There are many ideas around
Question number 1: What is
whisky made from?
Whisky is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Various grains (which may be malted) are used for different varieties, including barley, corn, rye, and wheat. Scotch is made mostly from malted barley.
Malt is a germinated cereal grain that has been dried in a process known as “malting”. The grain is made to germinate by soaking in water and is then halted from germinating further by drying with hot air. Various grains are used for malting. There are a number of different types of equipment that can be used to produce malt. A traditional floor malting germinates the grains in a thin layer on a solid floor, and the grain is manually raked and turned to keep the grains loose and aerated.
Question number 2: How do we obtain
whisky? What is the distillation process?
The principals for the distillation of
Step one: The Malting
Everything starts with the raw material, malted barley. The malting is a crucial step as the grains need to be perfectly malted with no humidity and rottenness. Each distiller has its own secret formula, but they all need a type of barley that produces high yields of soluble sugar. The grains are soaked in warm water for 2 or 3 days and then dried on the floor maintained at a constant temperature.
Step two: The Mashing
Once the grains went through the malting, they start a new process, called the Mashing. The grains are added to warm water to begin the extraction of the soluble sugars. Water needs to be as pure as possible, generally from a natural source. The liquid combination of malt and water is called the ‘mash’. It is put into a large vessel called a mash tun and stirred for several hours.
Step three: The fermentation!
Here the yeast is added and the fermentation begins. The addition of the yeast will initiate the process to transform sugar into alcohol. This process takes normally 48 hours but some distillers are happy to let the fermentation longer in order to create a chosen effect. The liquid at this stage is called ‘wash’ and is low in alcohol strength (between 5-10% ABV), like beer or ale. You could make beer from the liquid at this point, but the difference with
Step four: The distillation
Different countries can have different distillation methods. For example, Scotland would distill the wash twice whereas Ireland will distill the wash three times. The stills utilized for the distillation are made in copper and generally, they work in pairs and are heated traditionally with coal but modern distilleries might use gas or steam. For
Step five: The maturation
When the alcohol is collected, they are put into oak casks and stored at least for a minimum of 3 years. During maturation, the flavors of the spirit combine with natural compounds in the wood cask and this gives the
Question number 3: What is the difference between
whisky, whiskey, and bourbon?
This is a good question as many people and even media do not always make the difference. First things first. From a product point of view, there are no differences between WHISKY and WHISKEY. It is a language difference.
Bourbon is a different game. Here you should never confuse Bourbon and Whisky. Bourbon is a very regulated business since the 19th century. Too many distillers tried to change its nature and propose several alternatives, which came to an and thanks to strict regulation. This regulation is collected within what we call the “
- It needs to be produced in the United States
- The beverage needs to contain at least 51% of Corn
- Must be aged in new oak-charred barrels
- Must be distilled to no more than 160 proof and entered into the barrel at 125 proof.
- Must be bottled at no less than 80 proof.
- Must not contain any added flavoring, coloring or other additives.
So when you used to watch a good Hollywood Western, cowboys (and cowgirls) drank bourbon and not
There is another designation which is Tennessee Whiskey. This reflects a corn based distillation made in Tennessee USA which is slightly different from Kentucky Bourbon.
Question number 4: Is Scotland the only country producing
Scotland and Ireland are the most well-known countries producing
Question number 5: I heard there is a Swiss Whisky. Is that true?
This is also
Appenzeller Säntis Malt
Holle Single Malt
This is Switzerland’s first
Rugenbräu Swiss Highland Single Malt
This is one of the newcomers in the
Question number 6: Should we drink
whisky in a large short glass like in Mad Men?
We all have these images of Don Draper drinking whisky in large short glasses. The famous whisky on the rocks. The question is: Are these glasses the best glasses for whisky tasting? Probably the answer is it depends. Generally the “madmen whisky glass” also known as “old fashioned whisky glass” is the perfect glass to create whisky cocktails. You can easily mix your preferred whisky with other ingredients in order to create amazing aperitif cocktails.
Nevertheless, if you are a true
Question number 7: What is the difference between Blended, Single Malt and Single Cask?
The art of whisky distillation is complex, refined and requires a true passion for the product. Multiple labels have developed across the years but the main five are:
- Pure Malt
- Single Malt
- Single Grain
- Single Cask
Pure Malt is a
Single cask represents one of the most exclusive designations of
Question number 8: What is the best way to do a
Probably the best way to taste a good whisky is to do it in good company. But if you are lucky enough to have an exceptional whisky within your hands, you might want to proceed with a serious whisky tasting. Once you have found the right glass (read above), you start by pouring 2 ounces in your glass. You turn in circles your glass in order to liberate all the flavors of the whisky. Then you take a long and slow breath so that you can experience all facets from the scent.
We advice to taste the whisky in ambient temperature, no ice cubes. Ice is water and water will dilute the whisky taste. Some experts would advice to poor just a few drops of pure water. This will help liberating the heart of olfactory and gustative notes of the whisky. Please make sure you drink your whisky with great responsibility for a pleasant moment rather than a rush. Take your time as whisky can be very complex, especially if you are just starting your passion.
Question number 9: Why certain
whiskies have a smoked taste and smell?
Some brands will be renowned for the smoky whisky they will produced. The strong smoked facet tends to be a spectacular signature for Scotch whiskies. Where this scent & flavor comes from? It comes from the whisky manufacturing process. In order to make whisky properly you need to heat the barley in order to stop the germination process (that would convert starches into sugars which later becomes alcohol thanks to the yeast fermentation). The most abundant fuel source for starting a fire to complete that task was peat, and as it burned, its signature smoky embrace washed over the barley, imparting those flavors straight into the grains.
Another brand renowned for the smokiness of their
Question number 10: Three whiskies that deserve to be tasted?
The best way to finish this educational article is to go from theory to reality. Please find here three whiskies we would advice you to discover and taste. Get the right glass, the right friends and the perfect moment. Whisky is a generous moment of sharing that you spend with friends and family. Take your time and do not forget to always be responsible with your drinking. It is about discovery and pleasure rather than rush and stress.
Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky 15 Year
People who know Bowmore
Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1990 Single Malt Whisky
This distillery has been capitalizing on its unique recipe for the past two hundred years and nothing can really go wrong with a bottle of Glenmorangie. It was back in 2016 that Glenmorangie released the Vintage 1990. It is by far one of the most prestigious aged
Ardbeg Ten Years Old Islay Single Malt
After this worldwide horizon about whisky, I do hope you have a different opinion about this prestigious spirit. We are far away from the high-school’s Cuba libre with J&B. Whisky has gained a more connoisseur, expert audience in the past 5 years. With more than 500 whisky brands in the world, there is maybe an untapped territory for you inside each bottle of the finest whiskies.
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