks.
The word whiskey, on the other hand, is the Anglicization of the Gaelic word uisce beatha, which means “water of life.”
But is it whiskey or whisky? Most people, especially those who aren’t really whiskey enthusiasts would never really bother with the spelling – but then again, the spelling stands as a determinant from which country the whiskey has been produced. In the case that it’s produced by countries like Ireland and the United States, then the spelling would be ‘whiskey.’ But if it’s produced by countries like Canada, Scotland, India, and Japan, then the spelling would be ‘whisky.’
While spelling may help you distinguish a whiskey through its origin, there are still several factors at play that will differentiate the various types of this liquor. These include the grains used in its creation, the distillation process, how long it aged, and what kind of barrel was used.
How can you differentiate basic whiskey from regional whiskey?
There are several ways to differentiate whiskey variants from one another. To give you some example, here are a few basic and regional types of whiskey (that you may be familiar of):
What are the basic types of whiskey?
When it comes to whiskeys, there are two major distinctions: grain and malt.
A grain type of whiskey is when a whiskey is created using corn, wheat, rye, and other types of grains other than malted barley. Mostly, this type of whiskey carries the name of the said ingredient (e.g. grain Scotch whiskey).
Malt whiskey, on the other hand, is made of only malted barley. For this type of whiskey, plenty of countries have enforced their own restrictions on its production. A notable instance of this is Scotland’s requirement that each malt whiskey should at least age for a minimum of three years.
These basic types as per the liquor’s main ingredient also have its combined variations depending on which type of grain the ingredients has been blended with.
Single malt whiskey
This is a combined type of whiskey that is produced exclusively by a single distillery while using one type of grain. Most times, it is mixed with other whiskey casks for a better flavoring.
Also known as the single barrel whiskey; this is considered as a premium type of whiskey as each bottle is made from a single aging barrel, in contrast to the usual blending of contents from different barrels. Each of its bottles bears the specific barrel number along with the dates of the beginning and aging of that particular barrel. Mainly, this is done to maintain the uniformity of taste and color of the liquor.
Blended malt whisky
This is the type of whiskey wherein different single malt whiskeys from different distilleries are mixed. A notable example of this combined type of whiskey if Johnnie Walker’s blended malt whiskey.
This is a mixture of different types of whiskeys from different distilleries. At some point, it also includes coloring, flavoring, and less aged spirits thus allowing a market price to be a bit lower.
Additionally, some specific countries require an age statement for this type of whiskey. For the United States, the age statement is only applicable in the straight whiskey used for the blend, which should be at least 20% of the whole content.
This is a strong combined type of whiskey that is made straight from the cask without being diluted (also phrased as ‘at cask strength’), or at least a bit diluted with water at about 40% ABV (Alcohol by Volume). Consequently, these cask strength whiskeys are much more available in the premium market as it is more expensive to produce and has lesser sales with regards to casual consumers.
What are the regional types of whiskeys?
While the ingredients may determine the type of whiskey, people (particularly casual consumers) predominantly are more familiar with classifying their distinctions by the location where they were made.
Historically speaking, whiskeys’ production dates back to the 15th century, where the art of distilling whiskeys spread in Scotland and Ireland, specifically at monasteries for medicinal purposes. However, Ireland has the oldest licensed distillery of whiskey in the world, while Scotland has the most popularly produced whiskeys of all time.
To help you further explore, here’s a list of the most distinguished whiskeys based on their location:
Scotch from Scotland
For a type of whiskey to be considered scotch, it must be made mostly from malted barley. This alcohol has a strong taste that sticks, which to some may be enough reason to stay away from it. It can, basically, be considered as an acquired taste.
In its creation process, the maker is strictly forbidden to use whole grains, cereals, caramel coloring, or fermentation additives. Take note that it also needs to be aged in oak casks, which are at least three years old and can’t be bigger than 700 liters. It also must have an ABV of not more than 94.8% but not less than 40%.
Finally, scotch is only scotch if it was made from Scotland. It cannot be created anywhere else.
Bourbon from the United States (and other American Whiskeys)
If real scotch is made in Scotland, then bourbon must be created in the United States for it to be considered as authentic.Bourbon sets itself aside from other whiskeys. This is because not only does it have a sweet and smoky flavor, but also its fermentation process is distinctly different. Essentially, its grain mix or mash is made out of 51% corn. Furthermore, its mixture undergoes the process called sour mash, which is being done by mixing a new batch of mash with an existing one.
This drink also has no aging restrictions, which means it doesn’t have a minimum aging period. However, you must make sure to use new charred oak barrels when you age them.
On a side note, straight bourbon needs to be aged for 2 years.
Aside from bourbon, the US also have other types of whiskey that are popular around the world, including corn, malt, rye, rye malt, and wheat whiskeys, which must be distilled to a maximum of 80% ABV and be barrelled at a maximum of 125 proof. The US enforces particular federal regulations when it comes to the production of whiskey, one of which prohibits adding of color or flavor in the final product aside from water. These types of whiskeys should also be aged in charred-oak containers, except for the corn whiskey, which is not included in the age requirement.
Canadian Rye Whiskey
It is important to point out though that to be considered as whiskeys, the law in Canada requires these liquors to be aged for at least three years, distilled in oak barrels, and produced in Canada. Additionally, Canadian whiskeys may also contain caramel and flavoring in addition to the mash spirits to attain the aroma, character, and taste of generally known Canadian whiskey.
Fun fact: The regulation on rye whiskey in Canada has loosened up to the point that even whiskeys with less than 51% rye are still considered rye whiskey.
Canadian whiskey is also called as ‘Canadian Rye Whiskey’ and ‘Rye Whiskey.’ However, although the name suggests that a rye component may be present in the usual Canadian whiskey, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there would be a noticeable percentage of it in it. Canadian whiskey is mostly recognized as one of the smoothest and lightest whiskeys out there.
Irish Whiskey from Ireland
Ireland – a nearby neighbor of Scotland – is also quite well-known for their whiskey. Irish whiskey is a particular variation of whiskey that has simpler regulations.First of all, it has to be distilled and aged in Ireland. The ageing process should be at least three years in wooden casks that are at the most 700 liters big.
Essentially, you can use any cereal grain and combine it with a mixture of two or more. But you have to remember that this process should be labelled properly. The end result is quite smooth and not as smoky as other types of whiskeys.
Japanese whiskey’s model whiskey is actually the Scotch, and though production began around 1870, the first commercial distillery of whiskeys in Japan started in 1924, when the distillery by Yamazaki first opened. Similar to Scotch, the harmony and balance of the flavor is their main goal. It is basically made of malted barley and is distilled using the pot still method. Its popular brands are Suntory and Nikka.
Though unlike Scotland’s usual practice, Japan is pretty much reluctant to trade with competitors; thus, their blended whiskey will only have malt whiskey from distilleries owned by the same company, or those that are produced by Scottish distilleries.
Today, Japanese whiskey is being enjoyed by people globally for its silky and powerful taste that is fit for a fine-wine drinker, who enjoys perfect balance and harmony.
Indians love whiskeys. Much like the other countries mentioned here, they have their own signature whiskey. In most cases, Indian whiskeys are based on neutral spirits, which are distilled from fermented molasses (or black treacle) mixed with at least 10% to 12% of malt whiskey. However, this particular whiskey is more likely to be considered as ‘rum’ outside India, as India’s standards for whiskey does not require age maturity or distillation from cereals unlike the European Union’s (EU) standards.
As of 2012, Australia has the largest concentration of whiskey distilleries and it lies in the island state of Tasmania. It was recorded that Australia has a total of 18 licensed whiskey distilleries, which all started in 1992.
When it comes to their main components, Tasmanian distilleries use malt from one of their local brewers, either Cascade or Moo Brew. Additionally, in 2014, the World Whiskies Award for the world’s best single malt whiskey was given to Australia’s Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask.
What are 4 Major Types of Whiskey?
There are four kinds of whiskey you must know about. These are scotch, bourbon, rye, and Irish whiskey.
In order for a type of whiskey to be considered scotch, it must be made mostly from malted barley. This alcohol has a strong taste that sticks, which to some may be enough reason to stay away from it. It can, basically, be considered as an acquired taste.In its creation process, the maker is strictly forbidden to use whole grains, cereals, caramel coloring or fermentation additives. Take note that it also needs to be aged in oak casks, which are at least three years old and can’t be bigger than 700 liters. It also must have an ABV (Alcohol by Volume) of not more than 94.8% but not less than 40%.Finally, scotch is only scotch if it was made from Scotland. It cannot be created anywhere else.
This type of whiskey sets itself aside from others. This is because not only does it have a sweet and smoky flavor, but also its fermentation process is distinctly different. Essentially, its grain mix or mash is made out of 51% corn. Furthermore, its mixture undergoes the process called sour mash, which is being done by mixing a new batch of mash with an existing one.This drink also has no aging restrictions, which means it doesn’t have a minimum aging period. However, you must make sure to use new charred oak barrels when you age them.On a side note, straight bourbon needs to be aged for 2 years. Also, remember if real scotch is made in Scotland, then bourbon must be created in the United Stated for it to be considered as authentic.
As the name of this whiskey suggests, rye whiskey has a mash that is made of 51% rye. Similar with bourbon, it has no requirements when it comes to ageing, as long as it is encased in oak barrels that are new and charred. But you can’t say the same for straight rye.This is because you need a minimum of two years in order to age it.When it comes to taste, rye is pretty similar to bourbon. However, it does have a little more edge and spice to its flavor.Fun fact: The regulation on rye whiskey in Canada has loosened up to the point that even whiskeys with less than 51% rye are still considered rye whiskey even though America still follows the original regulations.
Ireland – a nearby neighbor of Scotland – is also quite well-known for their whiskey. Irish whiskey is a particular variation of whiskey that has simpler regulations.First of all, it has to be distilled and aged in Ireland. The ageing process should be at least three years in wooden casks that are at the most 700 liters big.Essentially, you can use any cereal grain and combine it with a mixture of two or more. But you have to remember that this process should be labelled properly.The Irish whiskey’s flavor is quite smooth and not as smoky as other types of whiskeys.
What Made Whiskeys Popular in the Philippines?
Whiskeys are pretty much popular all over the globe, hence, it’s not a question of how it came to the Philippines. But rather why it became so popular here in the country. To give you a brief overview, here are two points for you to consider:
It is no secret that Filipinos love drinking alcohol. In most cases, a number of them like trying out different variations of alcoholic drinks; whiskey offers them this experience. It allows them to test out and choose various kinds of whiskey – from the local brands to the international goods.
Great Drinking Experience
Another thing that made whiskeys popular in the Philippines is that it enables its drinkers a one-of-a-kind drinking experience. In fact, you can instantly upgrade your inuman sessions by simply bringing a bottle of Jack Daniel’s for sharing. Pair it, then, with steak and you – along with your friends – are bound to have an unforgettable night.
Where can You Get the Good Kind of Whiskey?
Given these points, there are basically a whole lot of different types of whiskey that you will run into. They all have their different variations as well as their unique tastes. The good thing here is that it can cater to many people because of their versatility. You would also be glad to know that you can create all sorts of cocktails through mixing these whiskeys with other alcoholic drinks, and enjoy it with your family and friends.
If you’re looking for your own taste of whiskey, Alcoline is the alcohol distributor for you. This is because we can offer you a plethora of choices of whiskeys. We have been in the industry for a long time and we aim to offer all our customers the best service that they deserve.