Whisky is a spirit drink obtained by distillation from grain and matured in wooden casks for at least three years. The name whisky goes back to the 5th century. At that time Christian missionaries began to missionize Ireland and brought back from there technical equipment and the knowledge for the production of medicines and perfume.
Whisky is made from water, grain and yeast. As the mineral and peat content and the hardness of the water influence the quality of the whisky, a lot of attention is paid to the location when building new distilleries. Grain is the most important raw material in whisky production. Depending on the production process and the type of grain, grain is either malted or unmalted. Malt barley is the essential flavour enhancer in many whiskies. Only high quality grain is suitable for malting. There is a categorisation of grains into 9 grades, of which only grades 1-3 are suitable for malting. The final ingredient for whisky production is yeast. However, only a few types of yeast are suitable for whisky. The function of the yeast is to convert the sugar by metabolism into alcohol and other substances that add flavour to the whisky.
The long maturation in a wooden cask has a great influence on the taste of the whisky. The final taste depends on many different factors such as the type of wood, the geographical location of the warehouse, the microclimate and the length of the maturing process. While American whiskies are made in white oak casks, in Europe the European oak is used for whisky casks. For many malt whiskeys, the peak of the maturation is reached at an age of 10 - 15 years. During bottling, water is added to the whisky to achieve a common drinking strength, which is between 40% and 46%. However, undiluted bottlings, which are bottled directly in cask strength, are becoming increasingly popular. These whiskies are therefore much more intense and complex in flavour.
Whisky is not just whisky
There are different types of whisky worldwide, which differ in taste, origin and production process. Especially as a beginner the different terms can confuse you. A Scotch indicates Scottish origin. It must be produced in a Scottish distillery from malted barley and be aged for three years in oak casks in Scotland. When talking to whisky connoisseurs, there is often talk of single malts. These are whiskies that come from a single distillery and are made only from malted barley. On the other hand there are blended whiskies, which account for more than 90% of the Scotch whiskies sold. A blend consists of a mixture of sometimes more than 40 different distilleries. These are often enjoyed in longdriniks and cocktails. Well-known brands such as Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, Ballantine's, Grant's enjoy great popularity among blends worldwide. American whiskies are often referred to as Bourbon. In the case of bourbon, the grain must consist of at least 51% corn, the rest may be supplemented by any other grain. Bourbon matured for at least two years may be called straight bourbon. Most bourbons mature for at least four years in the barrel and may be produced anywhere in the USA.