Whiskey depends upon the type of fermented grain mash that it has been distilled from. Scroll down to know more about this alcoholic beverage and its types.
Whiskey actually means Water of Life, according to the Gaelic word usquebaugh, which was phonetically shortened to usky, until the English finally called it whisky. Its origin is somewhat disputed, which should not be surprising, considering the fact that everyone wants to be part of this popular alcoholic beverage’s history.
Distillation was an old process used in Asia to distill perfumes. The Chinese have been distilling liquor from rice since ages. The Irish missionaries carried the distillation technique to Ireland and other parts of the world from the Mediterranean, for medicinal purposes. It was in Britain that barley was first used to make whiskey. And like they say, the rest is history …
How is Whiskey Made?
Traditionally, the whiskey-making process involves malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation, and maturation. The process and its fermented grain ingredient is what makes each type different from each other.
- The process in which grain is germinated is called malting. It is done to convert soluble sugars from starch in the grain into alcohol.
- Peat is used to stop and dry the germinated grain, its smoke influencing the flavor of the final product.
- The grain is then milled. Hot, clean water is added to dissolve the sugars in the malt. This process is carried out a couple of times with more heated water. This liquid, called wort, is collected for further processing.
- The cooled wort is poured in large tanks, and yeast is added to start the fermentation process. The yeast turns the sugars into alcohol, and in a couple of days, you’re close to having a beer at hand.
- The distillation process, and the number of times the liquid is distilled, mainly depends upon the distiller, and even the country of origin.
- Once this process is done, the spirit is put into oak casks, and stored for maturation. These casks add a typical character to the flavor. As wood is porous, it adds the environmental characteristics to the spirit.
Each year, about 2% of the alcohol is lost through natural evaporation, so older the whiskey, lesser the spirit, and more the cost.
Various Types of Whiskey
It is the quality of its ingredients, along with the treatment it has received, that gives each whiskey a distinct taste and flavor. Following are the various types of this drink.
- Malt Whiskey: This is made completely of malted barley, and distilled in an onion-shaped pot still.
- Grain Whiskey: Made from a mix of malted and un-malted barley, along with other grains, it is usually distilled in a column still.
- Single Malt Whiskey: This whiskey is made from a single distillery. It could or could not be a blend of whiskeys from different casks. However, all are made from the same distillery.
- Vatted Malt Whiskey: This one is a blend of malt whiskeys from different distilleries.
- Pure Pot Still Whiskey: Exclusive to Ireland, this spirit is distilled in a pot still from a mash of both; malted and un-malted barley.
- Blended Whiskeys: These are a blend of malt and grain whiskeys.
- Cask Strength Whiskeys: Rare, expensive, and the very best, this undiluted type is usually bottled from the cask directly.
These usually combine straight whiskey with new (un-aged) one, grain neutral spirits, flavorings, and colorings. They are made from mash consisting of the grain.
- Rye Whiskey: This beverage is made from a mixture of hot water and crushed grain, minimum 51% rye.
- Bourbon Whiskey: This is made of mash that consists of at least 51% corn. Corn whiskeys are made with a similar consistency.
- Straight Whiskey: This is made up of any grain (at least 51%), and aged in charred, new oak containers for two or more years.
- Tennessee Whiskey: This one is filtered through a thick layer of maple charcoal before it is put into casks for aging.
Unless they are made in Scotland, they cannot be labeled as Scotch. Some of these are quite a favorite world over.
- Single Malt Whiskey: Made from 100% malted barley, this spirit passes through one distillery alone.
- Single Grain Whiskey: Distilled at a single distillery from water and malted barley, this may or may not contain grains of other cereals.
- Blended Grain Whiskey: This is a mix of grain whiskeys from more than one distillery.
- Blended Scotch Whiskey: A mix of single malt whiskey and grain whiskey, which has been distilled at more than one distillery, is known as blended scotch.
Types as per Origin
Besides the grains used, that give each whiskey its distinct flavor, each country too offers different types of this drink for those who like a range in their toast. These differ from each other in the grains, casks, fermentation process, and the number of times it has been distilled. Climatic conditions too have an impact on their taste.
- German Whiskey
- Irish Scotch
- Japanese Whiskey
- Indian Whiskey
- Finnish Whiskey
- Canadian Whiskey
The age of whiskey should only be counted until it stays in the wooden cask, and not its bottling age. We have a wide variety for one to indulge in, with each type bringing with it a flavor, unique to place and time.