Did you know that in 1830, the average American consumed 88 bottles a year?
There's something about whiskey that just makes it irresistible. Whether you like to drink it neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, there's no denying that this amber spirit is one of the most popular drinks.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about whiskey – from the different types and flavors available to how to serve and enjoy it. We also have some delicious recipes for you to try!
What is Whiskey?
Whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. The grains used to make whiskey include barley, rye, wheat, and corn.
Each of these will produce a different flavor profile. Whiskey is typically aged in oak barrels, which also contributes to its flavor.
The word "whiskey" comes from the Gaelic term "uisge beatha," which means "water of life."
Whiskey has been around for centuries and was originally used as a medicinal drink. It wasn't until the 18th century that it became a popular social drink.
The earliest known reference to whiskey comes from Ireland in 1405, but experts say it was around long before that.
How is Whiskey Made?
Whiskey is made by mashing the grain (barley, rye, wheat, or corn) and then fermenting it with yeast. The fermented liquid is then distilled and aged in oak barrels. The aging of the whiskey will determine its final color and flavor.
Single Malt vs. Double Malt
The first thing you need to know when choosing a whiskey is whether you want a single malt or double malt.
To make single malt, you need 100% malted barley, which needs distilling in pot stills. This type of whiskey is usually lighter in color and has a more complex flavor.
Double malt whiskey uses two different types of malted barley and distills in column stills. This type of whiskey is usually darker in color and has a sweeter flavor.
Types of Barrels Used for Aging Whiskey
The type of barrel used to age whiskey also contributes to its flavor. The most common types of barrels used are American white oak, French Limousin oak, and Japanese Mizunara oak.
American white oak is the most common type of barrel used to age whiskey. This type of oak imparts a vanilla flavor to the whiskey.
French Limousin oak is a less common type of barrel used to age whiskey. This type of oak imparts a fruity flavor to the whiskey.
Japanese Mizunara oak is the least common type of barrel used to age whiskey. This type of oak imparts a spicy flavor to the whiskey.
However, some whiskeys age in used barrels, such as bourbon barrels or wine barrels.
The distilling process is how whiskey gets its final flavor and character.
The first step in the distilling process is to mash the grain. They do this by soaking the grain in hot water to release the sugars. The next step is fermentation, where they add yeast to the mash to eat the sugars and produce alcohol.
The third step is distillation, where they heat the fermented liquid until the alcohol vaporizes and is collected. The fourth and final step is aging, where the distilled alcohol is aged in oak barrels.
Different Whiskeys: A Guide
You've likely entered the liquor store and seen a wall of whiskey bottles with all sorts of different names. With so many options, it can be hard to know where to start.
Here is a guide to some of the most popular types of whiskey:
Irish whiskey is where it all started. Each bottle of Irish whiskey comes directly from Ireland and tastes of smooth, sweet vanilla.
The most common Irish whiskey is likely Jameson. A blend of pot still and fine grain whiskeys, Jameson is triple distilled for a smooth finish.
However, don't be afraid to think outside the box. There are many whiskeys imported from Ireland that deserve some attention.
The Irish make their whiskeys differently than any other country. They use a pot still to distill their whiskey, which gives it a unique flavor.
Irish whiskey is commonly used in drinks such as Irish Coffee, Whiskey Sour, and of course, the classic Manhattan.
Traditionally, the Scots spell it as whisky, without the "e." Scotch has a distinct flavor profile you cannot find in any other part of the world. This is because the Scots use peat to smoke their barley, which gives the whisky a smoky flavor.
The process of making scotch is also different from other whiskeys. They mash the barley and then ferment it in washbacks, which are huge wooden tanks. After that, they distill it twice in copper stills.
Scotch whisky is often enjoyed neat or on the rocks. However, it can also be used in cocktails such as the Rob Roy and Rusty Nail.
Japanese whiskey is a relative newcomer to the scene but has quickly become a favorite among whiskey lovers.
The process of making Japanese whiskey is similar to Scotch whisky. This type of whiskey is typically a single-malt, meaning that they make it from one type of grain.
Japanese whiskey is often described as being light and delicate with a sweet finish.
Some of the most popular Japanese whiskeys include Suntory and Nikka.
American whiskey is a broad category that includes bourbon, rye, and Tenessee whiskey. Let's take a look at how the three differ.
Bourbon originated in Kentucky. However, today no state has a monopoly on bourbon production.
To be classified as bourbon, they must make whiskey from at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels for at least two years. But it ages for more than four years to enhance that smokey flavor.
Bourbon is delicious in many cocktails, such as the Old Fashioned, Mint Julep, and Whiskey Sour.
Rye whiskey must contain at least 51% rye and tastes spicy with a hint of bitterness.
Rye was once the most popular type of whiskey in America. However, it fell out of favor when bourbon became more popular.
Now, rye is making a comeback and is often used in cocktails such as the Manhattan and Sazerac.
Tennessee whiskey is a type of bourbon. The difference is that they filter Tennessee whiskey through sugar maple charcoal before it is aged in oak barrels.
This unique process gives Tennessee whiskey a smooth flavor. The most popular brand of Tennessee whiskey is Jack Daniel's.
Canadian whiskey is a blend of different types of grain whiskies. The most common grains used are corn, rye, and wheat.
Most Canadian whiskeys are a blend of different whiskeys from different ages and grains. This results in a smooth and mellow flavor.
Canadian whiskey is often used in cocktails such as Whiskey Sours and Tom Collins.
What to Know When Buying Whiskey: A Guide for Whiskey Drinkers
Now that you know the basics of whiskey, let's talk about what to look for when buying whiskey.
Age: The age of the whiskey is important because it affects the flavor. Young whiskey is harsh and has a strong alcoholic flavor. As whiskey ages, it becomes smoother and develops more complex flavors.
Type of Barrel: As you likely can tell, the type of barrel plays a crucial role in the flavor. A new barrel provides a strong flavor, while a used barrel mellows the whiskey.
Origin: The origin of the whiskey can also affect its flavor. For example, a Scotch whisky will have a smoky flavor because of the peat used to smoke the barley.
Price: The price of whiskey varies depending on the brand, age, and type of barrel. However, you don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money to get a good whiskey.
How to Find Your Favorite Whiskey
Now that you know all about whiskey, it's time to find your favorite. The best way to do this is to try different types and brands.
You can also experiment with different ways of enjoying your whiskey. For example, try it neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail.
No matter how you enjoy your whiskey, remember to drink responsibly.
Drinking Whiskey In a Cocktail: A Bartender's Guide
If you're looking to enjoy your whiskey in a cocktail, there are a few things you should know.
The first thing to keep in mind is that not all cocktails are created equal. Some cocktails are designed to showcase the flavor of the whiskey, while others mask it with sweetness or strong flavors.
Second, you should consider the type of whiskey you're using. Bourbon, rye, and Tennessee whiskey all have different flavors that can affect your cocktail.
Finally, don't be afraid to experiment. The best way to find a whiskey cocktail you love is to try different recipes and figure out what you like.
Our Favourite Whiskey Cocktails
Finally, we will discuss some of our favorite cocktails. Remember that premium whiskey will likely make the cocktail taste better. But choosing the type of whiskey trumps the price.
This cocktail is made with bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It's perfect for those who enjoy a strong, bitter flavor.
- 1 oz of bourbon
- 1 oz of Vermouth
- 1 oz of Campari
Stirred on the rocks with an orange twist. Make sure to rim the glass with the orange twist and squeeze some of the juice into the glass.
This cocktail is made with rye whiskey, Absinthe, bitters, and sugar. It's a classic New Orleans cocktail that is perfect for those who enjoy a strong, herbal flavor.
- 2 oz of rye
- Sugar cube
- 3 dashes of Peychaud's bitters
Rinse the glass with Absinthe. Muddle sugar cube and bitters. Serve neat and garnish with lemon zest.
This cocktail is made with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. It's perfect for those who enjoy a sweeter flavor.
- 1 1/2 oz of rye whiskey
- 3/4 oz of Vermouth
- 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
Serve neat and stirred.
This cocktail is made with bourbon, mint, and sugar. It's perfect for those who enjoy a refreshing, sweet flavor.
- 8 mint leaves
- 1/4 oz of simple syrup
- 2 oz of bourbon
- Angostura bitters
Muddle mint into simple syrup, add bourbon and garnish with mint sprig and bitters.
This cocktail is made with any whiskey, bitters, sugar, and soda water. It's perfect for those who enjoy a strong flavor. This is a great cocktail to try with Canadian whiskey.
- 2 oz of whiskey
- 1 cube of sugar
- 3-5 dashes of Angostura
- Orange wedge
Muddle sugar, bitters, and juice from the orange wedge. Add whiskey on the rocks and top off with soda water.
Last but not least, we have a whiskey sour. It is made with whiskey, lemon juice, sugar, and egg whites (optional). It's perfect for those who enjoy a tart and sweet flavor.
- 1 ounce of lemon juice
- ¾ ounce of simple syrup
- 1½ ounce of whiskey
- 1/2 an ounce Cointreau
- Egg white from one egg
- 10 Dashes of Angostura bitters
Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain. Shake again without ice to maximize froth.
A Guide to Whiskey: Get Started on Your Whiskey Journey Today
We hope that this guide to whiskey has given you a better understanding of whiskey and how to enjoy it. Remember to drink responsibly and have fun trying out different cocktails.
Are you looking to spruce up your whiskey cabinet? Take a look at our whiskey menu today!