Whisky has had an interesting journey throughout the years - facing numerous bans, strict production laws, and extreme taxation. No one really knows who was the first to create this classy drink but records state it arrived in Scotland and Ireland sometime between the 11th and 13th century. It quickly became a favourite with the British royals. At that time, grapes weren’t too common in Scotland, so, locals had to turn to something they an abundance of...grains!
Whiskey then found itself on a journey west with the Irish, English, and Scottish immigrants travelling to America. Now, whiskey production is popular worldwide, with some of the world’s best whiskey made in Japan.
To celebrate World Whisky Day, we've put together this post to answer some of your top whiskey questions with the help of our friend Pritesh Mody from World of Zing.
1. What is whisky?
The simple answer to this question: whisky is created by distilling fermented grains.
2. What are the different types of whisky?
- Scotch: No ordinary whisky can be called a scotch, only those made from malted barley, aged for more than three years and made in Scotland are worthy of the title.
- Bourbon: This is the American version of whiskey. Unlike others in the whiskey family tree, Bourbon has less restriction and requirements when it comes to ageing. Made primarily from corn, there are no age requirements, you can find some that have been aged for no longer than 3 months.
- Tennessee Whiskey: You may know these from popular American household names such as “Jack Daniels” and “George Dickel”. Tennessee Whiskey is not too different to Bourbon, the main difference is that this whisky is filtered or steeped in charcoal.
- Rye Whisky: Rye whisky’s main difference lays in its ingredients. These whiskeys must be made of rye mash and distilled to no more than 80 per cent alcohol by volume. Creating a spicy and drier taste opposite to the sweet full-bodied flavour you can find on Bourbons.
- Irish Whiskey: What sets this whiskey apart is the way it is distilled. Traditionally, this whiskey is triple distilled in a copper pot while many Scottish distillers prefer double distillation.
- Japanese Whisky: These are sweet, smooth and delicate. Japanese whiskies have won prestigious awards. Yamazaki Distillery has even been titled “The best in the world” by Jim Murray in this Whiskey Bible in 2015.
3. Why is whisky sometimes spelt whiskey?
Whisky derives from a Gaelic term, usquebaugh, “Water of Life”. When translating this from Gaelic, the Scottish and Irish spelt it differently, thus the extra “e”.
In the 1800s the quality of Scotish whiskey was not up to par to the Irish, so they kept the “e” in whiskey, differentiating the products.
Americans and Japanese also spell whiskey differently. Americans spell it with the “e” due to the large number of Irish immigrants in America while Japanese distillers spell it without the “e” as it was the Scotish who inspired the movement in Japan.
4. So, How do I start drinking whisky?
Who better at answering this question than someone who’s perfected the creation of delicious whisky? Our friend Pritesh Mody - Cocktail Guru at “World of Zing” has some great advice!
“Whisky is truly a global spirit, with incredible versions created in every corner of the world – from sweeter American Bourbon to drier and complex Japanese styles. For any beginner, I would recommend a classic Whisky forward cocktails, such as an Old Fashioned, Manhattan or a properly crafted Highball (basically chill the whisky, chill the soda and fill the glass with ice before serving). These drinks allow the spirit to showcase its full character without overloading the tastebuds of a novice.”
If you are new to drinking whisky we’d recommend not jumping straight into the most expensive or popular ones you can find. There is nothing wrong with starting slow. Affordable bourbons can be delicious and go great with a mixer. Start off mixing your whisky with a mixer like coke and slowly decrease the amount of coke used to build a taste for the whisky.
5. What is the difference between neat and on the rocks?
Neat means sipping the whisky by itself, no mixer or ice. On the rocks means having your whisky with ice cubes.
6. What are ‘whisky stones’ and should I buy them?
whisky stones come from the Scottish, who used to chill their whisky by adding small stones from the cold rivers to their whisky. Modern-day whisky stones are kept in the freezer and are used to cool your drink without diluting the drink with water. Helping to keep the taste but lower the temperature!
7. Which is the one for me?
Whisky connoisseurs recommend taking your first sips neat so you can experience the full taste of your drink without having the ice dilute the drink.
8. Is there any food that would go great alongside a bottle of whisky?
Pritesh: “From sweet and smoky to rich and grassy, the world of whiskey provides a range of flavours and textures that can compare with wine. As such, pairing whisky with food can be a fun and rewarding journey. For example, something with a gentle smokiness and sea salt aroma such as Talisker Skye is the perfect foil for fresh seafood, whilst a sweeter American bourbon such as Bulleit is ideal for cutting through but complementing the sweetness in fat-rich steak. Looking towards dessert, a rich, fruity Scotch such as Balvenie Sherry Cask or Aberlour ’Bunadh are great with traditional puddings.”
9. Why do people love it?
Pritesh: “Every sip should evoke a memory or perhaps transport you to a special place, whether it’s where the whisky is distilled or perhaps just somewhere that you find your moment of calm. Looking beyond the objective flavour, we find ourselves discussing the emotive aspects of whisky the most.”
10. Where can I buy good whisky?
Look no further! We have a great collection on our site. We hope to have answered some questions you may have regarding whisky. To end this blog we’ll leave you with some fun facts that will make you enjoy your next whisky session even more.
- The oldest whisky in the world is over 150 years old, it is worth £14,850.
- The most expensive whisky in the world was auctioned for £393,109.
- Tabasco Sauce is aged in old Jack Daniels whiskey barrels.
- Whisky can withstand extremely cold temperatures. Explorers carry whisky on their journey to the south pole because it is the only drink that remains liquid in -30 degrees weather.