When it comes to liquor, whisky could not be closer linked to masculinity, whether refined or roughian. It is the drink of both the cowboy and the classic movie star, the most admired acquired taste. But beyond the short rock glass and infamous brands, the common man’s Jack Daniels, there may be a mysterious thing or two about whisky worthwhile to discover. After all, the man who drinks whisky is intriguing to most, but the man cleverly informed about what he’s drinking is all the more admired.
Whiskey World Traveling
The first thing you may not have known about whisky is that the aforementioned spelling is not a mistake. The Scottish and Canadian spelling, most commonly used by traditional whisky enthusiasts, refrain from utilizing the ‘e,’ unlike the Irish and American spellings to which we are most usually accustomed. ‘Whisky’ is from the traditional Gaelic, ‘uisge beatha,’ meaning ‘water of life.’ Though whisky was traditionally produced in Scotland and Ireland, it is now an extensively popular enterprise in America, Canada and Japan.
The five major categories of whiskeys available in our modern world are Bourbon, American Blended, Scotch, Irish and Canadian. While, as is with all drinks, their tastes vary, they are not technically different drinks. Bourbon is simply the American labeling, Scotch is Scotland’s, so on and so forth. The quintessential ‘smoky’ taste attributed to whiskey varies from place to place, as the Irish barely-malt whiskey and other Scottish whiskeys are much lighter than the American blends. These blends are aged in long-used barrels for a considerable amount of time, as single malt scotches generally span ten to thirty years aging.
A quick way to memorize the differences in drink tastes and styles is to briefly understand the history and ingredients included.
Bourbon Whisky: U.S. made from fermented mash of corn, aged for at least two years. I.E. Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam.
Irish Whisky: Blend of various whiskies of different ages, including malted and unmalted barley and other grains. I.E. Jameson, Bushmills.
American Blended: 20% 100-proof straight whiskey blended with other whiskies and grain spirits. I.E. Seagram’s 7, Kessler.
Canadian Whisky: Blend of several whiskies with a high percentage of rye, barley, corn and wheat. I.E. Crown Royal.
Scotch Whisky: Also known as the Single Malt Scotch, made completely by one distillery, compiled of malted barley. I.E. Jonnie Walker, Glenlivet.
Tenneessee Whisky: Jack Daniels
How And What To Taste
Arthur J. A. Bell, writer of the Whisky Connoisseur Column, advises whisky drinkers to taste the liquor both with and without a small helping of water. “The answer is to take advantage of the situation and sample both ways… Then by adding a measure of water, the full aroma of the whisky will be witnessed. A word of caution, the quality of water is of paramount importance to tasting enjoyment. Sparkling and soda waters are not compatible with whisky as they tend to react and divide the complexity of flavours, making the finest whisky taste some what coarse…” says Bell.
While even Bell denotes that it is at the disgression of the drinker to decide what is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ tasting, there exist five vocabulary ‘taste terms’ to use when discussing whiskey.
Peaty: Peat is dug from the earth and used to dry the barley corn. Peaty generally implies a smokey taste.
Estery: Suggests a fragrant, fruity or floral aroma.
Brackenish: Generally pertaining to a dry taste.
Bland: Pertaining to the lighter, mellow whiskies.
Wood Flavor: Meaning that the liquor has been many years aging in a wooden barrel and, therefore, is extremely refined in terms of spirits.
How to Pour
Whiskey is generally poured into squat stemware resembling a small wine glass, called snifters, tumblers or goblets in order to better inhale the whiskey’s aroma. Whether on the rocks or straight up, whiskey should be sipped and usually served at room temperature. Concerning the storage of whisky, The Scotch Whisky Association advises: “Unlike wine, whisky does not mature in the bottle. So even if you keep a 12-year-old bottle for 100 years, it will always remain a 12-year-old whisky. As long as the bottle is kept out of direct sunlight, the Scotch will neither improve nor deteriorate, even if it is opened. Whisky that is stored at very low temperatures can become cloudy, but the cloudiness should disappear when the whisky is returned to room temperature.”
For the best drink and food recipes to best honor your whisky, check out allrecipes.com.