It occurred to me that a title of my previous post, “Forget the green beer, drink some whiskey” should have said something about whiskey, but I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole last night, the rabbit hole of research, staying up way past my bedtime with a super-long blog post. Instead I wrote an unrelated second post last night that was shorter and that will be posted tomorrow. (Look at me, writing again!)
With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, here’s a whiskey FAQ. I’ve learned a little about whisk(e)y here and there but if I knew nothing, this is what I’d want to find out.
Q. Is it spelled “whiskey” or “whisky”?
A: Both. Thought not always the case, the general rule is this: Americans and Irish people spell it with an “e”. Canadians, Scots, Japanese, Englishpeople and the Welsh drop the “e”.
Q. What is Whisky/Whiskey?
Alcohol made from grain. Whisky Advocate refers to it as “nothing more than distilled beer”. (Whisky 101: Understanding Whiskey)
Q. What’s the difference between Whisk(e)y, Scotch, Rye and Bourbon? Aren’t they all the same thing?
“Whiskey” is an umbrella term for a type of spirit distilled from a mash of fermented grains. Bourbon, Scotch, Rye and others are types of whiskey. That’s why you sometimes here “Scotch” called “Scotch Whisky”. Read on…
Q. What re the types of whiskey/whisky?
Types of American Whiskey
Wikipedia lists the following types of American whiskey
- Bourbon whiskey: Made from mash that consists of at least 51% corn. It’s from the South. (See Bourbon Whiskey)
- Corn whiskey—made from mash that consists of at least 80% corn
- Malt whiskey—made from mash that consists of at least 51% malted barley
- Rye whiskey—made from mash that consists of at least 51% rye
- Rye malt whiskey—made from mash that consists of at least 51% malted rye
- Wheat whiskey—made from mash that consists of at least 51% wheat
Of Tennessee whiskey (e.g.Jack Daniel’s), Wikipedia says, ” The main difference defining a Tennessee whiskey is its use of the Lincoln County Process, which involves filtration of the whiskey through charcoal. In practice, it is essentially identical to bourbon whiskey.” Tennessee whiskey is defined as Bourbon under NAFTA and in Canada. You can read more about the American whiskey regulations here.
American Rye and Canadian Rye are not the same.
What’s the difference between Rye and Bourbon? What about Canadian Rye?
Again, our friend Wikipedia…
What’s the difference between rye and bourbon?…
Rye is known for imparting what many call a spicy or fruity flavor to the whiskey. Bourbon, distilled from at least 51% corn, is noticeably sweeter, and tends to be fuller bodied than rye. Due to its distinctive flavor, American rye whiskey is sometimes referred to as America’s equivalent of an Islay whisky. As bourbon gained popularity beyond the southern United States, bartenders increasingly substituted it for rye in cocktails like Whiskey sours, Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds, which were originally made with rye. All other things being equal, the character of the cocktail will be drier with rye.
…How about Canadian Rye/Canadian Whisky?…
Canadian whisky is often referred to as “rye whisky”, since historically much of the content was from rye. There is no requirement for rye to be used to make whiskies with the legally-identical labels “Canadian Whisky”, “Canadian Rye Whisky” or “Rye Whisky” in Canada, provided they “possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky”
(Read more about American rye, bourbon and Canadian rye here.)
Rye Story: When Jay and I were down in Memphis two summers ago we went to a Canadian-themed bar on Canada Day. We ordered “Caesars with Rye”. The waiter knew what a Caesar was but returned a few moments later and quizzically asked, “You mean, ‘Canadian Whisky’?” Try your caesar with rye. You won’t want to go back to vodka caesars.
…when the good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye in American Pie, they might have been drinking the same thing, or not.
What’s difference in flavour between American whiskey and Scotch whisky?
This information I did NOT get from Wikipedia, I got it from an interview with Johnnie Walker Master Blender, Jim Beveridge, published in Men’s Health:
Essentially the flavor is coming from the cask. With bourbon, for example, the first impression would be some fruity-type notes, which have come from the whiskey being matured. Then there’s this very distinctive sweet woodiness.
A fascinating tip from that interview: To determine the flavours present in a whiskey, you can drop a bit into your palms and rub them together until the liquid evaporates. The scents that are left behind will give you an idea of what ingredients were used in the whiskey’s creation.
If you watch the TV show Scandal you’ll know why every time I think the word “whiskey” I hear Guillermo/Huck’s awkward voice.
More whisky information/sources