Whiskey Tasting: Learn the Basics
Let’s start at the very beginning. What is whisk(e)y?
Whiskey is a “spirit distilled from malted grain”.
Simple enough. Where the complications arise (and most people get confused) are in the number of variations of grains, flavors, regions, and even vocabulary surrounding this distinctive spirit. It may seem like a lot to take in – but we’re going to bring you back to the basics.
For starters, whiskey and whisky are the same thing; the name changes based on its region. You’ll find the whisky spelling in countries such as Japan, Scotland, and Canada. The origin of the word whiskey comes from usquebaugh, and whiskybae, which literally translate to “the water of life.”
Bourbon – Domestic, aged in a barrel, made with at least 51% corn
tastes like: sweet and silky
Rye – Domestic, aged in a barrel, made with at least 51% rye
tastes like: light and spicy
Scotch – Scottish whisky, aged in a barrel, made with 100% malted barley, blended or single malt
tastes like: savory and smoky
Irish Whiskey – Distilled three times, smoother than Scotch, made with barley and other cereal grains
tastes like: ultra smooth and full-bodied
Tennessee Whiskey – Similar to bourbon, filtered through sugar maple charcoal, strictly made in Tennessee
tastes like: light and sweet
Canadian Whisky – Historically rye based, although now made from various cereal
grains, gained popularity during Prohibition
tastes like: fruity and versatile
Japanese Whisky – Similar to single malt Scotch whisky but made in Japan
tastes like: earthy and dry
With all this knowledge under your belt, you will be talking like a pro the next time you find yourself at a whiskey tasting (or even just sipping one down at a party). Cheers!