Facts About Whiskey

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Facts About Whiskey

Whiskey Facts for Bartenders

Some people say that whiskey isn’t simply a spirit – it’s an obsession. It’s easy to see why – the practice of whiskey-making is steeped in centuries of tradition. Subtle differences in grain, processing and ageing give rise to startlingly complex results, and have produced some of the world’s most renowned whiskey brands. As a bartender, you’ll be expected to know a little more the basics. Here, then, are whiskey facts for bartenders and connoisseurs alike.

Whiskey Basics

All whiskey is made from fermented grain mash. Common grains for whiskey production include barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, corn and wheat. Fermented products are typically stored in wooden casks of charred white oak. Top whiskey-producing countries include Scotland, Ireland and the United States.

History and Origin

Archaeologists have found that whiskey was featured on many a table in ancient times. The Babylonians, for instance, used to ferment and distil local whiskey precursors as early as the Second Millennium BC. Scholars also show that experimentations in whiskey production occurred in Alexandria in Ancient Greece.

Distillation as we know it today, however, was picked up by Medieval Europeans from the Arab world. Latin records from the 12TH century demonstrate an affinity for producing alcohol. However, the traditional method for making what was to become Scotch whiskey only emerged in the 15th century.

Whiskey Types

Whiskey is usually divided into three broad categories – malted, grain and blended. Malted whiskey is made from malted barley, and forms the basis of the much-loved single malt. Single Malt whiskies can only be processed, aged and bottled at one distillery. Connoisseurs are particularly fond of the tradition and heritage surrounding these single malts, especially the Scotch varieties. Examples include the exclusive Glengoyne and Pulteny brands.

Grain whiskey, on the other hand, is a blended varietal that can incorporate different types of fermented grain. Corn, rye and wheat can feature in grain whiskeys, and are particularly notable in American brands. Old Potrero Rye Malt is a typical example of a solid American grain whiskey.

Blended whiskeys are viewed as the “rogues” of the whiskey world. This is because they forgo tradition for innovation. Often, the results are intriguing and thoroughly palatable. Blended whiskey brewers combine grains, natural additives and other ingredients in what is an experimental whiskey-making process. Hybridised whiskeys can be made from any combination of wheat, rye, barley or corn. These efforts have been overwhelmingly popular with the general whiskey-swilling crowd. Well-loved blends include Johnny Walker and J&B from Scotland; Jameson and Locke’s from Ireland and Jim Beam from the United States.

Major Whiskey-Producing Regions

These days, whiskey is produced all over the world, from Scotland to India to Japan. However, many whiskey puritans like to stick to a particular region. Lovers of Scotch, for instance, will not drink anything that hasn’t been aged for three years in a peat-smoked Scottish distillery.

The United States has a whiskey-making tradition similar to that of Scotland. Distinctive Southern varietals include Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey, both boasting the time-honoured tradition of distilling fermented sour corn mash.

The study of whiskey is vast and complex – similar to the taste of a distinguished single malt. Impress your patrons and friends with your extensive knowledge.