Your comprehensive guide to their origins, how they’re made and much more.
1. Malt whisky
One of the most popular whiskies, malt whisky is predominantly produced in Scotland. It is mainly made from fermented malted grain, specifically barley. The barley is distilled twice in pot sills, to around 70 per cent alcohol. The whisky is then matured for three years in oak cases. Malt whiskies have a rich, creamy texture and have tasting notes of honey and apricot or smoke and dark chocolate. Those that have been matured for at least 10 to 20 years are considered prime drinks. If all the whisky in a bottle is from the same distillery, then the drink is called a single malt.
2. Grain whisky
Originated in Scotland, grain whisky is distilled from raw grains other than malted barley. The other grains include corn, wheat or rye, either used in isolation or blended together. Though most grain whiskies today are made from wheat. Grain whisky is usually made by distilling it in continuous columns that lead to higher alcohol volume. Most grain whiskies are used as fillers in blended whiskies. Though they are quieter and less flavourful than malt whiskies, grain whiskies are also bottled on their own and have a smooth, slightly spicy taste. Those that have been aged four to ten years are considered best.
3. Blended whisky
As the name itself suggests, blended whiskies are made by blending or mixing different types of whiskies together. Usually made in Scotland, they are made by mixing fine quality of single malts in large amounts with grain whiskies, less costly spirits and other ingredients. The higher the ratio of malt, the better the blend will be. The whiskies don’t just differ in types but also from the distillery they come from. The nature of the blended whisky is based on the ratio of whiskies from different distilleries, since each of them has different flavours. Most common blends contain more grain whisky, than malt whisky. The more the malt whisky used, the better the blend. Therefore the blends that have more malt whisky ratio tend to be more expensive and smoother in taste. Try blended whiskies that have been aged for six to eighteen years.
Bourbon is mostly manufactured in the US. For a whisky to be called bourbon, it is should have 51 per cent corn, along with any other grain like wheat, rye, malted barley or a mixture of these. Also, the whisky must be stored in charred oak containers, free from any additives, during the maturation process. Bourbon generally tastes sweet and smoky as a result of being stored in the charred oak.
5. Tennessee whisky
Most people confuse bourbon with Tennessee, but there is a difference between the two. The difference lies in the filtering method used. The filtering method for Tennessee whisky is called the Lincoln County Process. Here, the whisky is passed through or steeped in charcoal before it is put in casks.
6. Rye whisky
This type of whisky must be distilled from at least 51 per cent rye, while the other ingredients can be corn or malted barley. Rye whisky also needs to be matured in oak casks for a minimum of two years. Those rye whiskies that have not been blended with any other spirits are called straight rye whisky. This type of whisky has a spicy, grainy taste.
7. Corn whisky
This is an American whisky style. Corn whisky or corn liquor is made from a mash of at least 80 per cent of corn and is distilled to the maximum strength of 160 proof, that is 80 per cent alcohol by volume. It usually isn’t aged; if it is aged it’s usually in uncharred or unused oak barrels. This whisky generally tastes neutral so it is mostly used for blends.