A Beginner’s Guide To The Many Whiskey Varieties

Whiskey is one of the most popular drinks in the world. The distilled alcoholic beverage is made from grain and is typically enjoyed by older people. The grains used for the traditional whiskey variety are rather strong on the palate. What people need to recognize is that the type of grain used, along with the cask it is fermented in, determines the variety, taste, and overall note of the beverage. Listed below are some brief descriptions of the more common varieties.

Image Source: complex.com
Image Source: complex.com

Malt whiskey: As the name suggests, this is made from malted barley and is distilled in pot stills. Most manufacturers still use the traditional method of fermenting, which makes the process very long and physically demanding.

Grain whiskey: This drink can contain any type of grain and can be a mixture. Most grain varieties today contain wheat since it has a higher utilization than corn.

Image Source: Bloomberg.com
Image Source: Bloomberg.com

Blended whiskey: Most blended whiskies are differentiated not by their grain but from the distillery they come from. This is because each distillery has their own formulation and ratio.

Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey: Most bourbons are produced in Kentucky, USA. Bourbons must contain at least 51 percent corn. The rest can be a mixture of barley, rye and/or wheat. The drink must also be aged for at least four years in a fresh, toasted cask made from American white oak. Tennessee whiskey differs from bourbon in that it needs to have a charcoal-filter in the cask.

Unlike vodka, there are many taste differences among the various whisky varieties. In particular, how long the beverage matures in the cask impacts the later aroma of the whiskey. As such, distilleries say that there are many possibilities for variation. Those interested are suggested to try each variety at least once to see which one they prefer.

Adam Quirk is the co-founder of Cardinal Spirits and takes the extra measure to know his drinks. He posts a lot of his learnings on this blog.


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