Different Types of Whiskey

Whether you are interested in producing whiskey or a fan of the spirit, there is a lot to be said about the distillation process that makes each beverage unique. It's hard to find a spirit with more history and distinction that whiskey. Production takes place across the globe, but each country and region contributes a unique recipe, blend, or name. We take a closer look at the backstory and the different types.

Quick Back Story on Whiskey

Whiskey's origins are rooted in Scotland. Historians can date it back to the Mesopotamia era, but it was in the 11th and 13th century where it started to take shape. The landscape of Scotland and Ireland didn't produce much regarding grapes. So, the locals got creative. They did have a lot of grain and decided to use that instead which resulted in whiskey. Once folks started heading towards the Americas, the Irish, Scottish, and English decided to bring the distillation process with them.

Whiskey Composition

Single-Malt - Made with malt barley, water, and yeast.

Grain - Ingredients include corn, wheat, or both.

Blended - When whiskey is made from both a single-malt and grain whiskey.

Creating a product that you want to label as a Scotch, whiskey, or bourbon requires the recipe to follow a few guidelines. Bourbon needs to contain more than 51% corn. To be considered a rye whiskey, the mash needs at least 51% rye. Scotch is 100% malt barley. Appropriate labeling demands you to meet these requirements for development. Once you do so you can get creative with the recipe.

Different Types of Whiskey

Scotch

For the beverage to be called Scotch, it needs to be produced in Scotland. As we mentioned, it's made from malted barley. The whiskey is distilled at least twice in pot stills then matured in an oak cask for at least three years. Scotch is meant to be savored. Drinkers sip the beverage enjoying it's flavor profile and tradition.

Irish Whiskey

Compared to a Scotch, Irish Whiskey is a little smoother. Again, to achieve the namesake, it must be distilled in Ireland. The foundation requires yeast-fermented grain or malted-cereal mash. Following the traditional distillation method requires triple distillation in a copper pot. Irish whiskey is often grouped in different categories:

  • Single-malt

  • Grain

  • Single-Grain

  • Blended

  • Single Pot Still

Rye

Rye whiskey must contain at least 51% rye in the mash. It's distilled mostly in American where the grain is available in abundance. Rye is a type of grass, and after distillation, the product has a spicy, fruity flavor. Achieving this profile requires maturing for two years in charred barrels.

Bourbon

Drinkers of bourbon appreciate the sweetness which it gets from corn. The mash must contain more than half of the grain to win the bourbon name. It should be noted that it's an American product produced without additives and matured in charred oak casks. The coloring is an identifier as well. It's a little smoky with reddish tones.

Tennessee Whiskey

Tennessee law requires any whiskey product labeled "Tennessee Whiskey" must be produced in the state. It's made from the same 51% ratio to classify as a whiskey but requires some additional steps. The aging process must take place in new charred barrels, and it must be filtered through sugar maple charcoal before it enters the barrels.

Kentucky Bourbon

Let's go ahead and confirm that bourbon falls under the whiskey umbrella. Bourbon is "whiskey" produced in America. Kentucky whiskey is almost always referred to as "bourbon." The product of Kentucky bourbon is similar to Tennessee whiskey but does not require the sugar maple charcoal. It shares the same 80 proof alcohol content when bottled as Tennessee whiskey.

Japanese

Out of all the whiskeys listed this is the most unique. While reminiscent of Scotland's style, the end product has a delicate, smooth body. Japanese whiskeys use double malted or z barley. They are aged in wooden casks and often perfumed with honey for sweetness.

Whiskey Terms You Should Know

  • Cask Strength - Information to let you know the proof of the whiskey. It's a concentrated version that would require you to water it down.

  • Cooperage - The barrels used to age whiskey. Distillers would say about 70-80% of the taste is a reflection of barrel choice.

  • Dram - One shot of whiskey that you aren't supposed to shoot.

  • Ethanol - Beverage alcohol.

  • Extractions - Whiskey absorbs flavor compounds from the barrels during maturation. This process is known as extraction.

  • Made By - Sometimes listed as "bottled by," "made by" is not the same as "distilled by."

  • Mash Bill - The different ratio of grains used to produce whiskey.

  • Oxidation - The wood constructing the barrels is porous. As the whiskey matures, the air intermingles with the liquid slowly burning off some of the alcohol. Before whiskey goes into a barrel, it's around 125 proof. After it's completed, it's 80 proof.

  • Whiskey/Whisky - The spelling depends on the location of production. America and Ireland spell it with an "E." All others like Scotland and Japan spell it whisky. It's the same concept regardless of spelling.

Bourbon Sourcing and Whiskey Production

Knowing how to find the right barrels to blend for a perfect product is challenging in today's climate. Whiskey's popularity is so high that it requires industry experts like Brindiamo Group to source product. Contact us to learn more.

Horton Admin