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Whiskey - Scotch Tasting

I love Scotch. I feel that it is one of the spirits with more depth and complexity. Becoming a true Whiskey connoisseur takes years of practice and learning but is a journey well worth it. A good bottle of scotch isn`t always the most expensive and the popularity of the hobby means that you can find terrific blends most anywhere. Learning the types of blends and even what glasses to use is cruicial.
Below is a terrific introductory article where you can learn the basics and how to get started. You can help grow our learning community by contributing your knowledge to the article. Just click on the edit tab in the wiki article below.

Use the white subtabs above to navigate the other Whiskey & Scotch resources. We have a Whiskey & Scotch tasting forum where you can get your questions & doubts answered, a page with how-to videos, a page with the best handpicked links to other sites, and a page with the best Whiskey / Scotch books and products.

Good Luck and Have Fun!
Duncan Davis

 

Introduction:


The word whiskey is derived from the term uisage beatha from Irish Gaelic which means ‘the water of life’. It is spelled whisky when referring to the Scotch whisky, Canadian Whisky or Welsh Whisky. However an e is added in it when referring to the American and Irish whiskey.




The drink is made by the distillation of grains and then aging the resultant alcohol in oak casks. Like other grain alcohols, whisky can be made by the moisture of many different kinds of grains. Most commonly used grains for whisky are corn, wheat, rye and barley. As commonly barley is used in the making of the drink, it is also known as the ‘juice of the barley’.




A malt whisky is made by malting barley. By using only one grain for malting instead of a mixture of many grains, a single-malt whiskey can be made. Another type of whiskey is bourbon, in which corn comprises of more than half the grain used in its making. However this does not fully define bourbon. For bourbon it is necessary that the grain is distilled in Kentucky. This distinct alcohol is then left for a minimum of 36 months inside a charred white oak barrel to age and mature before it is brought in use. The alcohol content is as high as 160 proof after it has matured. It is mostly brought down between 80-100 proof before it is bottled. Sometimes the bourbon is sold at its cask strength which is normally 120 proof.




The Irish whiskey is often single-malt barley made entirely from barley. The Irish whiskey may also be a pure pot still made from a mixture of malted or unmalted barley. The mixture may include wheat or corn alcohols blended in barley. The Scotch whiskey is most commonly known as the Scotch everywhere. Malted barley from a single distillery is used to make the most expensive and demanded whiskey the single-malt Scotch. The blended malt Scotch is made by malted barley and may contain batches from other distilleries. The single grain Scotch Is made by blending different grains but from same distillery. And lastly the blended grain Scotch is made by different grains from different distilleries. Of all the Irish whiskeys, the single-malt whiskey is known to be of the highest strength.




Best Value Whiskeys


Whiskey is one of the most popular liquors. The burning sensation that it gives to a person is one that has earned it popularity and respect. The most popular are the Irish, Scotch, bourbon and Canadian classic spirits. These have been distilled for many years and are widely known for their best taste. These due to their huge popularity and classic tastes tend to get expensive; however one can also find a brand that tastes great yet is affordable. Following are some brands that are not too pricy and offer one of a kind taste:




’’’George Dickel’’’




George A. Dickel came up with a Tennessee variety but as it was’ as smooth as the finest Scotch’ it is called a Scotch whisky. Mr. Dickel had to compete with Jack Daniel- his whisky rival so he had to compete up with a whisky which beat him in quality. The Dickel whisky is priced at $20 to $ 25 per 750ml bottle. Hence it beats the Jack in price too.




’’’Ezra Brooks’’’




This brand renders 90 proof bourbon. Unfortunately the like named label Evan Williams outshines this brand hence making it under-appreciated. But the brand offers quality and great taste at a very low price of $10 to $15 per bottle. The Ezra bourbon brings the burning sensation to the person from mouth to stomach yet it does not suppress the great taste of the drink from showing up.




’’’Henry McKenna’’’




The Irishman Henry McKenna migrated in 1837 to Kentucky and brought with him the recipe of whisky with him. Hence the name of the bourbon sounds Irish. The ‘Kentucky’s finest Table Whiskey’ offers great taste and enjoys a better respect as compared to its counterparts which can be found at common restaurants’ and bars’ shelves. The bourbon comes at a very reasonable price of $10 to $15 yet it does not compromise on taste.




’’’Canadian Mist’’’




The Canadian Mist provides the best offer to a blue collar worker. Unlike other Canadian blends it is not too sweetened and gives a smooth taste. The calm and mellow taste provided by the Canadian mist comes in a very reasonable price of $10 to $12.




’’’Forty Creek’’’




Forty Creek has emerged as the most viable option for the youngsters who go for something edgier than usual. The Forty Creek is hard lined for a normal blended Canadian whisky yet it provides a great taste. The whisky is a bit expensive than other best value whiskies due to its irresistible taste and flavor. Despite its expensiveness it offers a cheap solution compared to its rival brands which are quite popular. Hence it has emerged as a challenge for them in the market.




Winners of the World Whiskies Awards


The Whiskey Magazine’s World Whiskies Awards awarded the title of ‘World’s Best’ to seven whiskies in the final round. Dave Broom, known as the international expert on whisky and an educator of fine whiskies throughout the world chaired the competition. The winners went through three rounds of blind testing before being declared as the victors. The World’s Best New Release was chosen in the final round of tasting. The categories in which the whiskies were judged were based on the production process of the whisky, blended whisky, malt whisky American whiskey, blended malt whisky and whisky liqueurs. Following are the winners of the competition:




World’s Best Single Malt Whisky




1. Ardbeg Corryvreckan




World’s Best Blended Malt Whisky




2. Taketsuru 21 Years Old




World’s Best Whisky Liqueur




3. Wild Turkey American Honey




World’s Best Blended Whisky




4. Hibiki 21 Years Old




World’s Best American Whisky




5. Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 proof




World’s Best Grain Whisky




6. Greenmore 15 Years Old




World’s Best New Release




7. Parker’s Heritage Collection Golden Anniversary




How is Whisky Made


Whisky is one of the most popular liquor known in the world and is being produced since hundreds of years. The drink comes with amazing different tastes, undertones and sensations. It is still unknown who invented this marvelous drink and the fight persists between the Scottish and the Irish. However both countries are known to produce great whiskies.




Now the question arises how this fantastic drink is made. Well the ingredient list is quite short for whiskies. Quality and great taste is added by a starch base. The Scotch and Irish whiskies use barley as the base. The whisky recipe consists of only water, grain and yeast. Grain is however the starch which must be malted.




The very initial step is the malting of the grain. The literal meaning of malting is beginning to grow again however the process used in making whisky involves the submersion of grain in water for a very long time period so that it is able to grow again. Then this is laid on a ‘malting floor’ beneath which a fire is lit to dry the grain. The Scottish uses the peat to dry out the grain. The peat is the compressed plant matter which is formed into cricks which are then burnt. The Scotch whisky is imparted with the distinctive feature of smoky notes because the peat gives off strong smoke. However the Irish whisky is less smoky because the grain used is a mixture of the malted and the unmalted grains which are not dried in the peat. Before the grain is put into the fermentation vessel known as the ‘mash tun’, it is dried and grounded into flour. In the fermentation vessel the grain is mixed with hot water and then the mixture is boiled so that the starch is turned into fermentable sugar.




The fermentation process is the initialization of the whisky making process. Here the yeast is left to ferment. The process gives off heat and carbon dioxide. The resultant is called the ‘wort’ 6-10 % alcohol which is commonly known as beer.




Now comes the distillation part. Here each distillery has its own unique shape and design. The liquid is poured into a copper still for distillation. The distillation mechanism lies on the simple theory of different boiling points of water and alcohol. Water boils at 100C while alcohol boils at 78.3C. This results in the earlier evaporation of alcohol leaving water behind. The alcohol evaporates into the copper still from where it draws its flavor and condenses back to its liquid form.




The distillation is performed twice for Scotch and thrice for Irish Whisky. The triple distillation process used by Irish whisky results in the softer yet less flavorful whisky.




Conventionally the Irish and the Scotch whiskies are aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years. To add flavor, color and character to the alcohol, it is aged in the charred ex-bourbon white oak barrels. Some whiskies are added with additional flavor by putting them in sherry or pot barrels.




Tips for Drinking Whisky


Whisky has been popular among men for centuries and should be enjoyed to the fullest. And to do this a person must know how to fully appreciate a whisky’s flavor and aroma. For this a person must know the art of drinking it. Many people mix it with coke however the true essence lies in drinking it straight. A single-malt whisky should not be mixed with any soda if its true taste is to be discovered. A few drops of water would do justice and let you smell the fine aroma of a whisky. Follow the steps to enjoy the whisky in the true sense:




1. Pour the whisky into a sherry or wine glass. Don’t take shots so you would require a wide glass. Get a glass that has curves on the top, this will help trap the aroma of whisky and let you sip easily.




2. An ounce and a half is a good amount to start with. However you are free to pour as much as you like.




3. To feel your drink, tilt your glass and observe the drink sliding to one side. Swirl the glass to observe the whisky better. Observe how dense the drink is. A thicker drink would come with a different texture and would show signs of a drink with higher amount of alcohol in it.




4. Hold the glass up and observe it in light. Look for any variations in the drink. Particles in the drink would indicate a whisky of lower quality.




5. Now it’s time to add water to the drink. Addition of water would free the aromas and flavors of the drink. Clean water free of any impurities must be used. Water with chlorine in it would result in some other flavor. One may add any amount of water, from two spoons to an equal amount of whisky.




6. Now comes the part of ‘nosing’. This is when you may hold the glass close enough to your nose and inhale the aroma of the drink. Do not let the aroma burn your nose, just gradually inhale to feel the splendid smell of whisky. Try to identify all types of smells the whisky comes with.




7. Now take a sip. Swish it around in your mouth so that you may feel it by every bit of your tongue and so that you pick up all the flavors the whisky offers.




8. Now gulp down the drink from mouth down to your throat. Let the throat feel its warmth and repeat the process.




So by these simple steps you can enjoy every sip of whisky to its fullest and feel all the different unique flavors and aromas that it comes with.




Conclusion:


Whisky has been popular since ages and men and women alike enjoy the passionate drink. The unique tastes and aromas which the drink ahs to offer will never let its love die from the hearts of people. Every drop of the drink must be enjoyed to its fullest to feel the true essence of whisky.