A glass of whisky
is a type of
fermented grain mash
. Different grains
are used for different varieties, including barley
, malted barley
, malted rye, wheat
. Most whiskies are aged in wooden
, made generally of oak
), the exception being some corn liquors
Whisky is a strictly regulated spirit worldwide with many competing
denominations of origin and many classes and types. The unifying
characteristics of the different classes and types are the
fermentation of grains, and the practice of distilling the spirit
down to a maximum of 80% alcohol for corn and 90% alcohol for other
grains, prior to adding water, so as to retain some of the flavor
of the grain used to make the spirit and prevent it from being
classified as grain neutral
. Whisky gains as much as
60% of its flavor from the type of cask used in its aging process.
Therefore further classification takes place based upon the type of
wood used and the amount of charring or toasting done to the wood.
for example is
legally required to be aged in charred new oak barrels, whereas
quality Scotch whiskies often used the partially spent barrels from
Bourbon production to induce a slower maturation time, adding
additional subtle nuance.
With few exceptions, the spelling is Scottish, Canadian, and
), but Irish and American
Whisky is a shortened form of usquebaugh
, which English
borrowed from Irish Gaelic uisce beatha
Gaelic uisge beatha
. This compound descends from Old Irish
uisce, "water", and bethad, "of life" and meaning literally "water
of life". It meant the same thing as the Latin aqua vītae
which had been applied to distilled drinks since early 14th
century. Other early spellings include usquebea
(1583). In the Irish Annals of Clonmacnoise
in 1405, the
first written record of whisky appears describing the death of a
chieftain at Christmas from "taking a surfeit of aqua
". In Scotland, the first evidence of whisky production
comes from an entry in the Exchequer Rolls for 1494 where malt is
sent "To Friar John Cor, by order of the king, to make
The art of distillation originated in the East, being brought into
Europe by the Moors
in Spain, with perfumes
and aromatics being distilled long before potable spirits.
believed that the art of distillation
was brought from the Mediterranean regions to Ireland by Irish
missionaries between the 6th century and 7th century, and that the
necessary skills were brought to Scotland by
missionary monks who settled in the west of Scotland.
Whisky or whisky-like products are produced in most grain-growing
areas. They differ in base product, alcoholic content, and
Malted barley is an ingredient of some
- Malt is whisky made entirely from
malted barley and distilled in an onion-shaped
- Grain is made from malted and
unmalted barley along with other grains, usually in a continuous
"patent" or "Coffey" still. Until
recently it was only used in blends, but there are now some single
grain scotches being marketed.
Malts and grains are combined in various ways
- Vatted malt is blended from malt
whiskies from different distilleries. If a whisky is labelled "pure
malt" or just "malt" it is almost certain to be a vatted whisky.
This is also sometimes labelled as "blended malt" whisky.
- Single malt whisky is malt
whisky from a single distillery. However, unless the whisky is
described as "single-cask" it will contain whisky from many casks,
and different years, so the blender can achieve a taste
recognisable as typical of the distillery. In most cases, the
name of a single malt will be that of the distillery (The Glenlivet, Bushmills, Yoichi), with an
age statement and perhaps some indication of some special
treatments such as maturation in a port
- Pure pot still whiskey
refers to a whiskey distilled in a pot-still (like single malt)
from a mash of mixed malted and unmalted barley. It is exclusive to
- Blended whiskies are made from a
mixture of malt and grain whiskies. A whisky simply described as
Scotch Whisky or Irish Whiskey is most likely to be a blend in this
sense. A blend is usually from many distilleries so that the
blender can produce a flavour consistent
with the brand, and the brand name (e.g., Chivas Regal, Canadian
Club) will usually not therefore contain the name of a
distillery. Jameson Irish Whiskey is an exception and comes from only one
distillery. However, "blend" can (less frequently) have
other meanings. A mixture of malts (with no grain) from different
distilleries (more usually called a vatted malt) may sometimes be
referred to as a "blended malt", and a mixture of grain whiskies
with no malts will sometimes carry the designation "blended
- Cask strength whiskies are rare
and usually only the very best whiskies are bottled in this way.
They are usually bottled from the cask undiluted. Rather than
diluting, the distiller is inviting the drinker to dilute to the
level of potency most palatable (often no dilution is necessary,
such is the quality of single cask whiskies). Single cask whiskies
are usually bottled by specialist independent bottlers, such as
Duncan Taylor, Master of Malt, Gordon
& MacPhail and Cadenhead amongst others.
Whiskies do not mature in the bottle, only in the cask
, so the "age" of a whisky is the time between
distillation and bottling. This reflects how much the cask has
interacted with the whisky, changing its chemical makeup and taste.
Whiskies which have been in bottle for many years may have a rarity
value, but are not "older" and will not necessarily be "better"
than a more recently made whisky matured in wood for a similar
time. Most whiskies are sold at or near an alcoholic strength of
American whiskey is distilled from a fermented mash of cereal grain
. It must have the taste, aroma,
and other characteristics commonly attributed to whiskey.
The most common types listed in the federal regulations are:
- Bourbon whiskey, which is made
from mash that consists of at least 51% corn
- Rye whiskey, which is made from
mash that consists of at least 51% rye.
- Corn whiskey, which is made from
mash that consists of at least 80% corn
- Straight whiskey, (without
naming a grain) is a whiskey which has been aged in charred new oak
containers for 2 years or more and distilled at not more than 80
percent alcohol by volume but is derived
from less than 51% of any one grain.
The "named types" of American whiskey must be distilled to not more
than 80 percent alcohol
by volume. "Named
types" must then be aged in charred new oak containers, excepting
corn whiskey. Corn whiskey does not have to be aged but, if it is
aged, it must be in new un-charred oak barrels or used barrels. The
aging for corn whiskey usually is brief, e.g., six months.
If the aging for a "named type" reaches 2 years or beyond, the
whiskey is then additionally designated "straight" e.g., "straight
rye whiskey". "Straight whiskey" (without naming a grain) is a
whiskey which has been aged in charred new oak containers for 2
years or more and distilled at not more than 80 percent alcohol
by volume but is derived from less than 51%
of any one grain.
American blended whiskeys combine straight whiskey with un-aged
whiskey, grain neutral spirits, flavorings and colorings.
in the marketplace is Tennessee
whiskey, of which Jack Daniel's is the leading example.
it is identical to bourbon whiskey
in almost every important respect including the sour mash
process, which is generally unique to
North America, but Tennessee whiskey is charcoal filtered prior to
barrel aging. The most recognizable differences are that
Tennessee whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal,
giving it a unique flavor and aroma.
The other major
difference is the reuse of barrels which is not allowed in bourbon whiskey
production. Though not defined by
regulations, the Government of the United States of America officially recognized Tennessee whiskey as a separate style in
Canadian whiskies are usually lighter and smoother than
other whisky styles.
Various Canadian whiskies
Another common characteristic of many
Canadian whiskies is their use of rye that has been malted, which
provides a fuller flavour and smoothness. By Canadian law, Canadian
whiskies must be produced in Canada, be distilled from a fermented
mash of cereal grain, "be aged in small wood for not less than 3
years", and "possess the aroma, taste and character generally
attributed to Canadian whisky". The terms "Canadian Whisky",
"Canadian Rye Whisky" and "Rye Whisky" are legally
indistinguishable in Canada and do not denote any particular
proportion of rye or other grain used in production.
last few years Finnish whisky
culture has developed strongly and it is still in progress of
Finnish whisky culture now lives a very strong
growth through the rising standard of living and general culinary
trend. The sales figures and the quantity of devotees of whisky
have risen very powerfully. Currently, there are two working
distilleries in Finland and a third one is under construction.
Whisky retail sales in Finland are controlled solely by the state
alcohol monopoly Alko
and advertisement of
strong alcoholic beverages is banned. However, the monopoly status
of Alko and the advertising prohibition do not stop people from
taking interest in whiskies, even though they can make it more
German whisky is made from grains traditionally associated with the
production of whisky. The distillation of German-made whisky is a
relatively recent phenomenon having only started in the last 30
years. The styles produced resemble those made in Ireland, Scotland
and the United States: single malts, blends, and bourbon styles.
There is no standard spelling of German whiskies with distilleries
using both "whisky" and "whiskey" and one even using "whessky", a
play on the word whisky and Hessen, the state in which it is
produced. There are currently ten distilleries in Germany producing
whisky is an alcoholic beverage that is labelled as "whisky" in
Much Indian whisky is distilled from
, and as such would be
considered a sort of rum
outside of the Indian
. 90% of the "whisky"
consumed in India is molasses based, although India has begun to
distill whisky from malt and other grains.
Kasauli Distillery is set in the Himalaya mountains and opened in
the late 1820s. The main whisky brand is a single malt named "Solan
No. 1". This was named after the town nearby called Solan. It was
the best selling Indian whisky till recently, but has declined
since the early 1980s' because of the stiff competition from the
larger distilleries. Other whiskies this distillery produces are
Diplomat Deluxe, Colonel's Special, Black Knight and Summer
Most Irish whiskeys are distilled three times, although there are
exceptions. Though traditionally distilled using the pot still
method, in modern times a column still
is used to produce the grain whiskey used in blends. By law, Irish whiskey
must be produced in Ireland and aged in
wooden casks for a period of no less than three years, although in
practice it is usually three or four times that period.
malt is almost always used, the main
exception being Connemara Peated Malt whiskey.
There are several types of whiskey common to Ireland: single malt
, single grain, blended whiskey
and uniquely to Ireland,
pure pot still whiskey
designation "pure pot still" as used in Ireland generally refers to
whiskey made of 100% barley, mixed malted and unmalted, and
distilled in a pot still made of copper. The "green" unmalted
barley gives the traditional pure pot still whiskey a spicy,
uniquely Irish quality. Like single malt, pure pot still is sold as
such or blended with grain whiskey. Usually no real distinction is
made between whether a blended whiskey was made from single malt or
pure pot still.
The model for Japanese whiskies is the single malt Scotch, although
there are also examples of Japanese blended whiskies. The base is a
mash of malted barley, dried in kilns fired with a little peat
(although considerably less than is the case in Scotland), and
distilled using the pot still method. For some time Japanese whisky
suffered from the commonly held belief that whisky made in the
Scotch style, but not produced in Scotland, was inferior, and until
fairly recently, the market for Japanese whiskies was almost
entirely domestic. In recent years, Japanese whiskies have won
prestigious international awards and now enjoys a deserved
reputation for a quality product.
Scotch whiskies are generally distilled twice, though some are
distilled a third time. International laws require anything bearing
the label "Scotch" to be distilled in Scotland and matured for a minimum of three years and one
day in oak casks, among other, more specific criteria.
Scotch whisky is from more than one cask, and if it includes an age
statement on the bottle, it must reflect the age of the youngest
whisky in the blend. Many cask-strength single malts omit the age
as they use younger elements in minute amounts for flavouring and
mellowing. The basic types of Scotch are malt and grain, which are
combined to create blends. Many, though not all, Scotch whiskies
use peat smoke to treat their malt, giving Scotch its distinctive
smoky flavour. While the market is dominated by blends, the most
highly prized of Scotch whiskies are the single malts. Scotch
whiskies are divided into five main regions: Highland
In 2000, Penderyn Distillery
started production of the Penderyn
single malt Welsh whisky
in Wales, the
first Welsh whisky since all production ended in 1894. The first
bottles went on sale on 1 March 2004, Saint David's Day
and is now sold
throughout the world. Penderyn Distillery is situated in Brecon
Beacons National Park and is considered the smallest distillery in
In Britanny, France, five distilleries (Distillerie des Menhirs,
Guillon, Glann ar Mor, Kaerilis and Warenghem) produce whisky using
techniques similar to those in Scotland.
whiskies are produced on the French island of Corsica: Altore and P&M.
Altore is distilled in
Scotland, but blended and matured on Corsica in muscat casks.
P&M (Pietra & Mavella) is a coproduction of the brewery
Pietra and the distillery Mavella. The mash is enriched with
chestnut flour. P&M is also matured in muscat casks.
from the Isle of Man is, like some Virginia
whiskeys in the USA, actually distilled elsewhere and re-distilled
in the country of its nominal "origin".
In Sweden a new distillery (Mackmyra), started selling its products
Recently at least two distilleries in the traditionally brandy
region announced their plans to enter the Russian domestic market
with whiskies. The Stavropol-based Praskoveysky distillery bases its product on
Irish technology, while in Kizlyar, Dagestan's "Russian Whisky" announced a Scotch-inspired
drink in single malt, blended and wheat varieties.
In Taiwan, the King Car company built a whisky distillery in the
city of Yilan, and has recently begun marketing Kavalan Single Malt
Whisky. King Car Whisky Distillery
Production of whiskey started in Norfolk
England in late 2006 with the effect that the first whiskey (as
opposed to malt spirit) will be available in later 2009. This will
be the first English single malt in over 100 years. Previously
Bristol and Liverpool were centres of English whiskey production.
East Anglia is a source of much of the grain used in Scottish
Names and spellings
The word "whiskey" is believed to have been coined by soldiers of
King Henry II who invaded Ireland in the 12th century as they
struggled to pronounce the native Irish
, meaning "water of life". Over time, the pronunciation
changed from "Whishkeyba" (an approximation of how the Irish term
sounds) to "Whisky". The name itself is a Gaelic calque
of the Latin
, meaning "Water of
At one time, all whisky was spelled without the "e", as "whisky".
In around 1870, the reputation of Scottish whisky was very poor as
Scottish distilleries flooded the market with cheaper spirits
produced using the Coffey still
Irish and American distilleries adopted the spelling "whiskey",
with the extra "e", to distinguish their higher quality product.
the spelling whisky (plural whiskies) is
generally used for whiskies distilled in Scotland, Wales, Canada, and
Japan, while whiskey is used for the spirits
distilled in Ireland and America.
Even though a 1968
directive of the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
specifies "whisky" as the
official U.S. spelling, it allows labeling as "whiskey" in
deference to tradition and most U.S. producers still use the
historical spelling. Exceptions such as Early Times, Maker's Mark, and George Dickel are
usually indicative of a Scottish heritage.
In the late Victorian era
whiskey was the world's most popular whisk(e)y. Of the Irish
whiskeys, Dublin whiskeys
were regarded as the grands crus
In order to differentiate Dublin whiskey from
other whiskies, the Dublin distilleries adopted the spelling
"whiskey". The other Irish distilleries eventually followed suit.
The last Irish "whisky" was Paddy
which adopted the "e" in 1966.
"Scotch" is the internationally recognized term for "Scotch whisky
" however it is rarely used in
Scotland, where grain whisky is generally referred to as "whisky"
and single malt whisky as "malt".
In many Latin-American
) is used as a photographer's cue
to smile, supplanting English "cheese". The Uruguayan film
got its name because
Whiskies and other distilled
such as cognac
are complex beverages containing a vast
range of flavouring compounds, of which some 200 to 300 can be
easily detected by chemical analysis. The flavouring chemicals
and their esters
, nitrogen- and sulphur-containing compounds,
and other polyphenolic
, and oxygen-containing heterocyclic compounds
" and esters of
. The nitrogen compounds
Flavours from distillation
The flavouring of whisky is partially determined by the presence of
. Fusel oils are higher alcohols than ethanol
, are mildly toxic
have a strong, disagreeable smell and taste. An excess of fusel
oils in whisky is considered a defect. A variety of methods are
employed in the distillation process to remove unwanted fusel oils.
Traditionally, American distillers focused on secondary filtration
, or linen
to subtract undesired distillates. Canadian
distillers have traditionally employed column stills
which can be controlled to
produce an almost pure (and less flavourful) ethanol known as
neutral grain spirit
neutral spirit (GNS). Flavour is restored by blending the neutral
grain spirits with flavouring whiskies.
are rapidly formed in distillates and
a great many are found in distilled beverages, the most prominent
being acetaldehyde diethyl acetal (1,1-diethoxyethane). Among
whiskies the highest levels are associated with malt whisky. This
acetal is a principal flavour compound in sherry
, and contributes fruitiness to the
The diketone diacetyl
a buttery aroma and is present in almost all distilled beverages.
Whiskies and cognacs typically contain more than vodkas
, but significantly less than rums or brandies
Flavours from oak
found in all types of oak. This lactone has a strong coconut
aroma. Whisky lactone is also known as
Commercially charred oaks are rich in phenolic compounds. One study
discriminated 40 different phenolic compounds. The coumarin scopoletin
present in whisky, with the highest level reported in Bourbon whiskey
- http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-12549581.html Differences
between Scotch and Irish whiskey
- Nikka Yoichi 10 Single Cask scores highest
- 2008 World Whisky Awards
- Distillerie des Menhirs
- Glann ar
- St Geroge's distillery
- Lloyd, J & Mitchinson, J:
"The Book of General
Ignorance". Faber & Faber, 2006.