A distilled spirit of at least 80 proof made from various types of fermented grain mash and then aged in oak casks. The types of grains used to make whiskey include malted barley, rye, wheat and corn.
There are several methods used to make whiskey (or whisky, depending on the country in which it is made). Whiskey can be single, double or triple distilled and the aging process varies according to country. Single malt whiskey is completely malted barley from one distillery. Blended means that different single malts from different distilleries were combined, with the addition of grain whiskey.
The most popularly produced whiskeys include Scotch, American, Canadian, Japanese and Irish. Scotch whiskies are divided into five main regions: Highland, Lowland, Islay, Speyside and Campbeltown.
Bourbon, a style of whiskey, must be distilled in the US, aged for at least two years in new barrels, and made of 51%% corn. It tends to have a spicy profile. Scotch must be made in Scotland in copper pots; to be single malt, it must be made from only malted barley, one batch at a time. The malts are dried over burning peat, giving it a smokey flavor. Irish whiskey is often triple distilled, with notes of caramel and vanilla.
Selecting and Buying
Look for a label that clearly states "Made in Scotland" or "Scotch Whisky." Labels that say things like "Scottish Whiskey" can be deceiving; "Scotch Whisky" is the appropriate term.
Decide on a variety of whisky. Scotch whiskies come in five types: single malt, single grain, blended (or pure or vatted), blended grain, or blended Scotch Whisky. The latter three are not only blends of grains, but blended grains from different distilleries. As a general rule, the single malts are the most expensive.
Choose a region of origin. Scotland has six Scotch-producing regions, each with its own generations-old methods of whisky-making. The regions, which are usually listed on the label, are: Lowland, Highland (Dalmore, Aberfeldy), Speyside (Glenfiddich, the Glenlivet), the Islands (Orkney), Campbeltown (Glengyle, Glen Scotia), and Islay (Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain).
Taste a variety of whiskies and compare the flavors of whiskies aged for different amounts of time. Most are aged a minimum of eight years, some a great deal more. Beware, though: just because a whisky is aged a long time doesn't necessarily mean it's better
Note the color of different whiskies you taste. Those aged in old sherry barrels are usually darker, while those aged in recycled bourbon barrels tend to be lighter.
Conserving and Storing
Unless it’s a very old, very rare bottle of whisky, there is no need for wine rack type storage. Whisky can be stored upright, the high amount of alcohol will keep the cork moist enough avoid shrinkage which cold lead to rotten corks and contaminated whisky.
If the whisky is very old then it may be better to store it on it’s side because the cork may be deteriorated and may need extra help to stay moist and maintain an airtight seal.
Unopened bottles of whisky can be stored for years or decades