ALL ABOUT WHISKEY
Whisky or whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Various grains (which may be malted) are used for different varieties, including barley, corn, rye, and wheat. Whisky is typically aged in wooden casks, generally made of charred white oak. Simply put it is a stronger liquor, distilled from grains and matured in oak casks for a number of years before being bottled. The base ingredients are grain, water and yeast but this only gives us part of the picture. One also has to look at the country of origin and the type of whisky.
HOW IT'S MADE
Whiskey production varies depending on the style being made, the country where it originates, and other factors, but the general process remains the same in most cases.
MALTING – All whiskey starts as raw grain—in the case of malt whisky, barley, which has to be specially treated to access its sugars. The barley is moistened and allowed to partially sprout, or germinate, a process called malting which secretes an enzyme that converts the barley’s starches to sugars. Germination is cut off when the barley is dried by heating.
MASHING – The sugars contained in the grain must be extracted before fermentation, and this is done through mashing. The grains that are being used—like corn, wheat, or rye—are ground up, put in a large tank (called a mash tun or tub) with hot water, and agitated. Even if the distiller isn’t making malt whisky, some ground malted barley is typically added to help catalyze the conversion of starches to sugars. The resulting mixture resembles porridge. Once as much sugar as possible has been extracted, the mixture—now known as mash or wort (if strained of solids)—moves on to the fermentation stage.
IRISH WHISKEY - has to be made on the island of Ireland to be Irish whiskey. Distilled with cereal grains. Fermented with yeast. Distilled no more than 189.6 proof and aged a minimum of 3 years in a barrel no more than 185 gallons. Caramel color and water can be added. Bottled at a minimum of 80 proof.
What makes it interesting is that Irish whiskey is presumably where whiskey originated from. It is believed that Irish monks brought the technique of distilling perfumes back to Ireland from their travels to southern Europe and made it into a drinkable spirit. At this time it was not aged and once distilled it would have been flavored with aromatic herbs such as mint, thyme or anise. The oldest documented record of whiskey was found in the Annals of Clonmacnoise where it was written after the head of the clan died after "taking a surfeit of aqua vitae". Surfeit means having an "excessive amount of" and aqua vitae means "water of life". So it seems that he drank himself to death.
In 1608, King James the First granted a license to Sir Thomas Phillips of County Antrim. The first license to distill. Bushmills lays claim to this license to say that it is the oldest licensed distillery in the world but… Bushmills did not register to trade until 1784 so… is it? It may be hard to believe that Irish whiskey was the most popular spirit in the world in the 1800s. At their peak they were distilling 10 million gallons a year! Then in the early 1900s the Irish war for Independence happened, trade war with Britain and finally prohibition in the United States just about collapsed the whiskey titan island. Put it this way, at the height there were 28 distilleries across the island and by the 1960s there were 3! It slowly started to come back in the 1980s and now Ireland has grown to 25 distilleries!
Pot stills were the norm in Ireland until the Coffee still was invented and patented which allowed continuous distillation, more product faster. Pot stills were almost put out pasture with only 2 companies still using them, Redbreast and Greenspot. With the resurgence of whiskey, there was a push to go back to the basics, using the pot still to get the most flavor out of the grains.
Also called an “Old Fashioned Glass”. Wide brim and thick base, so that non liquid ingredients can be mashed and muddled. Wide open brim diffuses and flattens out whisky’s complex aromatics. This is your most basic whiskey glass and our overall favorite. For higher proof whiskies this might be a better choice as it gives your whiskey room to breathe.
Developed by Glencairn Crystal Ltd, Scotland for drinking whisky. Originally designed by Raymond Davidson. The glass is derived from the traditional nosing Copitas used in whisky labs around Scotland. The glass is made for “nosing,” wherein the aromatic molecules coming off the liquid are funneled into a tighter bouquet at the top, allowing the sipper to maximize the nose and further enhance the experience. – Started production 2001. Master blenders from five of the largest whisky companies in Scotland aided in the glass design. The Glencairn is the first style to be endorsed by the Scotch Whisky Association, and it is used by every whisky company in Scotland and Ireland.
Norlan was created by Icelandic designer Sruli Recht 2016. The rate of ethanol oxidation to surface volume which led to the incorporation of fluid dynamics modeling into the design of the glass. To agitate and test the fluids in such a way that the ethanol could escape, reducing the volatility of the spirit, thus allowing the more flavorful aromatics to surface. Providing a glass with a scientific performing inside that has a wide enough aperture to allow you to drink while having your nose in the glass, thus preventing one from having to tilt the head up and back.
Riedel Vinum Single Malt Glass
An elongated thistle shaped body on a squat stem. The slightly out-turned lip is to direct the spirit onto the tip of the tongue, where sweetness is perceived. -We have no idea if this works and if single malt is all that it’s good at. One day we’ll get our hands on a set and find out.
Copita Nosing Glass
Originally made for nosing sherry, it has now been optimized for whisky. Basically the same way the Glencairn works with the bell shaped bulbous bottom and narrowing at the top to funnel all of those great smells right to your nose. Generally comes with a tasting cap to trap all the alcohol fumes as to not dilute your tasting pleasure.
If you don’t want to water your drink then chillers are the answer and there are 2 basic types, stone and metal.
All shapes and sizes. Some have liquid inside and some are just solid. It’s just badass to pull a cylinder of bullets from your freezer to chill that fire water.
Again, more options than you can shake a stick at for other frozen metal to drop in your glass from cubes, and hexes, to golf clubs with little handles to pull out of your drink if it’s in your way. Our fav has to be the little nessy seamonster that will haunt the deeps of your whiskey glass.
Not sure how long they’ll keep your whiskey chilled but we’d put our money on the stones.
Oddly enough we only found these glass golf balls. Freeze em up and drop them in your drink.
This option has variety! The most common is the cube-shaped soapstone.
Even though this is a soft stone, it is very dense and has an impenetrable surface making it a great choice to toss in your freezer and then put in your glass! Another choice is granite if you’re looking for something different. It has low porosity, but they are usually smoothed, sealed, and all-natural. On the higher end is natural Quartz, non-porous, and will look damn sexy in your glass, but you’ll be paying triple the price of the other two.
Ice is the most popular way to chill your whiskey, but unlike the others, it will dilute your drink.
This isn’t necessarily bad, because it will bring out different notes as you drink, and that ice melts. When we’re doing a tasting, it’s cubed all the way or the small ice skulls, but if you want that slow melt, then the ice ball is the way to go. I’m sure it’s purely aesthetic, but we love the crystal-clear ice ball!
Storing whiskey is easy, make sure the top is on and keep it out of sunlight. That's pretty much it. You keep it that way for years and years and years...