Whiskey is a very sentimental drink, especially among the Scots, where the history of whiskey is an important part of their culture. Even the name whiskey comes from the Scottish Galic term, “uisce beatha,” meaning “water of life.” It was eventually shortened to “uisce”, which is pronounced Ooo-SKI.
Although you may have heard of whiskey, most people don’t know much about it. Whiskey is a grain-based alcohol. The difference between different types of whiskey is made by four things:
- Type of grain used in production
- The region in which it is produced in
- Type of fermentation it goes through
- It is aged in
Let’s start by looking at these four parts in more detail. Then we’ll look at the various whiskeys.
Whiskey is primarily made from grain. There are many types of whiskeys, so it is up to you to choose the best one. The most common are four grains:
We’ll be reading more about Bourbons, which use corn as their primary crop. Whiskeys made from corn have a stronger “smoky” taste than other whiskeys. Whiskeys made with corn, when aged over time, have subtle caramel and vanilla flavors.
Another common grain is barley. All malted whiskeys are made from barley. Barley whiskeys are similar to corn-based whiskeys in that they have a distinctive “bite” aftertaste at the back of your throat. These whiskeys can have a slight honeyed taste if they are aged in certain ways.
Rye has a distinctive taste that is more spicy than other grains. The spicier rye is, the better. Rye is therefore one of the most controversial grains in whiskey production.
Wheat whiskey has a sweeter flavor than other grains. Whiskeys made with mostly wheat grains may have a more subtle taste than other whiskeys, but they can still give off some “bread” flavors.
The flavor of whiskey depends on the region where it is made. The unique tastes of whiskey vary depending on the region’s natural grain and soil.
Scotland, the birthplace of whisky, is divided into four traditional regions: The Highlands (the Lowlands), The Isle of Islay, Campbeltown, and The Isle of Islay. Different soil types result in different whiskey flavours. Scots debate the best-tasting whiskey lands.
Irish people love whiskey. They also have their own tastes and may flavor their whiskeys with herbs from their region, such as mint or Thyme.
According to rumours, Bourbon was first made in America by Scottish settlers. Bourbon County, Kentucky’s grain production is what gave rise to great-tasting whiskey. Kentucky is today the largest Bourbon producer, producing 95% of the world’s production.
Fermenting & Distilling
Whiskey fermentation can be complex.
First, the grain must be collected and then it must be broken down. These grains will partially sprout or “germinate” when they are moistened. This is how these grains germinate. The starches in the grains can be made into sugar by dampening them. The grains then get dried and heated. The next step is mashing, which extracts the newly formed sugars from the grain. The extracted sugar is called “mash”.