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Whiskey – What’s The Difference

Where did the name Whiskey come from?  Whiskey can be traced back to the monks of Ireland and Scotland, who, in the quest to produce a rejuvenating “water of life” first used grains in their alchemic distillation techniques, since the grapes of warmer climates weren’t available to them.[1]  Whiskey was known as the Gaelic word uisgebeatha meaning the “water of life”.  The word “whisk” (Scotch: quhiske) means to move away rapidly, to go lightly.  The King’s law required that all liquors were to be transported in casks of sixty gallons or more.  Taxes were than levied on the liquor.  Whiskey smugglers therefore used small one-horse “whiskey” in which they could hide a cask of five or ten gallons of liquor, allay suspicion and, if need be, whisk or travel swiftly away.  In time, the liquor sold by smugglers riding their light “whiskey” took on the name form the mode of transportation.  Undoubtedly, customers seeing the approaching “whiskey” would say, “Here comes the whiskey!”[2]

Types of Whiskey:

Neutral Spirit: Any spirit distilled at 190 proof or higher; should contain no noticeable aroma, flavor or character.

Whiskey - A spirituous liquor distilled from fermented mash of cooked grains.  Distilled between 95 and 190 proof.

Whisky - The spelling used by Scotch whiskies where whiskey is primarily the spelling used by United States and Irish distilleries.  However, several U.S. brands use the spelling of Whisky. They are Maker’s, Old Forester and Early Times.  Countries such as Canada, India, Japan, Spain and Turkey use this spelling.

Straight Whiskey - A whiskey made from at least 51% of one type of grain, distilled at between 95 and 160 proof, aged at no more than 125 proof for a minimum of two years in charred new oak barrels and bottled at a minimum of 80 proof.  If aged at for less than four years, its age must be stated on the label.  No coloring or flavoring added.

Bourbon Whiskey (Straight)  - Distilled at between 95 and 160 proof. Made with at least 51% nor more than 80% corn, either wheat or rye, and malted barley or malted rye, aged in new charred oak barrels[3] at no more than 125 proof for at least 2 years.  Bottled at not less than 80 proof.  No coloring or flavoring may be added.  Also, must be made in the United States.

Rye Whiskey (Straight) - Distilled at between 95 and 160 proof.  Made with at least 51% rye, corn and malted barley, aged in new charred oak barrels at no more than 125 proof for at least 2 years.  Bottled at not less than 80 proof.  No coloring or flavoring may be added.

Corn Whiskey - Made with at least 80% corn, if aged at all it is aged in used or un-charred oak barrels.

Blended Whiskey - Straight whiskey, which has been blended with neutral grain spirits (high proof alcohol), wine and other additives. A blend of which at least 20% is 100 proof straight whiskey.

Blended Bourbon or Blended Rye Whiskey - 51% Straight bourbon or rye whiskey.

Tennessee Whiskey (straight) - - Distilled at between 95 and 160 proof. Made with at least 51% nor more than 80% corn, either wheat or rye, and malted barley or malted rye, aged in new charred oak barrels[4] at no more than 125 proof for at least 2 years.  Bottled at not less than 80 proof.  No coloring or flavoring may be added.  The whiskey is filtered through a minimum of 10 feet of sugar-maple charcoal before being placed in a barrel. 

“Bottled in Bond” whiskey - Made at one distillery, bottled at 100 proof, must have been aged at least for 4 years and must be straight whiskey.

Sour Mash – Whiskey made with a portion of the mash after being distilled is saved and put back into the fermenters as backset for producing the next batch of mash.  A process developed by Dr. James C. Crow about 1840 to provide uniformity in bourbon production.  Today almost all bourbon is made with a sour mash with is more stable and less prone to spoilage.

Sweet Mash – Whiskey made form a mash of grains that is fermented using fresh yeast only, without the addition of any backset.

Single Barrel Whiskey – Whiskey drawn form a one barrel that has not been mingled with any other whiskey.

Single Malt Whiskey – Malt whiskey made from a single distillery. 

Small Batch Whiskey – A product of mingling select barrels of whiskey that have matured into a specific style.

Scotch Whiskey - Scotch Whisky: The distinctive national whisky of Scotland. Single Malt Scotches are made entirely from malted barley and are the product of a single distillery. Blended Scotch Whiskies are a mixture of several different malt whiskys, plus grain whisky

Irish Whiskey - The distinctive national whiskey of Ireland. Most Irish whiskey is a blend of several whiskeys of different ages. Malted barley, unmalted barley, and other grains such as rye and corn are used.

Canadian Whiskey – A distinctive national whiskey of Canada. Whiskey that is principally made with wheat and rye is another predominant grain used.  Canadian distillers are not under the same legal restrictions as the U.S. in distilling whiskey.  Canadian whiskeys are blends of whiskeys and blending can occur after distillation, during aging and after aging. A distinctive national whisky of Canada. All Canadian Whisky sold in the U.S. contains a high percentage of rye, as well as barley, corn, and wheat.

Federal Excise Tax - A tax computer on the alcohol content of distilled spirit products and levied on the manufacturer or importer, and passed on through the distribution channel to customers.

Other Whiskey Terms:

Angel's Share - The portion of the whiskey that evaporates from the barrel during the aging process. Typically around 2%, by volume, evaporates per year.

Booze – The nickname came from a Philadelphia distiller name E.C. Booz, often mistakenly taken for the eponym of the modern term “booze,” had his name, address and the date 1840 blown into his dark brown-and-green quart container.  Booz bottles were shaped like little houses, with a sharp peaked roof.[5]

Bootlegger – The term “bootlegger” most probably dates to the Civil War when peddlers who sold illicit bottles of booze to soldiers are said to have hidden the bottles in the tops of their boots.[6]

White Dog - Un-aged distillate, just as it comes from the still, is colorless. Also known as "green whiskey" or "high wine."

Red Dog or Red Eye -

Fire Copper - a term used in the late 1800's to describe a “sweet mash” whiskey.

Double Distilled - Most distilleries take the output from the still and pass it through a second still called a “doubler” or through a similar device called a “thumber” to increase the proof of the whiskey.

Proof – The scale, measured in degrees, used to denote alcohol content; in the United Stated, 200° is equal to 100% alcohol. The term ''proof '' means that liquid which contains one-half its volume of ethyl alcohol of a specific gravity of 0.7939 at 60 degrees Fahrenheit (referring to water at 60 degrees Fahrenheit as unity).

Proof Gallon – One gallon of alcohol at 100° proof.

Mash - Liquid composed of ground-up grain mixed with boiling water. This extracts soluble starch, which is converted into maltose by the enzyme amylase.  the liquid is drained from the mash tub and fermented into wart.

Wart or Beer - the liquid that goes into the still.

Mashbill - The grain recipe used to make whiskey

Still - An apparatus, usually made of copper, in  which the distiller's beer is purified by means of hearing the liquid to at least 176 degrees Fahrenheit, but less than 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Because alcohol boils at a temperature lower than water, the alcohol can be evaporated, collected and condensed and thus separated from the water that makes up part of the mash.

Beer - A general term for all fermented malt beverages flavored with hops. A low level (6 to 12 percent) alcohol solution derived from the fermentation of mash by microorganisms.

Beer Still - The stripping section of a distillation column for concentrating ethanol.

Rectifying Column - The portion of a distillation column above the feed tray in which rising vapor is enriched by interaction with a countercurrent falling stream of condensed vapor.

Stripping Column - The section of the distillation column in which the alcohol concentration in the starting beer solution is decreased. This section is below the beer injection point.

Stripping Section - The section of a distillation column below the feed in which the condensate is progressively decreased in the fraction of more volatile component by stripping.

Barrel - A liquid measure equal to 42 American gallons or about 306 pounds; one barrel equals 5.6 cubic feet or .159 cubic meters; for crude oil, one barrel is about .136 metric tons, .134 long tons, and .150 short tons.

Whiskey Chart:


 

Differences In Whiskeys:

Brand

Corn

Rye

Wheat

Barley Malt

Distillation Proof

Barrel Proof

Barrel Char

Backset

1*

2*

Rye Types                    

I.W. Harper  Bernhein Dist.

86%

6%

0%

8%

140

125

#3

25%

T

3S,A

Ancient Age

80%

10%

0%

10%

135

125

#3

33%

D

2S,P

Early Times

79%

11%

0%

10%

140

125

#3

20%

T

3S,P

Wathens Ky Medley Dist. 77% 10% 0% 13% 133 117 #3 27% D  

Barton            (Tom Moore)

75%

15%

0%

10%

135

125

#3

20%

D

1S,A

Heaven Hill

75%

13%

0%

12%

138

125

#3

25%

D

3S,P

Wild Turkey

75%

13%

0%

12%

125

107

#4

33%

D

3S,A

Old Forester Early Times Dist.

72%

18%

0%

10%

140

125

#3

20%

T

3S,P

Jim Beam

?

?

?

?

125

125

#4

41%

D

3S,A

Four Roses

?

?

?

?

143

120

#3.5

25%

D

3S

Virginia Gentleman 65% 20% 0% 15% ? 125 #2 ? D ?
Wheat Types                    

Kentucky Tavern

75%

0%

20%

5%

130

112

#3

25%

T

3S,A

W.L. Weller Bernheim Dist. 75% 0% 20% 5%

140

125

#3

25%

T

3S,A

Maker’s Mark

70%

0%

16%

14%

130

110

#3

32%

D

3S,A

                     
Tennessee Whiskey                    

Jack Daniel’s

80%

8%

0%

12%

140

118

#3

20%

T

3S,A

George Dickel

80%

12%

0%

8%

130

115

#3

25%

D

3S,A

                     

(The data for the above came from "the Book of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys" by Gary Regan & Mardee Haidin Regan, 1995)

1*        Whiskey is redistilled a second and sometimes a third time to increase its alcohol content or proof.  Re-distillation is accomplished by using either a Doubler (D) or Thumper (T).  A Doubler is a second distillation column similar to the primary distillation column.  A Thumper is a doubler containing water through which the low wine vapors (weak alcohol) are bubbled to produce high wine (strong alcohol).  The Thumper gets its name from the thumping noise it makes.

2*        3S stands for 3-Step process, and the A stands for atmospheric tanks where as the P stands for pressurized tanks.  The three-step process describes the traditional practice of cooking the grains.  This involves cooking the corn at high temperature, allowing the mask to cool a little before the rye or wheat is added and cooked and then allowing it to cool some more before adding and cooking the malted barley.  Some distillers use a one or two-step process for cooking the mash.

Whiskey Tasting Notes:

NOSE

MOUTH

OVERALL

Ancient Age, 80°

 

 

Vanilla, oaky, hint of honey

 

 

Very Old Barton, 6 yr, 80°

 

 

Oak, hint of vanilla, light fruitiness

Medium body, spicy-hot                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

[1]  “The Book of Bourbon and other great whiskeys” by Gary and Mardee Regan

[2]  “ Whiskey, An American Pictorial History” by Oscar Getz

[3]  The use of barrels for aging bourbon was discovered by accident.  In the early days of Kentucky farmers produced a lot of corn and shipped the un-aged whiskey to market rather than shipping the corn itself.  Much of the whiskey was shipped down the Ohio River to New Orleans.  The early shippers reused fish barrels that they burnt out the insides as a means of cleaning the barrels.  They then filled the barrels with whiskey and loaded the barrels onto flat boats on the Ohio.  Word came back from New Orleans that the whiskey was much improved, thus began the use of barrels.

[4]  The use of barrels for aging bourbon was discovered by accident.  In the early days of Kentucky farmers produced a lot of corn and shipped the un-aged whiskey to market rather than shipping the corn itself.  Much of the whiskey was shipped down the Ohio River to New Orleans.  The early shippers reused fish barrels that they burnt out the insides as a means of cleaning the barrels.  They then filled the barrels with whiskey and loaded the barrels onto flat boats on the Ohio.  Word came back from New Orleans that the whiskey was much improved, thus began the use of barrels.

            [5] “The Social History of Bourbon” by Gerald Carson, 1963

            [6]  “The Book of Bourbon and other great whiskeys” by Gary and Mardee Regan