Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Whiskey and Whisky

At Star Liquor we sell a lot of whiskey. A whole lot of whiskey. We also sell a lot of whisky. So have I lost you yet? If I have it is because of some of the subtle differences that if you are not in the business of knowing, you might miss completely.

Nowadays whiskey comes from all over the place. You can get bourbon from Kentucky, or New York. Scotch only comes from Scotland but Single Malt can be had from Japan and India and it is pretty darn good. Here is a little breakdown on some of the different whiskies that can be had at Star Liquor.

Single Malt Scotch is a type of whisky (notice that the “e” is missing, this is a spelling used in Scotland) that is made in a single distillery in Scotland. Made with malted barley, single malt scotch is distilled twice. It is then aged in seasoned (or used) oak barrels for at least 3 years and one day, though it is usually aged much longer. It is not uncommon to see a 25 year old or older scotch. If it is not from Scotland it is not Scotch, it is Single Malt Whiskey.

Irish Whiskey comes from Ireland. (HA HA duh!) Ireland is the country that gave whiskey its name. The word whiskey is an Anglicization of the ancient Gaelic term "uisce beatha" which translates as "water of life". Irish whiskey is believed to be one of the earliest distilled beverages in Europe, dating to the mid-12th century. Irish Whiskey is usually triple distilled which accounts for its easy drinking smoothness.

Bourbon, most people think, must come from Kentucky. Not true at all. Bourbon must come from the United States but about 95% is made in Kentucky. Bourbon must contain 51% corn and be aged at least 3 years in charred new oak barrels. Since barrels can only be used once for bourbon and barrels must be seasoned to age scotch, most used bourbon barrels are shipped to Scotland. Wild Turkey for example, ships many of their used barrels to Glenlivet. Bourbon also cannot be distilled higher than 160 proof and must not have any added colors or flavors.

Of course this is very rudimentary and completely ignores Blended Scotch, American Blended Whiskey, Canadian Whiskey and I am sure others, but those are maybe for another blog.

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