Whiskey is a popular spirit used in many cocktails, but also commonly enjoyed alone or mixed simply. With a higher alcohol level than beer or wine and a stronger taste than vodka or rum, whiskey is considered by many to be an acquired taste. However, for those who appreciate it, no spirit can surpass the depth of flavour of a high-quality whiskey.
What is Whiskey Anyway?
Whiskey (also spelt whisky) is a broad category of liquor, which includes Scotch, bourbon, Canadian whiskey, Tennessee whiskey and many other types of spirits. Whiskey is made from grain, much like beer. In fact, at its simplest, whiskey is much like a highly-distilled version of beer—without the hops. The different types and brands of whiskeys are made from different grains and using different techniques, which is how the various flavour profiles can be created.
Types and Brands of Whiskey
While there are many different types of whiskey on the market today, four of the most popular include:
- Scotch – Johnnie Walker and Ballantine’s are the two brands familiar to many who don’t even drink Scotch themselves. Like all liquors, dozens of brands, ranging from budget-friendly shelf liquors to top-name brands, cost much more than fine wine.
- Bourbon – Three of the popular brands of bourbon you’ll find in most bars are Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Wild Turkey. Bourbon is also popularly used in cooking so you may find types designed strictly for use in the kitchen.
- Canadian whiskey – Crown Royal and Canadian Club are two popular options, but this category is growing by leaps and bounds. Canadian whiskey is very popular right now.
- Tennessee whiskey – Jack Daniel’s is synonymous with Tennessee whiskey. However, there are smaller manufacturers producing whiskey in the same style too.
Whiskey, especially Scotch and Bourbon, is very popularly enjoyed alone. Some people prefer room-temperature whiskey, while others prefer an ice cube or two to mellow out the flavour a bit. Mixing Whiskey with soda or another simple mixer is also popular, such as in a Jack and Coke or a whiskey sour. Canadian whiskey is popularly enjoyed with ginger ale or a lemon-lime soda. More complex whiskey drinks include the “old-fashioned” Manhattan and mint julep among others.
Whiskey Storage Basics
Bottled Whiskey will keep indefinitely if stored in a cool, dark place (such as a basement or interior storage unit. Store it upright and ensure it is protected from bumps and knocks, and you have nothing to worry about! Once you’ve opened a bottle, you will need to take a few precautions to keep your whiskey tasting fresh. If possible, try to use it within a few months of opening, as the flavour profile and alcohol level will change over time. Secondly, always seal it tightly between use. Finally, do continue to store in a dry, cool location.
Whiskey is a very interesting spirit that can range in flavour from simple and smooth to exceedingly flavorful and complex- even with its own set of superstitions! Understanding the differences is the key to making pleasing drinks and serving the right beverage to the right customer.