- Scotch is made from barley in a process that starts off very much like brewing beer. The main difference being that no hops are used in scotch. Malted barley is roasted over peat coals then steeped in hot water to extract the sugars and fermented with yeast. After fermentation is complete, the malt is distilled to produce scotch.
- Single-malt Scotch
- These scotches are made from a single fermentation batch from start to finish as opposed to blends. Their character or style varies with the region in which they are produced:
- Lowland (LO) - Geographically this region is the southernmost and most heavily populated. The whiskies produced here tend to be lighter, more refined, and contain a good deal less peat and brine flavors. A good example of this style can be found Glen Kinchie or the Auchentoshen.
- Highlands (HI) - This region is so prolific and diverse that it is probably more accurate to divide this area up into several sub regions that fall into the same geographic and taste profiles.
- Northern Highlands - Malts from Scotland's northern coast tend to be delicate and have distinct characteristics of heather and spice. Glenmorangie is a world class malt from this region.
- Eastern Highlands/Midlands - These geographically sheltered whiskies tend to be sherried, well bodied and fruity. Edradour, Scotland's smallest distillery clearly defines the Midland stlye.
- Western Highlands - This area represents a few scattered distilleries along the Western shore line as well as distilleries located on some of the Hebrides Islands. As a general rule these malts tend to dry with a bit of peatiness. In many ways they represent a bridge between the less assertive Highlands style and the more aggressive Islay whiskies. Any of the island malts such as Highland Park, Talisker, or Ledaig would be a great way to begin exploring this particular region.
- Speyside - With over half of all the distilleries in Scotland located in this region, it is needless to say quite diverse. Flavor profiles range from the well sherried and full bodied Macallan and Glen Farclas to the more subtle Knockando or Cragganmore. Speyside is also the home of the giant distillers Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.
- Islay (IS) - Noted for its intensely pungent and phenolic malts, this area is home to such cult classics as Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Bowmore. Not for those of weak heart.
- Campbeltown (CAM) - Although only two distilleries are currently in operation here, the briny, grassy flavor is so distinct that it warrants its own region. A seasoned whisky veteran may want to test out our cask strength Springbank for a healthy dose of this region's style.
- Blended Scotch
- An appreciated spirit now produced the world over, blended scotch is distilled from grain into a neutral spirit and blended with single-malt scotch to develop its taste and character.
- The individual style is determined by the percentage and the age of malt used in the blend. It is not unusual for there to be over fifty different whiskies in a premium blended whiskey. Dewar's 12 year, Chivas Regal, and Pinch are among the most successful examples of the art of blending fine scotch whiskies. For the scotch drinker who believes he has everything, we recommend a wee dram of the rare and wonderfully sophisticated Ballantines 30 year old.
- Canadian Whiskey
- Canadian Whiskey is lighter and more mixable than Scotch or Irish Whiskey. The Canadian government does not have requirements for the proportion of grains to be used or specific distilling proofs. The only requirement for Canadian whiskey is that it be aged for a minimum of three years. Individuality in Canadian whiskey is a function of blending a variety of grains for varying periods of time. The more assertive Canadian whiskeys, such as Seagram's Crown Royal and Schenley O.F.C., distinguish themselves from the others by containing a higher proportion of rye grain and malted rye as well as a longer sleeping period.
- Irish Whiskey
- The Irish have been producing whiskey since the middle ages. In fact, the oldest legal grain distillery in the world is located in Bushmills, having been started in 1608. Irish Whiskey is often compared to blended scotch whiskey. This is not accurate. Irish whiskey is triple-distilled, as opposed to blended scotch which only undergoes a double distillation. Unlike scotch, the Irish malt is kilned over coal as opposed to peat. Finally, unlike the Scots, the Irish use unmalted barley, oats, and rye in their blend. Irish whiskey is thus lighter, less "smokey" tasting than most blended scotch whiskies.
- Tennessee Whiskey
- On September 5, 1846 Jasper "Jack" Daniels was born. A century later, the Jack Daniels name has become synonymous world-wide with fine Tennessee sipping whiskey. Tennessee whiskey is a straight whiskey that must be distilled in Tennessee from a fermented mash containing 51% or more of any grain. Although made like a sour mash bourbon, Tennessee whiskey has one extra step: the spirit is filtered through Tennessee maple charcoal immediately after distillation.
- Bourbon is a whiskey produced in the United States from a mash containing at least 51% corn. This spirit must subsequently be aged in new, charred oak barrels. Some common terms you'll see regarding bourbon are:
- CASK STRENGTH - A term used to describe whiskey that has not been watered down to attain a standardized strength. This number will fluctuate a bit in each bottling.
- BOTTLED IN BOND - This refers to any bourbon that is bottled at 100 proof and is aged a minimum of 4 years.
- RYE WHISKEY - A whiskey containing at least 51% rye in its mash bill. Rye whiskies tend to be spicier and more assertive than their bourbon counterparts.
- SINGLE BARREL - A whiskey bottled directly from an individual cask that has been produced at a single distillery. This type of whiskey will have subtle variations in both flavor and strength.
- SMALL BATCH - This refers almost specifically to a group of whiskies produce by Jim Beam (Bookers, Basil Haydens, Knob Creek, and Bakers). These whiskies are chosen from casks in the center of the racking and receive more care, attention, and aging than a typical bourbon. For example, the master distiller, Booker Noe, will personally taste each cask of Booker's to decide if and when the spirit has fully matured.
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