Whiskey is beer but without hops. It has been distilled two to three times, but to start making whiskey, you must first make beer. Individual Tennessee whiskeys and Bourbons use hops to propagate their yeast components, while others do not.
An authentic Irish or Scottish whiskey does not contain hops, and does have a high concentration of barley.
Regardless, once the beer is made, the beer is distilled. Only then does it become whiskey. Typically, oak aging is used, because oak helps balance the flavors, while distilling is what increases the alcohol concentration.
Some of the finest whiskeys are made in copper pot stills (especially single-batch versions) and column stills in Scotland. Then, they are aged in oak barrels to mature and transform into whiskey.
Scotch or Whiskey? Are They the Same?
Yes, it’s confusing.
Scotch and whiskey are used interchangeably, so when someone tries to correct you and tell you they have a single malt scotch, they might be talking about whiskey. Why? Because a scotch is a whiskey made in Scotland. In the United States, a bourbon is a whiskey.
Now it gets more confusing.
Because whiskey can be bourbon.
So, what’s the difference?
Scotch can be a whiskey if that Scotch is made in Scotland.
A bourbon can be a whiskey if it is made in the United States. Kentucky Bourbon is a whiskey too -- so no need to fret.
The difference? Bourbon is distilled with corn, while scotch and scotch/whiskey is made from malted barley.
It Is All in the Name: The Four Categories of Whiskey as We See It
When shopping for an excellent whiskey, you need to read the labels carefully.
There are different blends and aging requirements for a bottle to be named “whiskey,” and Scotland is the only place that has strict requirements. The United States and Canada are much more relaxed, but in general, it goes like such:
· American Whiskey: The sweetest of the whiskey group. They are aged and distilled in the U.S., and a rye whiskey contained 51% rye, Tennessee whiskey (bourbon) must be distilled in TN and filtered through charcoal, and a bourbon whiskey must have 51% corn.
· Scotch Whiskey: A smoky, earthy whiskey that is distilled in Scotland using barely and must age for a minimum of three years. Blended Scotch is a blend of various whiskeys, while Single Malt Scotch is a single whiskey distilled from malted barley and a single batch (also the costlier of the two).
· Irish Whiskey: A light-bodied, robust whiskey that takes on floral notes. Must be aged for three years and distilled in Ireland.
· Canadian Whiskey: The lightest and fruitiest of the bunch, it is distilled and aged in Canada a minimum of three years. Canadian whiskeys are almost always a blend.
There are four acceptable ways to drink whiskey. True aficionados, however, will tell you that there is only one tried and true way to ever taste whiskey. For those that are ready to branch out, we recommend trying out these four:
A neat whiskey is a straight whiskey. No ice, no fuss, and there only for you to enjoy the flavor and complex compounds..
A splash of water enhances the aromas and flavors, elevating individual notes not always recognized.
Adding ice to the whiskey so that it is chilled, but possibly watered down.
Ever heard of a Manhattan or Sour? Yes, they are favorite whiskey cocktails. Whiskey is very reluctant to play nice with other spirits, though, so be cautious about what you mix it into.