If you’re a whiskey enthusiast, you probably already know what you prefer. But if you’re new to whiskey, you may want to dig a little deeper and discover the nuances in flavors that distinguish one type of whiskey from another.
Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from different grains that have been mashed, fermented, and then aged in wooden casks. When whiskey is spelled with an “e,” it means it’s been distilled in the U.S. or Ireland. Whisky without an “e” is distilled in Scotland and Canada.
The differences between the types of whiskey are due to their various ingredients and the processes by which they’re made.
Irish whiskey is required to include malted barley and may include other unmalted cereal grains. This results in four different types of Irish whiskey: Malt, Pot Still, Grain and Blended. Irish whiskey is light with fruity flavors. You’ll notice floral and vanilla scents in a younger Irish whiskey, while those that have been aged longer contain more oak and caramel flavors. Young Irish whiskey is a good place to start for someone who is new to whiskey drinking.
A fermented mash of grain, yeast, and water is distilled to create Bourbon whiskey. The mash must contain a minimum of 51% corn. Rye, malted barley, and wheat are added for flavor. Bourbon is typically sweeter tasting than other whiskeys and features flavors of caramel, oak, and vanilla.
Tennessee whiskey must meet some pretty stringent requirements to be labeled as such. First, it must be manufactured in Tennessee. Next, it must be made from at least 51% corn, distilled to no more than 160 proof, and aged in newly charred oak barrels. Finally, it can be no more than 125 proof when it’s placed in the barrel and bottled at no less than 80 proof. Its flavors are often described as tasting like a lighter version of Bourbon with a hint of burnt wood.
At least 51% of the mash used to create Rye whiskey must be rye. The remainder is typically malted barley or corn. Rye whiskey boasts flavors of peppers and grass with notes of oak, smoke, or fruit. It has a spicy finish and is considered more savory than Bourbon.
Just as the name implies, Blended whiskey is a culmination of blending different types of whiskeys with other grain spirits. Blended whiskey can contain corn, rye, and even wheat as a base. Flavors will vary depending on the grains used and the length of aging.
What Are the Best Whiskey Drinks To Make?
Combine just a few ingredients to craft cocktails that bring out the best in the flavors and complexities of your favorite whiskey.
1-1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
3/4-ounce coffee liqueur
3/4-ounce Irish cream liqueur
4-5 ounces freshly brewed coffee
Combine Irish whiskey, coffee liqueur, and Irish cream liqueur on a mug. Fill with coffee and stir. Top with whipped cream.
2 ounces Bourbon whiskey
3/4-ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4-ounce simple syrup
1/2 orange slice
Combine Bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and shake for 20 seconds. Strain the cocktail into an ice-filled glass and garnish with orange and cherry.
Tennessee Whiskey Highball
2 ounces Tennessee whiskey
2 ounces fresh lemon sour
3 dashes orange bitters
Chilled dry ginger ale
Pour whiskey, lemon sour, and orange bitters into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake until blended. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass, top off with ginger ale and garnish with an orange slice.
2 teaspoons simple syrup
1 teaspoon water
2 dashes bitters
1 cup ice
1-1/2 ounces Rye whiskey
1 orange slice
Combine simple syrup, water, and bitters in a whiskey glass and stir. Add ice, then pour in whiskey and garnish with orange and cherry.
1-ounce Blended whiskey
5 ounces Dr. Pepper soda
1/2-ounce grenadine syrup
Combine ingredients over ice in a highball glass and stir.