What does a gentlemen need to know about whiskey to make sure he can converse with anyone and hold his ground in knowledge of this fine drink? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to know everything, but if you can remember a few key points, you’ll feel confident that you can stay on par in any conversation about whiskey. Here are the basics you need to know.
What is whiskey?
Whiskey is a broad term that refers to any distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash.
What is a mashbill?
The mashbill is the proportion of differerent grains used to make a particular whiskey.
What are the main types of whiskey?
It’s very common for someone to ask, “what is the difference between whiskey, scotch, and bourbon?” Well, scotch is a whiskey, as is bourbon. Here are the most common types of whiskey you’ll hear on the street.
Scotch– Made from malted barley and in Scotland. In Scotland whiskey is known as “whisky” without the “e”. Scotch is often known for it’s smoky taste due to some distilleries using peat in the malting process, but there are non-peated whisky’s that are not as smoky. I did a review of Johnnie Walker Double Black Whisky, which is an example of a peated whiskey with a strong smoky flavor complex.
Bourbon– According the US Code of Federal Regulations, bourbon must be made in America from at least 51% corn, and aged in new charred oak barrels. The bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 proof, cannot enter the barrel at higher than 125 proof, and cannot enter the bottle at a proof less than 80. Nothing can be added to the bourbon, such as coloring or flavoring, except for water to lower the proof.
Irish– You guessed it, it’s made in Ireland. Must be aged at least 3 years in wooden casks.
Rye– In the U.S. rye whiskey must be made from at least 51% rye.
Canadian– Made in Canada, typically with rye. Sometimes the descriptions “Canadian” and “Rye” are used interchangeably in Canada, but may not be indicative of a heavy rye mashbill.
American– This refers to a broad term of whiskey, such as bourbon, rye, corn, wheat whiskey, etc. that is made in the United States.
How should you drink it?
My preference is to drink whiskey “neat”, which refers to having no additives, such as ice, bitters, mixers, etc. This allows for the full appreciation of the many complexities found in different whiskies. However, a few drops of water, or adding ice and drinking on the “rocks” can change the flavor profiles of a particular whiskey and make for a nice pour. Whiskey can also be used in many cocktails, such as an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or Whiskey Sour to name a few classics.
What type of glass should you drink it in?
If you’re going to enjoy the whiskey “neat”, I prefer the Glencairn glass.
As you can see, the shape of the glass allows for the full experience of the aroma, known as the “nose.” If you’re interested in reviewing or purchasing a set, you can find them here. When it comes to enjoying whiskey with ice, the “rocks” glass is a perfect fit because of the wide opening, and can be found here as well.
How should you store it?
If storing for a long period of time, it is best store it in a cool area with little sunlight. If storing for a short period of time, a decanter with a secure seal can work well. If interested in a quality decanter, I would recommend Prestige Decanters.
My personal favorite and the one I own as seen in the above image, is their Diamond Whiskey Decanter, though they have a nice selection of other amazing designs. I recently wrote a post called Gentlemen, Whiskey, and Decanters that you may find interesting.
What terms are most often used when tasting whiskey?
“Nose”– refers to the aroma of the whiskey
“Palate”– how the whiskey tastes
“Body”– how the whiskey feels in the mouth
“Finish”- how the whiskey tastes and feels after you swallow
To sum up, this brief whiskey guide is by no means an exhaustive list of everything you need to know about whiskey, but it should give you a few key points to make note of to help you feel confident as you grow as a gentleman and whiskey connoisseur. Cheers!