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Everything You Need to Know About Whiskey

We’ll go over what whiskey is, some terminology, how its made, the different styles, and some of the Daily Drink Staffs top picks!

What is Whisky?

Whiskey is defined as a grain-distilled alcoholic beverage that is aged in barrels of wood. For a whiskey to be a whiskey, there must be no added flavour; all the flavour must come from the barrel in which the whiskey is aged. That means they are not technically whiskeys if they have cinnamon, chocolate, root beer, etc. flavoring added to them. The type of grain used in the distillation process and the type of barrel used in the aging process both determine the type of whiskey to be made. The location also plays a major role in the definition of whiskey.

The mash of a whiskey is the mixture of grains used in the process of distillation. A mash bill is a breakdown of the mash. Most whiskey have requirements on what can make up their mash bill. Bourbon’s mash bill, for instance, must be 51 percent of corn. Rye, barley corn and wheat are the most commonly used grains in whiskey mashes, although some newer distilleries extend the vocabulary by adding items like adipose, millet, and quinoa to their mash bills.

The term sour mash is used when making a new batch using a portion of a previous batch of mash. Many distilleries use this as a kind of quality control to ensure better flavouring. Despite the name, this does not add any sourness to the final whiskey’s taste profile.

whiskey being poured into a class over ice

What is Whiskeys Proof?

Proof refers to the amount of alcohol in a drink that is directly associated with ABV (volume by alcohol). The proof lets you know the strength of the drink. The majority of whiskeys are 80-100 proof. Recalling that ABV is precisely half the proof is an easy way to decipher what that means. A bottle of 80 proof is 40% alcohol, and a bottle of 100 proof is 50% alcohol.

The Daily Drinks Expert Tip: Next time you order whiskey at the bar, ask for a “Dram”. A Dram is the standard name for a single serving of whiskey.

The Different Styles of Whiskey:

Bourbon:

Although mostly made in Kentucky, it can be made anywhere in the United States, but it has to be done in the United States. What can and cannot be called bourbon whiskey is governed by our federal laws. The requirements include: being made from a mash bill that is at least 51 percent maize, distilled to no more than 160 proof, entered into the ageing barrel at no more than 125 proof, must be aged in new, charred oak barrels, and must be bottled at 80 proof or more. Bourbon is usually sweeter than other types of whiskey because of the corn mash and has a full-bodied feeling.

whisky sititng on small round glass table in a decanter

Tennessee Whiskey:

Tennessee Whiskey is Bourbon-like. In reality, many Tennessee whiskeys meet all the Bourbon requirements. The only difference between the two kinds is that Tennessee Whiskey has to be made in Tennessee, of course, and it also has to go through a process called the Lincoln County Process. The Lincoln Country Process is a filtering process in which the whiskey is filtered through a thick layer of maple charcoal before being placed for ageing in a new charred oak barrel. The distilleries using this method say that it improves the whiskey’s flavour and provides a more mellow drinking experience.

Rye Whiskey:

Rye Whiskey is a fast-growing whiskey market in America after practically disappearing during the Prohibition. Rye whiskey has to be made with at least 51% Rye mash bill. American Rye Whiskey’s remaining requirements are identical to Bourbon’s. Having at least a 51 percent mash bill, Rye creates a much spicier flavour profile and offers a distinct alternative and complement to Bourbon’s sweetness. Traditional whiskey drinks such as the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Whiskey Sour were all made with Rye Whiskey before Bourbon gained popularity with the rest of the country. The bartenders of today are starting to reintroduce Rye Whiskey into the national cocktail scene. Canadian whiskey is also called Rye whiskey, although the mash bill does not contain any Rye. This is no longer widely followed for historical reasons and traditions. Canadian Rye whiskey is, in fact, one of The Daily Drinks co-founders go too drink. Featuring well-known brands “Crown Royal” “Wisers” “Canadian Club” etc.

Irish Whiskey:

Once the world’s most popular spirit was Irish whiskey, but due to the rise in scotch and shifting trade power, the world’s whiskey capital went from 30 distilleries to just 3. Today, Irish whiskey is enjoying a revival, and Ireland is planning to build nearly 20 new distilleries. The only general rules for all forms of Irish whiskey have always been that it must be distilled and matured on the island of Ireland. It covers both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Irish whiskey can be made in a variety of styles such as single malt (although more popular with Scotch whiskeys), single pot still, and blended together. Irish whiskey is generally considered to be the smoothest and most complex of whiskey types. Irish whiskey must be aged in oak barrels for at least 3 years.

Scotch Whisky:

Scotch whisky has been the most popular whiskey style for many decades now, though other types such as Irish, Rye, and Japanese are catching up quickly. Scotch must also be aged in oak barrels for at least 3 years. Past Bourbon barrels are used by many Scottish distilleries to mature their Scottish. Scotch mash is hardly the most common grain. During the distillation process, the Scotch is normally added to peat, which gives Scotch its distinctive smokiness. Although Scotch’s style is distinctive, such as single malt and blended, Scotch also has distinct characteristics depending on the region in which it was distilled. Scotch was the only whisky form to advertise without the ‘ e.’ To differentiate themselves from Irish whiskey, they did so. While the spelling “whisky” has been used exclusively to refer to Scotch, it is now used to refer to other styles, such as Japanese whisky.

Japanese Whisky:

Japanese whisky is the world’s fastest-growing whisky industry. The boom began as Japanese distillers were actively trying to recreate Scotch whisky in Japan. In order to faithfully recreate their own whisky, the pioneering Japanese distillers extensively studied the Scotch method and imported Scottish equipment. Their whisky took on a unique flavour due to the quality of water and grains used in Japan which set it apart from scotch. It has won worldwide acclaim and awards since its initial boom, which were usually won by the finest American and scotch whiskies. Japanese whiskey is made of mixed and single malt in different styles.

Some of our staff’s top picks:

In no particular order:

Crown Royal:

Maybe the most iconic whiskey of Canada— Not many avid whiskey drinkers haven’t opened up the little purple bag at least once. It is also a definite example of Canadian whiskey, with the characteristics associated with the form, but in a very drinkable harmony. The nose is delicate (critics may say weak) in classic rye fashion, with hints of maple syrup and brown sugar to go with the rye’s unmistakable spice. It’s thin, another quality of rye, with oak tastes, maple with only a small bit of sweetness of corn. A refreshingly salty end is what follows. This can be a frequent drinker despite the name. Resist the temptation to mix or even melt, and enjoy a Canadian rye like your grandparents might have done. Crown Royal is from a small Manitoba community in Canada. In the year 2016 Crown Royals “Northern Harvest Rye” won itself, the “World Whiskey of the year” award and was labeled a masterpiece. Crown Royal is The Daily Drink Staffs’ top pick for Canadian Whiskey.

Crown royal

George T Stagg Bourbon:

George T. Stagg is one of those accessible yet bucket-list bourbons to keep at home and slowly enjoy when the time is right, if you can find it and have the funds to support the purchase then we highly recommend. In fact, if we did not categorize this fine spirit into a borderline celebratory status, we would be fooling ourselves. However, be careful, because Mr. Stagg is not messing around. Underneath the remarkable ABV (of 68%) lies the pleasant undertones of caramel, tobacco, and vanilla that make Mr. Stagg a complementary element to a fine cigar, we dare say. Best served to help bring everything together with a few drops of distilled water.

Jack Daniels 150th Anniversary Tennessee Whiskey:

Jack Daniel’s magnum opus might just be this specially crafted variety intended to mark a century-and-a-half of business success. You see, this one has the very same mash bill as the spirit which made the company popular — Old No. 7— except it was launched at a much higher proof of 100 (as compared to Standard 80), that gives it both its flavors and offers a little bit of an extra kick. Admittedly, Jack Daniel’s isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely worth more than a second glance.

Hibiki 17, Japanese Whisky:

Blending may be the most important part of the Japanese whisky process. Flavors and ratios are given great care and attention, with some distilleries making dozens of different whiskies blended into the final product. Hibiki, a Suntory blend, was launched in 1989, and the range now includes five different expressions. You’re likely to have the best chance to find the Japanese Harmony no-age-statement, but the 17-Year-Old is wonderful (and a little bit more affordable than the 21 Year or 30 Year). It’s rich, creamy, and nearly buttery, with caramel notes and a light touch of peach. Coming in at roughly $170 a bottle, it is relatively pricey. This is The Daily Drinks Staff’s top pick for Japanese whisky.

Glenlivet 15-Year-Old Scotch Whisky:

When the British government started to tax Scottish distilleries, many of them started to produce underground whisky. Glenlivet was one of the leading illicit distilleries, so much so that when King George IV visited Scotland on a state visit, he called for an illegitimate Scotch dram to be tested. The legendary brand has never ceased to produce top-quality single malt, and the 15-Year-Old bottle, with its lingering sweet almond finish, is such a prime example. And that is what makes it The Daily Drink Staff’s top pick for scotch whisky.

Jameson Irish Whiskey:

Jameson is one of the top names in Irish whiskey, for shots and cocktails, it’s a smooth, reliable whiskey. John Jameson began to break into the booming whiskey industry in the 1770s with a vision. Dublin was renowned at that time for some of Ireland’s finest whiskey, and Jameson built on that belief by refusing to cut corners on quality products. Jameson has a sweet, malted barley aroma with tones of butter and delicate oak. The palate is characterized by the same, with the grain being lighter and more noticeable and spicy nut notes blending in and out. It finishes with sparkling and sweet, smoky barley snaps that work through the long fade.

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