Unless one is wealthy, famous or exceedingly good looking, most people would not know (or care) who you are. For John Everyman, getting noticed then becomes a combination of charisma, knowledge and sheer random luck.
Charisma and luck building is not an exact science and there are no empirically accepted tests to measure such metrics. Knowledge however, can be built up by anyone. Hence to kick-start your knowledge journey, we have put together a simple beginner’s guide on whiskey that will make you look a bit more intelligent next time you hit the bars.
This might be common knowledge for some, but it’s worth a refresher.
What is Whiskey?
Whiskey, derived from its latin name of aqua vitae “water of life”, first billed as a medicinal substance, is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. This mash is typically aged in wooden casks, which gives it that distinct brown color and taste.
Within the category of “whiskey” lie several confusing subgroups, often containing subtle (yet important) differences of which we attempt to explain
in this article below.
Tastes like: leather, turpentine, pineapple, coconut, tea, and chocolate. Yet none of these in combination will taste like whiskey either.
Brands you should know: Glenmorangie, Jack Daniel’s, Maker’s Mark, Bulleit, Johnnie Walker, The Macallan.
What is Bourbon?
Often mistaken as a standalone alcohol, bourbon is actually part of the whiskey family. Yes, that very same bourbon cola popular among younger drinkers is actually a whiskey based concoction. For a whiskey to be considered bourbon, the mixture of grains from which the product is distilled (the mash) must be, at least, 51% corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain. On top of that, the mixture must be stored in charred oak containers and cannot contain any additives. This law pretty much separates bourbon from everything else.
Tastes like: Its main characteristic is its sweetness, but it’s also a bit smoky due to the charred oak.
Brands you should know: Wild Turkey, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark.
What is Scotch?
Scotch is technically whisky (spelled without the “e”) that has been distilled and matured in Scotland. It is made mostly from malted barley, while bourbon is made from corn. Scotch, in layman’s terms, tastes a lot like bourbon, but with a trademark “bite” dragging along the back of your tasting. This is the reason some people stay away from Scotch, but for others, it’s an acquired taste that only makes the experience richer. Word of caution: Amateurs should not start with Scotch.
Tastes like: Rubber, wood, fire, dirt, and leather – but in an exquisite way. A great way, actually.
Brands you should know: Cutty Sark, Glenlivet, Johnnie Walker, The Macallan
What is Rye?
Rye whiskey, like its name suggests, is a whiskey that is distilled from at least 51% rye. What is rye? Rye is a type of grass that is a member of the wheat tribe and closely related to barley.
Tastes like: A spicy, grainy, hard-edged version of bourbon. Like bourbon’s maverick younger brother.
Brands you should know: Journeyman, Ravenswood, Van Winkle Family Reserve
Frequently Asked Questions
So is it Whiskey or Whisky?
Whether it is whisky or whiskey has been the basis of many arguments over many years. The Scots spell it whisky and the Irish spell it whiskey, with an extra ‘e’. This difference in the spelling comes from the translations of the word from the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms. Whiskey with the extra ‘e’ is also used when referring to American whiskies. This ‘e’ was taken to the United States by the Irish immigrants in the 1700s and has been used ever since. Scotland, Ireland and America all have a rich heritage in the whisky industry. So what are the differences between the whiskies from these three nations? Find out more here.
Is Whisky a man or woman’s drink?
Sure, whiskey might be one of the most masculine choices at the bar, but it doesn’t mean it’s out of bounds for ladies. In fact, Elite Daily sums up the reasons why a guy should always go for the girl who drinks whiskey.
We at ETHOZ adopt a gender neutral approach. It boils down to the unique tastes of each individual and we encourage everyone to drink what satisfies their taste buds, regardless whether the drink is marketed as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ by society.