Whiskey: Bourbon versus Scotch

008The spelling of the word itself is debated, whiskey or whisky, with whiskey with an “e”, usually referring to Irish or American whiskies, while whisky, without the “e”, is used by pretty much every other country, especially Canada and Scotland. Whiskey comes in a multitude of varieties, each with their own particular flavor. Two of the most popular types of whiskey are bourbon and Scotch. Whiskey can also be categorized as single malt whiskey, blended whiskey, or single-barrel whiskey. All types of whiskey are made from a fermented grain mash. Different types of whiskey use different types of grains, like barley, malted barley, rye, wheat, and corn. After being distilled, whiskey is usually aged in wooden barrels, which are often made from charred white oak.

Bourbon is an American whiskey that is made from a mash that consists of at least 51% corn. Other American whiskies include corn whiskey, rye whiskey, and wheat whiskey, all of which get their name from being made from at least 51% of a particular grain. There are many regulations that American whiskies must comply with, such as they cannot be distilled more than 80% alcohol by volume and barreled at no more than 125 proof. If it is aged for two years or more, it is also labeled as straight, such as a straight bourbon whiskey.

Scotch whisky, like bourbon, has many regulations that it has to obey in order to be defined as Scotch whisky. It has to be produced at a distillery in Scotland and be made from water and malted barley, along with being matured in Scotland in oak casks for at least three years. Scotch must also have a minimum strength of 40% alcohol by volume. Within the Scotch whisky family, there are five different types, such as single malt and single grain Scotch whisky. These two basic types of Scotch whisky can then be blended to make: blended malt Scotch whisky (two or more single malt Scotch whiskies), blended grain Scotch whisky (two or more single grain Scotch whiskies), or a blended Scotch whisky (blend of one or more single malts with one or more single grains).

Scotch whiskies have a smoky taste that comes from drying the malted barley with peat smoke. This peat smoke gives Scotch its distinctive flavor. Bourbon on the other hand usually has a sweeter and smoother taste that comes from the corn used in its mash. Both of these types of whiskies make for a great drink. Next time you go out for a drink, try both and decide which one you like better. Leave me comment and let me know which kind of whiskey you prefer. Cheers!

Old Fashioned

The first recorded definition of the word “cocktail” was back in 1806, where it was described as a potent concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar. The popular spirit of the times was whiskey, particularly rye whiskey or bourbon coming in a close second. The combination of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar has stayed the same over the years and is essentially the recipe for the old fashioned cocktail.

Whiskey cocktails have become increasingly popular over the past few years, probably from people’s growing appreciation of flavorful drinks like whiskey, as opposed to vodka, and quite possibly from the huge popularity of the TV series Mad Men, where whiskey is the drink of choice. Among the variety of whiskey cocktails out there, the most popular ones are also the original ones, such as the whiskey sour, Manhattan, and of course the old fashioned.

The old fashioned is one of my favorite cocktails because it’s simple to make and it tastes just like a cocktail should taste with the sweetness of the sugar balanced by the bitters all combined with the rich flavor of a rye or bourbon whiskey. The traditional recipe for an old fashioned is:

2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
2 dashes aromatic bitters (Angostura bitters)
1 splash water
1 tsp sugar/1 sugar cube
1 maraschino cherry (optional)
1 orange wedge (optional)

Place the sugar in an old fashioned glass and saturate with bitters and add a dash of plain water. Then muddle until the sugar is dissolved. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add whiskey. Garnish with orange slice and a cocktail cherry. Instead of an orange slice, it is common to use an orange or lemon peel with a twist in the drink. Whether you use bourbon or rye whiskey, or an orange slice or a lemon peel, this is a great drink. This is the original cocktail and a delicious one at that so make sure to order one the next time you’re out at a bar. Cheers!

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