The Whisky 101 – everything you have to know. Whisky – the name alone stands for perfection of form and a long history. Whisky was regarded by kings, emperors, dictators and diplomats as one of the noblest gifts and in combination with the right cigar it is the perfect foundation for an evening among gentlemen.
That is still true today. But where do I find good whisky and how do the innumerable varieties differ. Followingly I will give you the most important basics for your next dinner or the next night in the bar of your choice and the therefore required basic knowledge in the following Whisky 101.
Whisky not whiskey.
The „e“ has no place in whisky in case you’re looking for a classic single malt scotch whisky. Whisky is fundamentally different since it only can come from Scotland and goes through a different method of distillation and also consists of other basic ingredients. You might not believe it, but the most special thing about Scottish whisky is the water, which is particularly soft in Scotland, because there is no limestone there.
During production, the barley germinates until malt sugar can be absorbed from the starch. Then the malt is dried and grounded. The sugar is then leached out with hot water and the liquid is fermented to produce a beer. This is then double fired in distillation bubbles (important: they must be made out of copper!), so-called pot stills.
After this the maturing process begins and everything is aged in oak barrels. At the earliest after three years the whisky is bottled. However, the most valuable and best single malt whiskies often mature several decades. You can read the detailed rules of Whisky production in the Scotch Whiskey Regulations, which complements our Whisky 101.
Case of the single malt
Often a mere glance at the label is enough. They use either the protected designation Scotch or the note „Produced in Scotland“. Whiskey („e“) usually comes from Ireland, the United States or the rest of the world. In addition, a single malt should always bear an indication of its age or the year in which it was bottled. And as a little tip – ten years should be enough for a good bottle.
Now, however, there are still several hundred distilleries with countless vintages left. For this as well, here is some advice. Among all the „Single Malts“ the „Cask Strength“ bottling should be preferred. They are undiluted (50-60%) and unfiltered. Filtering removes not only suspended matter from the whisky, but also its unmistakable taste.
Often they even come from a single individual barrel, which has its own special taste and is not mixed together from several barrels to produce the brands taste.
The world’s most famous whiskeys, apart from scottish whisky, are probably from Ireland and the United States.
In the USA, the term whiskey is much larger. Barley, rye, wheat or maize may be used. Often it is also a „Mash Bill“, a mixture of different types of cereals. The whiskey must be stored for at least two years and in burnt-out white oak barrels.
The Irish whiskey can be compared to the Scottish one. In Irish, the malt is dried over the fire and then distilled three times. The minimum storage period is again three years.
The three best known Scottish whiskies
Even if it isn’t the best one, he is one of the most popular. Approximately 90% of all sold Scottish whiskies are blended. A blended scotch usually consists of more than 30-40 different whiskies from different distilleries. The individual malts are put together by the Master Blender himself, based on their smell and taste. The best known Master Blender is Richard Paterson.
Well-known brands: Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker, Ballantine’s, Dewar’s, etc.
We already took a look at the single malt whisky several times. It is probably the most prestigious whisky amongst whisky connoisseurs. It comes from a single distillery and only barley („malt“). The special thing here is that everyone is individual and special.
Well-known brands: Lagavulin, Highland Park, Aberlour, Royal Lochnagr, etc.
The most famous American whiskey.
Bourbon has become an association for whiskey. It must be at least 51% maize and not completely as often believed. It does not have to come from Kentucky, even if it is the origin of the bourbon.
Well-known brands: Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, etc.
Now you have the basic knowledge to make a perfect choice at the chimney evening or when ordering atyou next bar-visit. And never forget basic rule number one: nothing beats a scotch.
We hope you enjoyed our Whisky 101. Want to learn about gin as well? Read about the Gin 101 it in our KEPLER World blog article.