“Whisky, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink”. With these wise words from Japanese bestselling author Haruki Murakami, I welcome you to yet another Whisky Wednesday.
Last time I introduced you to the foundations of alcohol and how the substance that gets fermented determines what type of alcohol an individual is making.
Whisky like I told you, is basically made from fermenting grains. Today, I will take you through the one way of classifying Whisky i.e. where it is made. I will do my best to keep this as short as possible, I don’t want to bore you.
READ MORE: #WHISKYWEDNESDAY: How is Whisky made ??
Whisky is made in almost every part of the world, but there are 5 countries most popular for the stuff, and then there’s “the rest of the world”. These are the United States, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Japan.
Whisky from the United States is widely known as bourbon and is mostly produced in Kentucky. To make bourbon, the grains you ferment should be made up of at least 51% corn and must be aged in charred NEW-OAK barrels for at least 2 years. Apart from bourbon, the US also has Rye Whisky and Tennessee Whiskey.
Another popular type of whisky is that which comes from Scotland, commonly known as Scotch. Scotch is made from primarily malted barley that may or may not be combined with other grains (this is a whole other domain for classifying scotch). The stuff needs to be aged for at least 3 years in oak casks (usually already used ones from America).
As we are on the subject of classification according to the origin, it will be good to add that scotch is further divided into 5 regions: Campbeltown, Highland, Islay (pronounced “eye-la”), Lowland and Speyside. Islay like Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg is best known to be peated and then there are more famous ones like Macallan, Glenlivet and Glen Fiddich which are Speyside bad boys.
From Scotland, we move to Ireland. Basically, the same as scotch, the Irish pride themselves in being smoother than scotch. This is due to their “triple distillation” method they so love. If you want an example of Irish whiskey, look no further than the famous Jameson.
Canadian whiskey, though not globally popular is still respected, especially in America. It is shaped by two things, Rules and Rye. Rye was one of the few crops that survived Canada’s harsh winters and by default became the basic ingredient of Canadian whiskey. Canadian whiskey thus became synonymous to Rye whiskey. They became popular when a lot of chokeholds were put on whisky production in America.
Like Canadian whisky, Japanese whisky is also not a global phenomenon but is highly respected in the whisky world. Most reviewers compare it to scotch but also note the complexities and bold customizations distillers added to it. There are other popular whisky brands from all over the world yet to be discovered. Personal exploration so far has mainly been with American whisky and scotch, as well as a few introductions to Irish whisky. Your own journey might be along different lines as you go out and taste them. The most important thing is finding what you like and enjoying it.
WRITTEN BY AKWASI AWUAH