your poison, Whisky Or Whiskey? Serena Cowell discovers its
nuances to help you make your choice
Whiskies They’re out there. If you can find them, that is. You see
them on display at specialty whisky shops, but they’re often not
for sale; if they are, you’re going to pay dearly for them. Whisky
collectors show you pictures of them with pride, as if they were
pictures of their first-born child. They also command exorbitant
prices during speciality whisky auctions. Welcome to the world of
cult whiskies. Some whiskies might seem relatively expensive when
they’re first released, but their value can increase several fold
within a few years. Some popular cult whiskies are The Macallan,
Laphroaig, Springbank, Maker’s Mark and Old Potrero.
you know your whisky? is a question that can put a number
of well-read, extensively travelled corporates in a tight corner
and make them look around for hints. According to the Concise Oxford
Dictionary, Whisky - better-known by the Americans and
Irish as Whiskey - is a spirit distilled especially
from malted barley, other grains potatoes etc. However, there is
more to it than what meets the eye. A lot of research has gone into
knowing what whisky is and how it is different from another. Why
two spellings? The Celts, ancestors of both the Scotch and Irish,
called their drink distilled from grain visgebaugh -
pronounced wis-ge-baugh and spelled with one e.
The English, who liked the drink, Anglicised the name and spelled
it whisky no e. But the Irish didnt
agree and it seems that neither did our forefathers. So whiskey
with an e is the drink from Ireland or America, and
without an e is the spirit from Scotland and Canada.
has it that the oldest Scotch is known as malt whisky and written
records of production in Scotland go back to 1494 when monks were
making aqua vitae (the water of life) for mainly medicinal purposes
- but not for long! On the other hand, the Irish claim that they
are the inventors of whiskey. But who cares about the trivia as
long as it is known as aqua vitae - the water of life. One may see
a minor difference in the spelling, but the same extends to the
method of distillation, water, ingredients used and influences of
is a distilled liquor, made from the starchy materials of various
grains. The grains are first ground into a mixture somewhat like
cornmeal. This mash is then fermented, distilled, blended
and aged. Although not always necessarily in that order. That is
where differences come into play. There are different grain mixtures,
various distilling methods, diverse blending methods, with about
as many varied aging methods.
Royce of Single Malts - The Macallan
information about your whisky can be found on its label. For example,
Jack Daniels, the label states that it is a Tennessee Sour Mash
Whiskey, meaning it was made in Tennessee and the mash used in making
one batch of whiskey is added to the next. Hence, the term sour
mash. Another example is Johnny Walker Black Label. The label clearly
states that this is a blended Scotch whisky. Meaning that this whisky
is made in Scotland from a blend of several different batches of
take a look at some of the popular whiskies available in the market:
Whiskey is distilled and matured in Ireland. They are triple distilled
by the Patent Still method and have to be bottled in the country
as per the government regulations. This blended whiskey is made
from barley and grain malts. The malt is dried in coal-fired kilns
so that the aroma of the fire does not flavour the malt. Irish whiskey
is heavier, sold at 86 proof and can be produced only in Ireland.
Bushmills and Jameson are top sellers of Irish whiskey.
whisky is distilled in Scotland from malted barley in Pot
Stills and from malted and unmalted barley or other cereals
in Patent Stills
Whisky is distilled in Scotland from malted barley in Pot Stills
and from malted and unmalted barley or other cereals in Patent Stills.
The well-known brands of Scotch whisky are blends of a number of
Pot Still and Patent Still whiskies. Most Scotch whiskies are blended
whiskies made generally from malt and grain whisky. This whisky
is known for its smokey flavour that comes from drying the malted
barley over peat fires. It can only be produced in Scotland, in
order to be exported to the United States. The Scotch must be aged
at least four years and have a proof from 80 to 86. Popular Scotches
include Dewars and Johnnie Walker. Single malt Scotch is produced
at one distillery using a barley malt and must be aged for three
years. Renowned brands include Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.
Whisky is blended and distilled from rye, corn and barley. It may
only be produced in Canada under strict government control. The
Canadian Whisky sold in the United States must be aged at least
four years, and be 80 proof. It is much lighter in taste and colour
than most other whiskies. Canadian whisky and Scotch will be very
similar, since in the early days of whisky-making Scottish immigrants
came to Canada and started distilleries using their original recipes
from Scotland. Canadian Whiskies include Black Velvet, Canadian
Club and Windsor Canadian, to name a few.
Whiskey is distilled from grain mash containing 51 per cent corn
and aged more than four years in new charred oak barrels. It is
amber coloured, and a little sweeter and heavier in texture than
other whiskies. Bourbon gets its name from Bourbon County in Kentucky
where it originated. Examples include Jim Beam, Wild Turkey and
of straight whisky, neutral grain spirits and other stuff, such
as sweeteners and colour additives.
term is applied to Scotch or Irish Whiskey, typically. It means
that the malt (the barley which was malted to make it fermentable)
was entirely distilled at the same distillery.
The Taste Of Your Whisky
argument that Irish whiskey is older and better than Scotch whisky
and vice-versa will always continue as long as whiskies exist. The
only way to decide which is better, is to taste and sample them
and adhere to the ones suitable to your palette. Each brand of whisky
has its own scent, taste, look and texture. If you really want to
sample the different tastes, it is best to drink it neat (straight
up) or with a few drops of water added (while tasting, avoid ice
cubes as they numb the oils in the whisky). It is said that to judge
a whisky one must use all five senses, and to buy it - the sixth
sense. Here are some useful tips on what to look for while judging
Look at the colour, while most are amber coloured, there are different
degrees of the shade. Generally if a whisky has a light colour,
the taste will be lighter too.
Now look at the viscosity - this is the amount of whisky that clings
to the side of the glass when swirling. This will tell you a bit
about the texture of the whisky. If a lot of the whisky clings to
the sides of the glass, this means that it is a heavier whisky.
is never drunk, it is sipped. It is best to drink it neat
(straight up) or with a few drops of water added
Now smell alcohol, and keep smelling, do you smell a bit of smoke
or charcoal? What about a little sweet smell? Take a deeper sniff
and you will be able to pick up other scents besides alcohol. Some
whiskies smell of pepper, cinnamon, clove, rosewood, herbs, sherry
etc. Good whiskies even emit the smell of fruits like melon, apple,
cider and other citrus fruits.
Lastly taste, take small sips to start, there will be an alcohol
burn, but getting past that you will be able to pick up other
tastes. Peat, smoke, sweetness of the grains and the oak from the
barrels will slowly come to you. There are different after-tastes
also. As your palette becomes more experienced, you will be able
to tell the different grains that were used in making the whisky.
whisky is never drunk, it is sipped. Good whiskies can be determined
by the price you pay for the bottle. Eminent whisky tasters recommend
sipping your whisky with a little splash of water and probably with
an ice cube to release the aroma and the characteristic of the brand.
Never ever have your whisky with a cola or any carbonated drink,
you will never taste the whisky!
author is a malt consultant for
inputs from Rajesh Rodrigues