Written by Puff Staff

Saturday, 11 February 2012

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whiskyleadpicWhat goes better with a good cigar than a glass of your favorite whiskey? While some types of alcoholic beverages come and go (flavored vodka, anyone?) whiskey is a classic that will never go out of style. This most American of libations may bring forth an image of a rugged cowboy sidling up to the saloon bar to ask for a bourbon with branch water, or a sophisticated man-about-town sipping scotch in a posh lounge. The current interest in whiskeys has been piqued by vintage TV shows like “Mad Men” and “Boardwalk Empire,” where the booze flows so freely it’s a surprise anyone gets any work done. And while whiskey has long been considered a “man’s drink,” now the ladies are getting in on the fun, so don’t be surprised if your next date orders a shot of Jack rather than a glass of wine.



Whiskey tends to be an acquired taste, but numerous rich and diverse flavors are available. There are several types of whiskey, and what they all have in common is being distilled from fermented grain mash. What makes the varieties different is the grain used. Both bourbon and corn whiskey are distilled from corn, bourbon being made from a mash of at least 51% corn, while corn whiskey comes from a mash that is at least 80% corn. Corn whiskey is also known as moonshine or white lightning, when it’s distilled illegally. Corn whiskey was very popular during Prohibition (1919-1933), because it was so easy to make, and because it was about all you could get back then. While it’s still pretty easy to make, it’s also still illegal, so we don’t recommend turning your basement into a moonshine still. Unlike the other whiskeys, corn whiskey does not require aging. Corn whiskey that has been aged in an oak barrel for at least six months is known as Tennessee whiskey. The world’s best selling Tennessee whiskey is Jack Daniel’s.

Bourbon is the sweetest of the whiskeys, which probably why it’s the best-selling variety. Bourbon is literally the all-American libation, since it must be distilled in the U.S., must be aged in new white oak barrels and cannot have added flavoring, coloring or filtration. The top bourbon brands are Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark.



Rye whiskey is made from a mash that is at least 51% rye, while rye malt whiskey comes from a mash of at least 51% malted rye. Wheat whiskey is distilled from a mash that is at least 51% wheat, while malt whiskey comes from a mash that is at least 51% malted wheat. After falling from favor for several decades, rye whiskeys have rebounded in recent years, with popular brands being Wild Turkey and Old Overholt, as well as some lesser-known, smaller labels like Black Maple Hill Single Barrell.

Most Scotch whiskies are single malts that have been distilled and matured in Scotland for a period of at least three years in oak barrels. The finest Scotch whiskies are single malts, which have been produced at one distillery using only malted barley and distilled in copper pot stills. The result is a whisky that is expensive, but has its own unique personality. Less expensive, but much more popular are blended scotches, like Johnny Walker, Chivas Regal, Dewar’s, and Cutty Sark. Blended scotches tend to be smoother than most single malts because they are created by combining several single malts, and the advantages of one can make up for the shortcomings of another.




+1 # Tennessee WhiskeyDean 2012-02-19 22:35
It's not the oak barrels that set Tennessee whiskey apart from other whiskeys. Technically, it's the fact that the whiskey is made in Tennessee. However, the most recognizable difference, at least between the major distillers (Jack Daniel's and George Dickel), is the process of filtering the distilled whiskey through vats of maple charcoal. It's this process that gives Tennessee whiskey the distinct flavor for which they are known. I'm not sure the smaller distillers now out there (like Pritchard's) complete this process during their whiskey production.

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0 # RE: A Gentleman’s Guide to Fine WhiskeysDan32 2013-03-10 17:41
Jameson is the Jack Daniels of Irish Whiskey. Saying that it's a favorite of true Irish whiskey lovers is insulting them en masse.

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