Whisk(e)y 101 – What’s in your whiskey?

26 Jul

It’s delicious…that, you know. But I’m one of those people who really likes to know what I put into my body. I try my best to buy all-natural, because, although there is no governmental regulation, I can usually understand the ingredients. Call me a hippie, but we’ll see who’s laughing when your stomach falls out.

That is why I’m here to tell you what whiskey is made out of—what makes it taste so dang good. If I plan on consuming as much as I plan on consuming over the course of my life, I think it’s probably for the best. Plus, who knows? You may actually be able to understand the label instead of picking the one with the fanciest font!

Basically, back in the day, a bunch of monks in Europe (God bless ’em) developed barley beer because they didn’t have grapes to make wine. One thing led to another and they figured out it was awesome and started making whiskey out of it. We salute them.

Since then, the rest of the world caught on and everyone started making their own brews, which is why there are so many different kinds today, and people are real uppity about what kind they drink. Now we’ve got Scotch, bourbon, rye, single-malt, etc., and the poor youth of the nation (21+, obviously) can’t tell them apart.

Really, the only differences between the oodles of brews are how the grains are fermented, distilled and aged. The rest is pretty uniform across the board. So here’s a vocabulary lesson to help you out with the rest. Obviously, this isn’t the last you’ll learn about whiskey from me. I’m obsessed with the stuff, so stay tuned for more Whisk(e)y 101 in the future. Of course, you can always help me out by leaving comments or emailing me with more specific questions so I don’t just ramble on in a drunken stupor.

Malt Whiskey – made primarily from malted barley, with additional grains added for balance or flavor

Grain Whiskey – kind of like malt whiskey, but is mostly made from grains other than barley; includes rye whiskey, bourbon, etc.

Single Malt Whiskey – comes from a single distillery and is made from only one malted grain, as opposed to a blend, giving it a clearly distinct flavor; often a range of years’ brews will be mixed together to produce a more brand-worthy taste

Blended Whiskey – produced from a mixture of malt and grain whiskies

Cask Strength – also known as barrel proof; when used to describe a whiskey, it means the liquid has not been diluted between its cask and the bottle, allowing the drinker to dilute it to their personal preference

Single Cask – also known as single barrel; generally labeled with a barrel or cask number, these whiskies vary in taste from bottle to bottle as they are not blended for consistent flavor

Class dismissed. I think you know what your homework is…

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