By Tony Bell
In the last installment, we looked at the history of Irish whiskey, which is one of several varieties produced around the world. No matter where it is made or how it is spelled, whisk(e)y has a distinguished history, and while Tennessee sour mash is very different from single malt Scotch, every variation is very legitimate. The five major producing countries, besides Ireland are the United States, Scotland, Canada and Japan.
Scotch whisky comes from one of four regions of Scotland, each with their own distinctive properties. The most highly prized Scotch whiskies are the single malts which are produced entirely from malted barley, double distilled and made at one of over 100 Scottish distilleries. Many of these Scotches are aged for many years and have complicated flavors and aromas. Glenlivet and Laphroaig are notable brands of single malts. Blended scotch is made from a mixture of malt and grain spirits, such as corn. Most of the popular brands that consumers are familiar with, such as Cutty Sark, Johnny Walker, Dewars and J&B, are blended and may contain dozens of grain whiskies.
In the United States, in the 18th century, English and Irish settlers, who brought their own whiskies with them from the old country, inspired American whiskey production. The first domestic whiskies were made from malted barley and rye. Kentucky distillers soon began producing pure corn whiskey, which became the bourbon whiskey we know today. Bourbon is now made with not less than 51% corn and aged in barrels of American oak, charred on the inside. Jim Beam, Makers Mark and Wild Turkey are popular brands. Tennessee sour mash, such as Jack Daniels, is the other distinctive American whiskey. The difference between the two is that Tennessee is filtered through charcoal.
Canadian whiskies are made from blends of different grains, combining rye, corn and malted barley, and is aged primarily in used oak barrels. A curiosity of Canadian whisky is that regulations allow the addition of other products, such as sherry or wine, usually up to about 1 %. Crown Royal and Canadian Club are more recognizable brands.
Japan has become a player in the whisky industry only in the last 30 years or so. The model for Japanese whisky is closer to what we know as single malt Scotch.
Whisk(e)y is truly the international spirit, and offers a wide selection of cocktails for your enjoyment. From classics like the Manhattan and the Rob Roy to simple mixes such as a 'Jack and Coke', there is truly something for every palate and taste. Until next time, cheers!