Irish and Scotch Whisk(e)y 101

WhiskeySometimes we get stuck so much on what we know we like, we forget to explore the new things we may like as much or even more.  Whiskey is one of those liquors that some people drink exclusively and others stray away from.  The truth is, however, that whiskey provides a wide range of taste profiles that can complement an equally wide range of pallets once you learn some basic rules to whiskey drinking.  I was able to attend the Whiskey Boot camp at Spec’s that featured some of the best in Whiskey and have my mind blown in not only the taste but history of making whiskey.

The basics. 

Think of whiskey as a much stronger virgin cousin of beer.  Like beer whiskey is main from grain and barley, however the distillation process produces a much higher alcohol content and oak aging adds complexity of flavors.

Types of grain

  • Pot stilled: made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley completely distilled in a pot still
  • Grain: continuously distilled from unmalted grains so resulting favor is much lighter and neutral.
  • Malt: Occurs when barley is soaked in water and tricked to grown.   Once germination begins hot air infused through peat smoke is added.

Blend or no blend

  • Single malt: Produced at single distillery and aged in oak casts (often used bourbon barrels) at least three years
  • Blends: these products come from whiskies from two or more distilleries.  The result can produce a wide range of flavors and alcohol content depending on the manufacturer, aging process and time.

Finishing

  • Recycled oak casts is the incubator for whisk(e)y
  • The resulting products takes on a lot of flavor from the type of cask it is aged in.  The types can range from port to madeira, rum or wine.
  • The longer the whiskey matures in the cask, the darker the color becomes

 

And the winners are…

For my flavor profile there were three strong winners for the night:

Glenfiddich Single Malt, 15 year old: This is in line with my expectations of whiskey.  The aging gives it some great depth but the favor additions of honey and vanilla ensure it is not overwhelming.

Tullamore Dew Special Reserve, 12 years old: Great for someone easing their way into whiskey.  It starts a little spicy but quickly some real floral notes flood in and make the overall drink very smooth.

The Balvenie, Caribbean Cask: Aged in rum cask it takes the best of both worlds with the heat from the whiskey and the smooth favor from the rum casks.  Adds some variation appreciated from anyone from a novice to a pro.

You don’t have to take my word for it though.  There is a great big world of whiskeys out there so why not hop in and discover which one is for you.  To assist with a celebration here is a great toast to celebrate your exploration with:

I’ll drink to your health with you,
I’ll drink to your health alone,

I’ll drink to your health so often, I’ll damn near ruin my own.  CHEERS!

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