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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.

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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.

TYPES OF WHISKEY

WHISKY or WHISKEY The “e” or lack thereof in the word’s spelling is purely orthographical. Whisky is whiskey is whisky. Certain countries favor one spelling over the other—for example, Scotland and Canada always use “whisky,” while Ireland and the United States tend to favor “whiskey.”

American Flag on Whiskey and a Hammock
Bourbon description on Whiskey and a Hammock

BOURBON – This is a type of American whiskey, a barrel-aged distilled spirit made primarily from corn. The name ultimately derives from the French Bourbon dynasty, although the precise inspiration for the whiskey’s name is uncertain; contenders include Bourbon County in Kentucky and Bourbon Street in New Orleans, both of which are named after the dynasty. Bourbon has been distilled since the 18th century. The use of the term “bourbon” for whiskey has been traced to the 1820s, with consistent use beginning in Kentucky in the 1870s. Although bourbon may be made anywhere in the United States, it is strongly associated with the American South and with Kentucky in particular. As of 2014, distillers’ wholesale market revenue for bourbon sold within the U.S. was about $2.7 billion, and bourbon made up about two-thirds of the $1.6 billion of U.S. exports of distilled spirits.

Beautiful Scotland Landscape
Scotch Whiskey and a Hammock

SCOTCH – Is malt whisky or grain whisky made in Scotland. Scotch whisky must be made in a manner specified by law. All Scotch whisky was originally made from malted barley. Commercial distilleries began introducing whisky made from wheat and rye in the late 18th century. Scotch whisky is divided into five distinct categories: single malt Scotch whisky, single grain Scotch whisky, blended malt Scotch whisky (formerly called “vatted malt” or “pure malt”), blended grain Scotch whisky, and blended Scotch whisky All Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. Any age statement on a bottle of Scotch whisky, expressed in numerical form, must reflect the age of the youngest whisky used to produce that product. A whisky with an age statement is known as guaranteed-age whisky. A whisky without an age statement is known as a no age statement (NAS) whisky, the only guarantee being that all whisky contained in that bottle is at least three years old. The first written mention of Scotch whisky is in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1495. A friar named John Cor was the distiller at Lindores Abbey in Newburgh, Fife, where, in October 2017, malt whisky production restarted for the first time in 522 years.

Canadian Flag
Canadian Whiskey

CANADIAN WHISKY - Of course, we know that Canadian whisky is made in Canada but what is it that makes it Canadian?  In the 18th and 19th centuries, gristmills distilled surplus grans to avoid spoilage.  These were rough and unaged. They soon began to add American corn because of its abundance but then added a small amount of rye, usually around 10%.  Any whisky drinker knows that rye has a distinct flavor and soon people were asking for this new rye-flavored whisky.  Now the term "rye whisky and Canadian whisky are used interchangeably. It even says so in Canadian law!

Japanese Parasols
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JAPANESE WHISKY - It's no coincidence that Japanese whisky is similar to scotch. They studied the process of  making scotch and tried their best to recreate it back in Japan.  The first westerners to taste  Japanese whisky were American Expeditionary Force Serbia soldiers who took shore leave in 1918, a brand called Queen George. Japanese whiskey has made its mark in the whiskey world garnering respect after winning a few blind tastings beating out their scotch counterparts. In 2024 official rules will be in place to designate "Japanese Whisky". It must be fermented, distilled and bottled in Japan. Use some portion of malted grain in its mash bill and use water sourced from Japan.

Irish Bag Pipes
Irish Whiskey description on Whiskey and a Hammock

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. 

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Rocks Glass

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.

Rock Glass
Rocks Glass
GLENCAIRCEN GLASS
GLENCAIRCEN GLASS
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Glencairn Glass

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.

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Norlan Glass

 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.

Norlan Glass
Norlan Glass
Riedel Vinum Single Malt Glass
Riedel Vinum Single Malt Glass
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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.

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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.

Copita Nosing Glass
Copita Nosing Glass
WHISKEY CHILLERS

If you don’t want to water your drink then chillers are the answer and there are 2 basic types, stone and metal.

Metal Whiskey Chillers

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.

METAL

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.
Glass Whiskey Chillers
Not sure how long they’ll keep your whiskey chilled but we’d put our money on the stones.

GLASS

Oddly enough we only found these glass golf balls. Freeze em up and drop them in your drink.

Stone Whiskey Chillers

This option has variety! The most common is the cube-shaped soapstone. 

STONE

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 Whiskey Chillers

Ice is the most popular way to chill your whiskey, but unlike the others, it will dilute your drink.

ICE

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!
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STORING

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...

Storing Whiskey Cabinet
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