Everything you need to know about whisky but were too afraid to ask…
If you know us already, you’ll know that when we’re not talking about wine, we’re talking about whisky! We have a fair few connoisseurs come through the doors who know exactly what they want, and come to us because they know we’ll have it, but what about the rest of us?! We set out to find the answers we all secretly want to know, but have been too afraid to ask for too long!
Why do I see both ‘whisky’ and ‘whiskey’ around?
Put simply, whisky is Scottish and whiskey is Irish. It’s said that the Scots (and Canadians) used the word ‘whisky’, but the Irish found ‘whiskey’ to be closer to Gaelic, which is probably why they adopted this spelling in the States too! You can read more in detail here.
What about whiskeys and whiskies?!
Fun fact, whiskeys is the plural of whiskey and whiskies is the plural of whisky. So confusing we need a wee dram…
How is whisky/whiskey made?
Depends on the type! In Scotland, each whisky begins with grain, usually barley, but also wheat and rye. These grains and turned into malts by adding water to break down the grain’s starchy structure. When yeast is added to this starch it produces alcohol.
The grains are turned into malts during kilning – where they are dried over peat. This is what gives each whisky it’s smoky profile, depending on the quality and intensity of the peat. Once fermented, the whisky is double or triple filtered, then laid down in second-hand oak casks for 10-50 years.
For whiskeys and bourbon, the process is slightly different. A bourbon must be contain at least 51% corn, distilled at 160 proof or less and be aged in a new charred oak barrel. Irish whiskey undergoes a triple distillation, and uses kiln-dried, raw and malted barley. Another key differential is that Irish whiskey is produced by ‘vatting’ rather than ‘blending’ – blends are a combination of different single malts AND grain whiskies, while vattings are a combination of different single malts.
So are older whiskys better?
Quite often, yes, but not always! It’s important to note that two different ages of the same brand won’t be the same but older – for example a Macallan 12 and a Macallan 18 will be completely different blends. It simply means that the youngest whisky in that blend is 12 or 18. So taste plays a greater role in preference.
What about whisky from elsewhere?
Whilst traditionally Scottish and Irish, whisky production has extended around the globe, from France to Spain, India to Japan. Japanese whisky in particular, crafted in the Scotch style, have begun to receive some notoriety in recent years.
Where should I start?
Pop into Baedeker and we’ll be more than happy to give you a few suggestions. Keep an eye out for our whisky tasting nights too! Here’s a few of our favourites that you can find at Baedeker right now;
The Balvenie Rum Cask 14 Year Old
A new Balvenie, matured for 14 years in traditional oak casks before being transferred to Caribbean rum casks. To create the ideal finish, Balevenie filled American oak casks with his a blend of select West Indian rums, then when ready, the rum was replaced with the 14 year old spirit and the wood was put to work.
Ardbeg An Oa
The first addition to Ardbeg’s ongoing range for a decade when introduced in 2017, An Oa is a combination of spirit aged in Pedro-Ximenez sherry casks and bourbon barrels, that is rounded and smoky with notes of toffee, aniseed, date and banana.
A Japanese single grain malt whisky from the Chita distillery. This is a whisky matured in a combination of Sherry, bourbon and (interestingly) wine casks. Good whisky for the summer months.
Bruichladdich Islay Barley
Bruichladdich are convinced that the origin of barley affects flavour, as does climatic variation, much like a fine wine. The Islay barley series comes from varieties planted in different parts of the island, each creating a distinctly different flavour profile.
The Pogues Irish
Dubbed the official Irish whiskey of the legendary band, this blended whiskey is sweet and intense with notes of malt and cracked nuts. Crafted in small batches, using only barley and spring water from the Emerald Isles, it has a deliciously smooth taste that’s bold and brave.