Whiskey is more than just an alcoholic beverage — it’s a great example of how different cultures take something and make it distinctly their own. For instance, a Japanese whiskey was named the best single malt at the 2018 World Whiskies Awards, beating well-loved brands from the US, UK, and Scotland.
The liquor is made from fermented and distilled malted grain mash. It’s then aged in charred oak barrels, which gives whiskey its distinct amber color and woody aroma. Most distilleries use white oak, although any type can be used.
Whiskey, or whisky as the Scots and Brits spell it, comes in many forms — bourbon, scotch, and rye are just the tip of the iceberg.
Bourbon is a proudly US-made whiskey, with its name taken from the “Old Bourbon” area in Kentucky. It’s made from at least 51% distilled corn mash and (by US law) must be aged in charred oak casks without any additives.
Bull Creek Distillery, a local restaurant, bar, and bourbon distillery in Kansas, describes premium bourbon as one with the essence and aroma of hardy American Oak. Moreover, bourbon has a characteristically sweet and smoky taste.
Scotch is simply whisky distilled and aged in Scotland. Apart from its geographic origin, its main difference from bourbon lies in its ingredients. Rather than using a corn mash base, scotch is made of malted barley and matured in oak barrels for at least three years. The five different regions of Scotland lend distinct flavors to their products.
Scotch has a richer taste compared to bourbon. Its powerful oaky and fruity notes, signature smokiness, and lingering “bite” as it goes down makes scotch an acquired taste.
Rye whiskey can refer to two different kinds of whiskey — Canadian whisky (without an “e”) and American rye whiskey.
Canadian rye whisky, despite its name, is often made with corn as the major ingredient plus a variety of other grains, including rye. Its taste echoes that of bourbon’s, although distinctly understated and smoother. American rye whiskey, on the other hand, is made from at least 51% distilled rye and tastes like a spicier and grainier bourbon.
American whiskey, along with Scottish and Canadian whiskies, have their unique charms and appeal to different kinds of people, making it a favorite at bars and gatherings. Whether its bourbon, scotch, rye — there’s a type for nearly anyone.