There are many types of whiskies (or whiskeys) – whatever way you chose to spell. In this article, we give you an overview of the types of whisky. We start with a quick description of the composition of whisky. Later we move on to discuss the various types, features, origin and ingredients.

But first, Is it Whisky or Whiskey?

Depending on the country of its origin, whisky is spelt with or without an e. In Ireland and the USA, it is usually spelt whiskey, while Scotland and the rest of the world use the spelling whisky.

There’s a little mnemonic – All the countries that have an ‘e’ in the spelling of their country use the word whiskey with an ‘e’. The United States and Ireland use the term ‘whiskey’ as opposed to Scotland and Canada.

The other story is that Ireland, who was the one-time world leader in whiskey production, added an ‘e’ to distinguish their product from their Scottish counterparts in the American market.

In this article, we’ll stick to spelling it as whisky.

Composition of Whisky

Whisky is a spirit distilled from any kind of grain. Most whiskies are aged in oak barrels before bottling. The output is complex and delicious; and can be sipped neat, on the rocks or mixed in cocktails.

Even though each whisky differs in its base product, alcoholic content, and quality; whisky can be broadly classified as malt whisky and grain whisky.

  • Malt whisky is made primarily from malted barley.
  • Grain whisky is made from any type of grain.

Malts and grains can be combined in various ways to create:

  • Single malt whisky: whisky from a single distillery
  • Blended malt whisky: a mixture of single malt whiskies from different distilleries
  • Blended whisky: a blend of malt and grain whiskies.

Types of Whisky

Now that we know the elemental composition of a whisky, let’s talk about the different types of whisky. Along with discussing the flavour, popular brands and cocktail ideas for each.

Scotch Whisky

Scotch is the whisky spelt without the ‘e’. Of course, there is more to that. Malted barley is the defining grain of Scotch. Scotch can be made with other grains as well, but it must contain malted barley. They are distilled twice and left to age in oak barrels. Scotch could taste smoky, earthy along with slight fruity flavours.

Signature cocktails: Rob Roy, Blood & Sand

Popular brands: Black Dog, Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker

Irish Whiskey

Irish Whiskey is made from unmalted barley and other grains, and matured for a minimum of three years. It is distilled thrice which results in the smoothness of the drink. The extra distillation creates all the difference between the flavours of Scotch and Irish Whiskey. It gives Irish Whiskey a lighter character and makes the mouthfeel smoother. The only thing common between an Irish whisky and a Scotch is the use of oak casks. They both must use oak casks for ageing the whisky. So, if you are looking for something smooth, sweet with hints of honey – get yourself a peg of Irish whiskey.

Signature cocktails: Irish Coffee, Irish Car Bomb

Popular brands: Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey, The Wild Geese, Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey

Bourbon

Bourbon is the quintessential American whisky. Bourbons are made with at least 51% corn. The other ingredients can be either rye, barley or wheat. What makes bourbon unique is the use of corn and the fact that it is aged in charred new oak for at least 4 years. Bourbon has a distinctive vanilla and woody flavour.

Signature cocktails: Old-fashioned, Whisky Sour, Mint Julep

Popular brands: Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey

Tennessee

Made in the same fashion as Bourbon – 51% corn (with rest of it rye and barley) and aged in charred new white oak barrels. However, there is one step that separates Tennessee Whiskey from Bourbon. It is the Lincoln County Process. To be labelled Tennessee Whiskey, the whiskey must be charcoal-filtered before ageing. The charcoal is obtained from sugar maple trees seasonally charred to make the charcoal. The charcoal is used because of its filtration properties and thus resulting in an overall smoother product.

Signature cocktails: Old-fashioned, Whisky Sour, Mint Julep

Popular brands: George Dickel, Jack Daniels, Prichard’s

Rye

Rye whiskey is made from a mash of at least 51 per cent rye. The other ingredients are usually corn and malted barley. It is distilled and aged in charred, new oak barrels.

Rye whiskey that has been aged for at least two years and that has not been blended with other whiskies are called as straight rye whiskey. The flavour is light, spicy with a hint of bitterness.

Signature Cocktails: Sazerac, Manhattan, Vieux Carre

Popular Brands: Bulleit Rye, WhistlePig Straight Rye, Knob Creek Rye

Japanese

Japanese culture can seem quizzical. The same can be said about its whisky as well. At first, it might look like a distant cousin of Scotch. But, Japanese whisky has developed its own unique style. The flavour is complex, delicate and smoky; and has a typical character of honeysuckle, toffee, acetone and orange.

Signature cocktails: Manekini-tini and Hakushu and soda.

Popular brands: Suntory Whisky Toki, Yamazaki, Nikka

Now that you know the different composition, types and flavours of whisky, we are sure you are well equipped to make the right choice. That said, there is no one perfect whisky for all. Try different ones before you settle on a favourite.


 

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