Know Your Liquor: Whiskey Basics

Different types of whiskey

Whiskey is the choice of drink for many. Like other spirits, whiskey has a rich culture and craft that goes back centuries. But there's just something about it that exudes depth and complexity. Being a connoisseur of anything requires dedication, time, and passion. The first place to start is knowing the basics. So I'm going to try to teach you the basics of differentiating different kinds of whiskey. 

First off, whiskey is an alcohol that's made from fermented grain mash. There's a variety of grains that can be used and this will change the outcome of the whiskey. These grains include; barley, wheat, corn, and rye. 


Rye can be made of a base of corn, rye, wheat, and barley. The ratio of these grains is a major determining factor of the flavour. 

A true rye must be made in Canada and must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years.


Irish and Scottish settlers brought the knowledge for distilling to America in the 1700s which lead to the creation of American whiskey. American whiskey can use a large variety of grains. Bourbon is the most popular type of American whiskey. To be a bourbon, it must be at least 51% corn and aged in new oak barrels for a minimum of 2 years. These oak barrels are usually re-used in Canadian whiskey aging.


The Irish are known to be the first producers of whiskey. Irish whiskey is composed of rye, wheats, oats, and barley. Irish whiskey is malted using large ovens. Irish whiskey must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years. Many are aged considerably longer than that.


All scotch is made in Scotland and consists of malted barley. The process of malting germinates the barley. Then the germinating process is stopped by drying, using fire and smoke from dried peat moss. The peat moss is a major factor in the flavour of scotch. There are two types of scotch; single malt and blended. 

Single malt: uses a single distillery and only one type of malt. Always aged in oak barrels and can vary in flavour quite a bit from brand to brand.

Blended: to maintain a consistent flavour. Blended scotch is a mix of single malts to keep every bottle tasting the same. Must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years. Some blended scotch can contain up to 40 unique single malts.

Well, there you have it. Here's some basic information about different types of whiskey to help you sound a little more cultured. 

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