Five Things to Know about Whiskey
This month’s cover feature is about a man who has devoted his life to collecting whiskies. Here are five interesting facts about this classic drink.
1. Whiskey or whisky?
Depends on where you are from. The United States and Ireland label their product whiskey with an “ey”. Canada, Scotland and Japan spell it without the “e” – whisky.
2. What is whiskey?
Whiskey is any alcohol distilled from fermented grain mash (with exception of some made from corn which doesn’t need to be aged like most other whiskies.) All whiskey must be distilled at a minimum of 40% and a have a maximum of 94.8% alcohol by volume. The main difference between whiskies is the type of grain used for the mash.
3. What types of whiskey are there?
There’s Scotch, Rye, Irish Whiskey, Bourbon or Bourbon Whiskey, and Tennessee Whiskey. Then there are the single malt, single barrel, and blended varieties. Most whiskies on the market today are blends. A blend is mixture of two or more whiskies that are bottled and sold as one, and any product that contains a mix of barrel-aged malt and grain whiskies. It is a common misconception that “single malt” is from a single batch or barrel. A single-barrel whiskey is the product of one barrel, unmixed with any other sources of whiskey.
4. What’s the difference between whiskey and bourbon?
To keep it simple, whiskey is the overarching term. So, whiskey includes bourbon, but bourbon does not always include whiskey. A strict set of federal trade regulations defines what can be called what. Bourbon can only be labeled bourbon if it was made in the United States. It has no minimum aging period but to call the product straight bourbon it must be aged for no less that two years and have no added coloring or flavoring. These rules do not apply to blended bourbon.
5. What’s the latest with Japanese whiskey?
Earlier this year, Suntory announced that it was buying Beam Inc., thus acquiring the iconic American bourbon brands Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. The purchase cost around US $16 billion, made Suntory the world’s third-largest spirits manufacturer, and resulted in a new company called Beam Suntory.
For information on free guided tours of Suntory’s Yamazaki distillery visit suntory.com/factory/yamazaki/