Beginner’s Guide To Whiskey

Want to know the difference between Scotch and bourbon? Wonder what a single malt or blended whiskey means? Here are the answers to these and other questions asked about whiskey.

What is whiskey?

Whiskey is alcohol distilled from various grains such as barley, rye, corn or wheat. It’s typically matured in wooden casks and the different grains. The time it matures as well as the type of casks used are some of the factors which give each whiskey its character and taste.

Where does whiskey originate?

Both Scotland and Ireland claim to be the original home of whiskey. The first written record of whiskey comes from Ireland in 1405 where a clan chief is recorded dying from drinking an excessive amount. By the end of the 15th century whiskey was recorded as being widely distilled in Scotland. The word whiskey derives from the Gaelic Uisge beatha or usquebaugh which, in turn, comes from the Latin aqua vitae meaning water of life.

What’s the difference between Scotch, whiskey, and bourbon?

Whiskey, or whisky, is an umbrella term that covers all types of whiskey from Scotch to bourbon. Scotch is whiskey that comes from Scotland, and any whiskey that doesn’t come from Scotland cannot be called Scotch. Bourbon is whiskey that is from the USA, usually the South and specifically Kentucky. Whereas Scotch is distilled from barley, bourbon is made from maize and rye.

Is there any difference between whisky or whiskey?

If the alcohol is made in Scotland, it’s spelled whisky. However, if it comes from Ireland or the United States, it’s spelled whiskey. Ireland simply put an e in their spelling to differentiate it from Scotch whisky. The United States went with the Irish rather than Scottish spelling which is why it’s also spelled whiskey in the US. Outside of the US and Ireland, in countries such as Canada, India and Japan it’s spelled whisky.

“One of the best ways to learn about whiskey is simply to drink, in moderation, different brands, and blends and see which one you like best.”

What does a single malt mean?

Single malt whiskey means the malt whiskey is from a single distillery. Under the whiskey regulations in Scotland, to qualify as a single malt Scotch, the alcohol must be made exclusively from malted barley and be distilled for at least three years using pot stills, which is a type of distillation process. In the past, single malts have predominantly come from Scotland, but single malt distilleries can now be found across the world.

What is a blended whiskey?

Blended whiskey is not just a combination of whiskeys from different distilleries but also involves different colorings, grainings, and neutral grain spirits. A lot of the well-known whiskey brands are blended whiskeys. Many whiskey experts will tell you that a blended whiskey can be just as good as a single malt whiskey.

How many countries produce whiskey?

There are at least twenty countries that are whiskey producers. Scotland remains the traditional home of whiskey with over eighty distilleries. The second most productive country is America, then Japan and Ireland.

Whiskey is there to be enjoyed.

Regardless of what you know or don’t know about whiskey, it’s there to be enjoyed, and that comes down to your personal taste. One of the best ways to learn about whiskey is simply to drink, in moderation, different brands, and blends and see which one you like best. In time, your knowledge will grow as you enjoy a wee dram of one of the world’s great alcoholic drinks.

About the Author:

David James

David James

Andrew authors original Travel, Culture, Entertainment & Social articles and compiles information from various resources to create features for VIGOROUS Magazine.

Share this post:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin