A Rookie’s Guide to All Things Whiskey

Whether you’ve been sipping whiskey since you were old enough to drink or you’re just looking to up your beverage game, we’ve brought together all our knowledge of whiskey beverages to create an all-encompassing guide of the whiskey world.

So what’s the difference between Scotch, bourbon, and whiskey? You may hear these terms thrown around often. For a new whiskey drinker, it can be intimidating! But take note of these facts and you’ll be a seasoned sipper in no time.

To Start You Off, What Is Whiskey?

You may here the terms ‘whiskey,’ ‘Scotch,’ ‘bourbon,’ and ‘Irish whiskey’ thrown around a lot, but the differences are simple! All of these whiskeys are bred in the same family, and the main difference lies in their make-up. Ryes are made from rye grains, while Scotch is made from barley grown in Scotland. To help make it easier for you, here is a quick guide to all the different categories of whiskey.

Whiskey is really the umbrella term for the beverage. To explain generally what whiskey is, whiskey (or whisky) is a general term for any beverage made from fermented grain mash. Some whiskeys, as you will soon learn, are made from mostly corn, while some are made from rye. To be an officially whiskey, the beverage must be distilled to 40% alcohol. Whiskeys don’t necessarily have to be aged, although most will argue that they taste better when they have some years on their life.

Scotland’s Finest: How to Tell A Good Scotch

A lot of the main differences between whiskey and scotch are simply geographic! Scotch whiskey, as the name might suggest, is brewed in Scotland. In comparison to most whiskey, a Scotch whiskey will be brewed with malted barley. Many traditional Scotches are made with nothing but barley, yeast, caramel coloring and water. To qualify as a Scotch, the spirit must also have been aged for no less than three years, all in an oak cask. No fermentation short cuts are ever accepted when making Scotch. To also qualify as a Scotch (we know, the rules are strict!), every portion of the beverage must have been made in Scotland, hence the name ‘Scotch.’

Bourbon: The Pride of the South

The name bourbon actually comes from a specific area of Kentucky, now called Bourbon country, in which the brew’s formulation was initially distilled. If a whiskey beverage wants to be labeled bourbon, the mixture must consist of a mixture of grains that is at least 51% corn. The rest of the 49% of the mixture will be filled out with barley or rye. This specific blend must be then aged in a new charred oak barrel, in comparison to the white oak barrels that are usually used in the process. Bourbon, to qualify as real bourbon, must be aged for no less than two years in a charred oak barrel.

Rye: A North American Classic


Rye whiskey is one of Canada’s prides and joys. The whiskey differs from other whiskeys as it is made from 51% rye mash. There are no official rules for the blend, so sometimes it can consist of up to 9 to 1 rye mix, or 100% rye, like some of Alberta’s best ryes.

A Beginner’s Guide to Sipping Whiskey

Now that you’ve identified what whiskey you’d like to drink, it’s time to enjoy! Follow these steps to make sure you’re sipping from the right glass, with the right ice.

As whiskey purists will tell you, when drinking whiskey, the only way to drink is from an official whiskey glass. The tulip-shaped glass may look a little odd at first, but the floral shape is designed to bring out the aroma of the malt. The shape of the glass is also designed to show off the blend of each individual brew that you sip. Plus, the slight stem of the glass will make it easy to hold without cooling down the actual whiskey in your glass.

If you’re someone who likes to have a good sniff of your whiskey before you sip, take a look at the Glen cairn glass. The longer stem is specifically designed for smelling – the tapered mouth of the glass perfectly holds in all the beautiful aromas of the whiskey while highlighting the delicious flavor.

Should You Add Ice or No Ice?

Whether you put in ice in your whiskey in your beverage is a big indicator of how dedicated a whiskey drinker someone is. Whiskey on the rocks keeps the liquor nice and cold, making it a smoother finish. But, the longer the ice is in the drink, the more it will melt, causing the runoff water to dilute your drink. Now if you’re sipping an expensive whiskey, this can be a huge issue. Who wants to drink watered down whiskey? Our selection is to pick a whiskey with whiskey cubes. Whiskey cubes cool down your drink without the unnecessary watering down of a whiskey cocktail.

Overall, we recommend using whiskey rocks to make your drink nice and cold. These rocks were designed with whiskey connoisseurs in mind – keep them in your freezer, pop them in your drink, and the ice-cold stones will cool your drink without any of the melting that comes with using usual ice cubes. These stones are hugely popular in the whiskey world – any true connoisseur will have them sitting in his freezer!

Now that you’ve paid attention to our rookie’s lesson on all things whiskey, it’s time to go out an impress your friends! Take a peek at our website and stock up your bar. Invite a few friends over next weekend night and wow them with your new knowledge of the world of bourbon.

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