Whisky is a very old, very popular drink the world over, but it’s also a very broad title that can be applied to a lot of spirits. The major producers are Scotland, Ireland and America, though Canada makes a wide variety of whiskies and Japan has strongly entered the competition.
In the early stages of whisky production, you can separate the eventual spirits into two categories based on the ingredients used. Malted means that the grain, typically barley, has been soaked in water until it began to germinate, then dried out over heat. Grain whisky is basically everything else, made from any grain that isn’t malted.
Scotland is known for its single malts – which are a combination of malted whiskies made at one source or distillery – because many producers use peat fires to dry out the barley, leaving behind a distinctive, smoky flavour. Scotland also makes some incredible blended malts – which is when malted whiskies from different distilleries are combined – including the Johnnie Walker line.
Irish whiskey is typically a blended whiskey, meaning a combination of malted and grain whiskey. Also, Irish producers mostly distil their whiskeys three times – once more than Scotch – creating a smoother end product. Jameson is far and away the most popular Irish whiskey, while Bushmills boasts the world’s oldest licensed distillery.
There are a wide range of American whiskeys and a long list of regulations to go with them, but bourbon is probably the country’s most famous dark spirit. Legally, bourbon has to be aged in new charred oak barrels and the grain used to make it must be at least 51 percent corn. Interestingly, even though most people think of Jack Daniels as a bourbon, it is actually a Tennessee whiskey, which adds a charcoal filtering step to the production.
For those searching out a cosy setting to decide which country deserves their whisky loyalty, Karen’s The Talisman is a hard choice to top. Featuring most of the Jack Daniel’s range and an envious selection of single malt Scotches, there’s enough variety to keep whisky lovers busy for several nights. Also, The Talisman boasts a single cask Benriach, which means that it was bottled from one cask for The Talisman, creating a unique whisky you’ll only find there. If you prefer whisky cocktails, be sure to try the Whisky Sour or The Talisman’s variation, Matt’s Writer’s Block, which features an extra tot of ‘inspiration’.
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