Consumption of Whiskey in the US has been on the rise. Similar to what we’ve seen in the craft beer space, there has been a renaissance of craft whiskey over the past decade. Below, the different types of whiskey are described and a recipe for a classic Manhattan cocktail is provided.
What is whiskey? Technically its a distilled alcohol beverage made from fermented grain mash. The mash typically is aged in wood casks. The wood casks provide the alcohol with it’s brown color and also affects its flavor.
Whiskey or Whisky? Both. Generally, it’s “whiskey” in the U.S. and “whisky” outside U.S.
What are the common types of whiskey? Bourbon, Rye, Canadian Whisky, Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey. The rules of what makes each type of whiskey is set forth in a set of rules, some of which are codified into laws.
What is Bourbon? All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. Whiskey made of mash at least 51% of which is corn. Also, the mixture must be aged in new charred oak containers and cannot contain any additives. It must be distilled at no more than 160 proof and bottled at no less than 80 proof. Bourbon can only be made in America. The detailed requirements are found in federal statute called The Federal Standards of Identity for Bourbon. Popular brands: Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Four Roses, Woodford Reserve.
How about Tennessee Whiskey? It’s basically bourbon, but is filtered through charcoal before going into the wood casks. Popular brands: Jack Daniels, George Dickel.
What is Scotch Whisky? To qualify as Scotch Whisky the alcohol must be produced and distilled in Scotland using water and malted barley but may also contain some other grains. Enzymes cannot be used to convert starch into sugar.
What is Single-Malt Scotch? There’s a lot of confusion here. What this means is that all the whisky in the bottle is from a single distillery. It doesn’t mean that it’s not blended – single malts are usually produced by blending whiskies from different barrels produced within a single distillery. Common examples are The Macallan, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, etc. “Blended Scotch Whisky” like Dewars, Johnny Walker and Chivas, are blends from multiple distilleries.
Note that there are some very fine malts that are produced outside of Scotland (and thus cannot be called “Scotch”). Notably, some Japanese Malts rival the best Scotches, such as Yamazaki and Hibiki. Some American distillers also make fine malts
What is Rye Whiskey? Rye whiskey, like its name suggests, is a whiskey that is distilled from at least 51% rye. What is rye? Rye is a type of grass that is a member of the wheat tribe and closely related to barley. Rye is the underlying ingredient in many whiskey cocktails such as Manhattan and Old Fashioned – but both can be made with bourbon as well. Common brands: Templeton Rye, Bulleit Rye, Rittenhouse, High West.
How About Irish Whiskey? First thing to know – it’s only made on the island of Ireland. There are numerous technical requirements relating to proof, coloring and mix of malted and unsalted grains. Like scotch it’s made of barley but can contain other grains. Popular brands: Bushmills, Jameson
Finally, Canadian Whisky? Unlike bourbon, scotch and Irish whiskey, there are few rules governing what constitutes Canadian Whisky. Basically, it has to be whiskey that’s produced in Canada and aged in 700-liter wood barrels for a minimum of three years. What’s distilled, how it’s distilled, and what variety of cask it’s aged in is up to the producer. Usually, corn and rye are used. Popular brands: Seagram VO, Crown Royal, Canadian Club.
There you have it. Here’s how to make a great manhattan cocktail:
2 oz Rye Whiskey
1 oz Sweet Vermouth (Punt e Mes is my favorite)
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 luxardo cherry
Stir. I like mine on the rocks. Yum.