Whiskey is a common distilled alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented grain. In the Gaelic language, whiskey translates to “water of life.” While there are many ways you can drink whiskey- neat, on the rocks, with sours, or as an Old Fashion- it is a spirit that is loved worldwide. There are many debates about the origin of whiskey, but one thing we know for sure is that regardless of where it’s from, it’s one of the world’s favorite spirit! There are 5 main regions where whiskey is distilled today, and this list will give you some insight on the different types of whiskeys that each region produces.
With the exception to a few, most all Irish whiskeys are triple distilled and made with unpeated malt. Because Irish whiskeys are made with pure malted barley that is rarely ever exposed to smoke, most Irish whiskeys will not have the “smoky” flavor. You’ll never find an Irish whiskey that was not produced in Ireland because it is written in their law that all Irish whiskey must be made and aged for a minimum of 3 years in their country!
Many people may not notice, but Scotch whisky is spelled without the “e.” While the reason for the different spelling is very controversial, the whisky still tastes great! Scotch has a very distinctive smoky flavor because it is made from barley that is dried over peat fire to treat their malt. Most Scotch whisky is usually distilled twice, although there are always exceptions. By law, anything labeled “Scotch” must be distilled and aged in Scotland for up to at least 3 years.
Like Scotch, whisky produced in Canada also drops the “e” vowel in its spelling. A good way of remembering the different spelling of whiskey vs. whisky is to look at the spelling of the region. Any region with an “e” in its name, such as Ireland, will produce “whiskey.” Any region without an “e” in its name, such as Japan, will produce whisky. Canadian whisky is made with malted rye as the grain. There is no general number of times for distillation associated with Canadian whisky but Canadian law requires it to be aged in wood barrels with a capacity limit of 185 gallons for at least 3 years.
Kentucky is well known for their bourbon whiskey. Bourbon is distilled in wooden barrels and made mostly of corn. Bourbon is famous for it’s sweeter flavor, which make it a popular whiskey used in cooking. There is no specific time requirement for the aging period of bourbon, although anything labeled “straight bourbon” refers to whiskey aged less than 4 years.
Straight bourbon is the main whiskey that is being produced in Tennessee. And although Tennessee is one of the main regions for whiskey, many counties in Tennessee prohibit the sale of alcohol! One thing you might notice is that many of the whiskey producers in Tennessee never label their product with “bourbon.” The reasoning behind this is unclear, but Tennessee whiskey sets itself apart from bourbon because it is filtered through vats of sugar maple charcoal. The maple charcoal gives Tennessee whiskey it’s distinctive sweet flavor that it is famous for.