There are many different types of whisky, and each one has its own unique flavour experience and distinct characteristics, determined by the ingredients used and the distilling process.
This article will highlight the key whiskies in each category and discuss their differences. We will also explore how these differences impact flavour and experience.
Scotch whisky is made in Scotland from malted barley, water, and yeast. The whisky is then aged in oak barrels for at least three years.The most common type of Scotch whisky is single malt, which is made from 100% malted barley. Single malt Scotch whiskies are typically full-bodied with a rich, complex flavour.Other types of Scotch whisky include blended malt, which is made from a blend of different single malt whiskies; blended grain, made from a blend of different grains; and blended Scotch, made from a blend of both single malt and grain whiskies.The primary taste difference between Scotch whisky and other whiskies is the smoky flavour imparted by the peat often used to smoke the malt during the drying process.
However, it should be noted that not all Scotch whisky is made with peat, and, as such, not all Scotch whisky will have a smoky flavour.
Some of the most well-known Scotch whiskies include Johnnie Walker, Macallan, and Glenfiddich.
Irish whiskey is made in Ireland from a mixture of malted barley, grains, and water. The whiskey is then aged in oak barrels for at least three years. Thewhiskey is made from a blend of malt and grain whiskies, and is typically lighter in body and flavour than its Scotch counterpart. The lightness of Irish whiskey is often attributed to the fact that it is triple distilled instead of the double distillation process used for Scotch whisky.
Whilst the absence of peat results in the lack of smokiness found in Scotch whisky, a fruitier, sweeter taste is produced.
Some of the most well-known Irish whiskies include Jameson, Bushmills, and Tullamore Dew.
European whiskies are diverse in both their production methods and flavours.
French whiskies, for example, are often made with wheat instead of barley and are double distilled in column stills rather than the pot stills typically used for Scotch whisky. This results in a lighter, less intense flavour.
Swiss whisky, on the other hand, is made using both barley and wheat and is distilled three times in pot stills before being aged in oak barrels. As a result, Swiss whisky has a richer, more full-bodied flavour.
Spain is home to some of the oldest whisky-producing regions in Europe. Spanish whiskies are typically made with barley and are distilled using pot stills. They are often aged in sherry casks, which imparts a unique sweetness to the final product.
Some of the most well-known European whiskies include Brenne (France), Mackmyra (Sweden), and Nomad Outland Whisky (Spain).
Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is made with at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels.The use of corn gives bourbon its characteristic sweetness, whilst the charring of the barrels imparts flavours of vanilla and caramel. Bourbon must also be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% ABV) and bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% ABV).
Some of the most well-known bourbons include Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and Buffalo Trace.
Tennessee Whiskey is a type of American whiskey that is made in a similar manner to bourbon, but with an additional step known as the ‘Lincoln County Process.’
The Lincoln County Process involves filtering the whiskey through sugar maple charcoal before it is aged in oak barrels. This additional step gives Tennessee whiskey its characteristic smoothness.As you might expect, Tennessee whiskey has a similar flavour profile to bourbon but is generally considered to be smoother. It must also be distilled in Tennessee, so Jack Daniel’s is technically a Tennessee whiskey and not a bourbon (even though it is made similar).
Some of the most well-known Tennessee whiskies include Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel, and Collier & McKeel.
Rye whiskey is another type of American whiskey that has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years.
Unlike bourbon, which must be made from at least 51% corn, rye whiskey must be made from at least 51% rye.This gives rye whiskey a spicier flavour than bourbon and makes it a popular choice for cocktails like the Manhattan and Old Fashioned.
Some of the most well-known rye whiskies include Bulleit Rye, Sazerac Rye, and James E. Pepper 1776 Rye.
Japanese distilleries have been making whisky for over a hundred years, but it was only in the last few decades that Japanese whisky has started to gain international recognition.
The collapse of the local saki brewing market in the 1970s led many Japanese distilleries to start producing whisky using Scottish methods.However, there are also a number of unique characteristics of Japanese whisky, such as the use of indigenous ingredients and the practice of ageing whisky in Mizunara oak casks, or Sakura (Cherry Tree) casks.
Japanese whisky is typically lighter and more delicate than Scotch whisky, with a flavour profile that often includes notes of citrus, floral, and green tea. Some of the most well-known Japanese whiskies include Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Hibiki.
Whiskies from all over the world
So there you have it! A brief overview of the different types of whisky that you might encounter on your travels (or at your local liquor store). Hopefully, this has helped to clear up some of the confusion around this complex and varied topic. Cheers!