Whiskey Tasting: Learn the Basics

cocktail whiskey

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.”


pour-whiskeyBourbon – 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!

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