Let’s start with the spelling. You’ll see both spellings – whiskey and whisky – and both are considered correct. There are a couple of schools of thought on the spelling, and it really depends on whom you ask. In Ireland and here in the U.S., whiskey is the most common spelling, while it is “whisky” in other whiskey-producing countries such as Scotland. Clear as mud, right?
Whisky/whiskey is made from fermented grain mash – and like beer – is distilled. It’s the type of grain used, distillation process, and casks used for aging that make each whiskey unique. Many countries make whiskey, although some types are more well-known than others.
Types of Whisky/Whiskey
When it comes to regions where whiskey is distilled, there are five main regions: Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey, Kentucky (Bourbon), Canadian Whiskey, and Tennessee Whiskey.
- Scotch Whisky – To be called Scotch, it must be 100 percent made in Scotland. Scotch is made from malted Barley and aged no less than three years in oak casks.
- Irish Whiskey – Must be from Ireland, and aged at least three years in wooden casks.
- Bourbon – Named after Bourbon County, Kentucky, and made from at least 51 percent corn. To be called Bourbon, it must be made in the United States, be aged in new oak charred barrels, distilled to more than 160-proof, entered into the barrel at 125-proof, bottled at not less than 80 proof, and lastly may not contain any added flavoring, coloring or additives.
- Tennessee Whiskey – Bourbon made in Tennessee.
- Rye Whiskey – This is one of the hottest types of Whiskey now trending. Let’s call it the Rye Revival. It has a bit of a spice flavor. Canada has been producing Rye has a long time – some say as nearly as long as it’s been a country. In the US, American Rye has become a favorite for cocktails including the beloved Old-Fashioned. And, yes, it’s made mostly of rye.
Mountain Dew, the soft drink, was originally created in Tennessee to be a whiskey chaser.
George Washington was a whiskey man. His distillery produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey in 1799 – making him the largest America whiskey producer at the time.
Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers, may be popular now due to the Tony-Award winning smash Broadway hit, Hamilton, but he wasn’t so popular with some farmers in western Pennsylvania. They rebelled against the liquor tax proposed by the then Secretary of the Treasury and it’s even known as the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.
Whiskey dates back to 1000-1200, when distillation spread from continental Europe to Irish and Scottish monasteries. Unable to access grapes for wine, local distilleries focused their efforts on the fermenting of grain mash, creating the first modern whiskey.