Whiskey

Every Man Should Know: The Wonderful World of Whiskey

By Anthony Galasso

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Mark Twain once said, “too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”

It’s been brought to my attention that a lot of guys out there aren’t aware of what whiskey (or as I like to call it, “writer’s blood”) actually is. This entry will serve to educate those men out there who, for some reason, just can’t put down that warm can of Coors Light. It’s time to man up and class up.

First off, tons of manly men drink whiskey. It’s the drink of choice for famous authors Ernest Hemingway and the aforementioned Mark Twain. Early American actor, Clark Gable, was famously known for his love of whiskey. Upon traveling to Africa, Winston Churchill found the water so unbearable that he improved it by mixing it with whiskey. Hell, Frank and Jesse James — America’s favorite old-timey outlaws — are even related to the Samuels family, the distillers of Maker’s Mark. Frank’s .36 caliber 1851 Navy Colt revolver is on display at their distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. 

SO WHAT EXACTLY IS WHISKEY?

Let’s keep it simple. A true whiskey is any booze distilled from some sort of fermented grain mash including malted barley, corn, rye or a combination of these grains. A true whiskey must also be distilled at a minimum of 40% ABV (alcohol by volume). There’s a lot of different rules and jargon involved in making the five main sub-genres of whiskey —  scotch, irish whiskey, rye, bourbon and tennessee whiskey — so try to keep up, champ.

UH…SO WHAT’S SCOTCH?

ScotchAll whisky’s (Yeah. Sometimes people spell whiskey differently. Get over it, and read on for further details.) must be made from a fermented grain mash, right? So, put simply, Scotch is made from malted barley. Most Scotches are made from just barley, water and yeast.

The drink must also endure a vigorous aging process. Scotch has to be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years with an ABV of less than 94.8%. The last defining character of a true Scotch is it’s origin. If it wasn’t made in Scotland, it’s not a true Scotch, sir. You follow me?

Diving even deeper into Scotch, you’re provided with the option of either single malt or blended Scotches. A single malt scotch is made from a single batch of whiskey while a blended Scotch is made from a mixture of batches.

Recommended Brands: Johnnie Walker, Glenmorangie, Highland Park

 

COOL. SO WHAT’S IRISH WHISKEY THEN?

IrishWhiskeyIrish Whiskey is a bit like scotch in that it has to be made with an ABV of less than 94.8% and aged for at least three years in wooden casks, although the type of wood doesn’t matter with Irish whiskey.

Fortunately, the rules pertaining to the making of Irish whiskey are less rigid, allowing for a larger variety of Irish whiskies. Also, similar to scotch, Irish whiskey can only be considered Irish Whiskey if it was distilled in Ireland. No shit, right?

Recommended Brands: Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore Dew

 

ALRIGHT. SO HOW ABOUT RYE?!

RyeApparently, Canada has been distilling rye for roughly 150 years, hence Canadian whisky. (More odd spelling of the word. Read on for further details.) However, over the years, Canadians seem to have dropped the ball on distilling their rye with actual rye mash. It appears that, in Canada, the only rule to distilling rye is to have some rye mash in it. Canadian rye is sometimes distilled with 9x more corn mash than rye mash.

In America, however, rye must be made with no less than 51% rye mash. It must also be aged in brand new, charred oak barrels and distilled to an ABV less than 80%. To be considered Straight Rye, it must also be aged for a minimum of two years.

Recommended Brands: Bulleit

 

RYE SOUNDS GOOD! BUT WHAT ABOUT BOURBON?

BourbonAh. My personal favorite. Bourbon is similar to rye in that it must be distilled to an ABV less than 80% and also must be aged in brand new, charred oak barrels. Also, whereas bourbon has no minimum aging restriction, it can also only be considered Straight Bourbon if it was aged for no less than two years. It also cannot include any coloring or flavoring.

The only real difference between rye and bourbon is that instead of 51% rye, bourbon must be distilled with at least 51% corn. Additionally, bourbon’s fermentation process includes a method in which the the distiller begins by mixing in some mash from an older, already fermented batch. This process is called “sour mash” and it’s bad ass.

Lastly, bourbon can only be considered bourbon if it’s made in the United States, primarily Kentucky. America. Fuck yeah!

Recommended Brands: Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek

 

WELL, DAMN! BOURBON SOUNDS GREAT! BUT WHAT ABOUT TENNESSEE WHISKEY?!

TennesseeWhiskeyGood news! Tennessee Whiskey is almost the same as Bourbon! Cheers! Jack Daniels, the main producer of Tennessee Whiskey, doesn’t want their product labeled as Bourbon because they’re the only type of whiskey that filters their product through thick maple charcoal before aging it in charred oak barrels.

Additionally, of course, Tennessee whiskey can only be considered Tennessee whiskey if it was made in Tennessee. However, other than that, Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon are the same thing!

Recommended Brand: Jack Daniels

 

THAT’S AWESOME! ANY OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION?!

Well, yes. The word whiskey itself is of Celtic origin, as the distilling practices originated in Ireland and Scotland. Most Scotch inspired drinks usually spell whisky differently, dropping they “e” whereas Irish and American whiskies spell it with the “e”. Apparently, according to Grammarist.com,  using whiskey in reference to Scotch can get you in pretty big trouble in Scotland. So get it straight because who really wants to brawl with William Wallace from Braveheart anyway?

Whiskey2

WOW! I WANT TO DRINK WHISKEY RIGHT NOW! BUT HOW DO I DRINK IT?!

There are many ways to drink whiskey. First off, it’s important to note that whiskey is not meant for chugging. Whiskey is intended to be leisurely sipped. This isn’t some frat party. The goal is to enjoy the varying flavor profiles of the whiskey, not blacking out and pissing your pants. Remember, you’re a sophisticated individual now.

That being said, you don’t want to pour yourself a full glass. You’ll surely hate yourself if you do. Whiskey is often measured in “fingers”. Simply hold your finger next to the glass and pour yourself a finger’s width. For instance, if you were to order two fingers of whiskey, you’d end up with roughly two adult-sized finger widths of whiskey in your glass. Simple enough? It may not look like much, but remember, whiskey is intended for sipping and enjoying, not chugging and puking. Plus, you can always pour some more when you’re finished.

As far as how to drink it, some people drink their whiskey “on the rocks” — with ice. Some people like their whiskey “neat” — plain, without ice. Other people will water their whiskey down a bit to help bring out some of the more intense flavor profiles. Ultra sophisticated folks may even mix it with other alcohols and juices, creating mixed drinks such as the classic Manhattan, which can be enjoyed “up” in a martini glass or on the rocks.

I know that I personally I enjoy a nice glass of Maker’s Mark with a single whiskey stone in my rocks glass. Whiskey stones are perfect for freezing and putting in your drink because they keep your drink somewhat cool without melting or watering down your whiskey. I know. It’s awesome. Check out these whiskey stones on ThinkGeek.com.

Bottom line though, whiskey is all a matter of preference. So put down that warm can of Coors and explore the wonderful world of whiskey by pouring yourself a glass of whichever previously described whiskey appealed to you most. Put some damn hair on your chest, man! And don’t forget to drink responsibly. There’s nothing manly about driving drunk, sir. Nope. Nothing at all.

Thanks to Real Men Drink WhiskeyMaker’s Mark, ThinkGeek.com and AllRecipes.com for contributing to this post.

 

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39 Thoughts to Every Man Should Know: The Wonderful World of Whiskey

  1. Sean Lind January 10, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Great post, and thanks for the shout out to my post on real men drink whiskey.

    Some more whiskey tidits for you:

    Rye: The only company making Rye from 100% Rye mash is Canada’s Alberta Premium. Now their cheap offerings are trash, but here’s where it gets funny: The #1 rated Rye in the world is WhistlePig “Hand bottled on the Vermont farm of the ex master distiller of Makers Mark”. I must say, it truly is fantastic.

    The funny part is this Rye is actually made by Alberta Premium. It’s their 10-year aged Rye, WhistlePig buys it and just puts it in their own (nicer) bottles. This Rye will knock your socks off, just know that it’s a true Canadian Rye (the only one).

    There is a lot of misunderstanding about water and whiskey. Here are the facts, and why you’re supposed to add water to your whiskey:

    When you get your glass of whiskey you should take a tiny sip of it. If you feel it “buzzing” on your tounge that is the alcohol anesthetizing your tastebuds. If you let this happen completely you will no longer be capable of actually tasting your drink. You instead supposed to add just a capful of water (distilled/spring water, no chlorine obviously) and try again. You should keep adding water just until that buzzing stops. Then you are free to enjoy your entire drink, truly to the last drop.

    Now if you like your drinks cold you can do the same thing with ice. Just have a side dish and a spoon to fetch the ice out once it has sufficiently melted.

    Personally, unless I’m drinking something very special, I like to just leave my ice in. I enjoy the taste of my whiskey watered down, and as any real man will tell you: The perfect drink is however you like your goddamn drink.

    I also have my personal recipe for Whiskey Sours on my realmendrinkwhiskey blog. Check it out.

    -Sean

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    • Anthony Galasso January 11, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Thanks a lot, Sean! Such a wealth of great information. I’m no expert. I’d say I’m learning. I’ll have to look more into the water/whiskey thing. Keep in touch.

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    • Rebecca January 13, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Very helpful! Particularly the information on watering or icing a drink. Thank you, Sean.

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  2. Chris January 10, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Adding water to whisky isn’t for ‘dulling some of the more intense flavour profiles’ — it’s for bringing different flavours out. Particularly with cask strength whiskies, the alcohol can numb your tongue to flavour. In many cases, adding a drop or two of water brings out MORE intense flavour profiles. This is why most professional whisky tasters will taste the whisky neat and with a drop or two of distilled water (or, preferably, spring water from the source that the distillery uses, but this is only in the most professional circles). Adding water to Scotch is considered ‘opening it up’.

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  3. Kaarina Dillabough January 10, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    I’m not a man…does that disquality me? ;) ;) I’m a single malt gal all the way. I’ll take a laphroaig, lagavulun, oban or…heck, just about any single malt scotch. Cheers! Kaarina

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    • Anthony Galasso January 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

      Of course not! We love women, here on of Iron & Oak.

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      • Rebecca January 13, 2013 at 2:19 pm

        We love you too. That, and a good Irish whiskey.

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  4. Chris January 10, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    There are two major considerations to what makes an Irish whiskey and a Scotch what they are: Distillations and grain drying.

    Distillation: Irish whiskeys are traditionally triple distilled, and Scotches are typically distilled twice.

    Preparing the grain (in this case Barley for each): Irish barley is prepared by drying over a smokeless heat. Scotch barley is prepared by drying via a smoking process. The use (of lack thereof) of smoke is what gives each of these beverages their distinct flavors.

    You’ll notice these two beverages (Irish whiskeys and Scotches) are prepared in an almost identical fashion, but have distinctly different flavor pallets because of the preparation process.

    Bonus fact: Because American whiskeys require new casks, the Europeans purchase cast-away American casks to distill in richer flavors from the previously alcohol-soaked wooden casks.

    Now you know,
    Chris

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  5. KW160 January 10, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    You are way off on your Scotch definition. A single malt is made from the same “batch”? A single malt is all made at the same *distillery*. Some could be from 3 year old stocks, some could be from 12 year old stocks. It would still be a single malt if it came from the same distillery.

    A blend is just a blend of different “batches”? A blend is from multiple distilleries. Again, batch doesn’t mean anything.

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  6. Bilge_Rat January 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    Knob Creek now has a rye whiskey; it was rolled out nationwide in July. Haven’t tried it yet but it’s definitely on the list!
    Tom

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  7. bob January 11, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Bourbon doesnt actually NEED to be from the USA. Recently i took a tour of Woodford Reserves distillery and they went through the guidelines to be bourbon. Its true that the vast majority of it is made in KY but it is not a requirement to be called bourbon, it can in fact be made anywhere.

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    • Glynn January 14, 2013 at 3:01 am

      I think you misunderstood what they were telling you. It does not have to be made in Kentucky but it does have to be made in the USA. Out of the other 49 other states eleven have, at some time, made bourbon: Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.

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  8. Scene_Red January 11, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Knob Creek = Best Bourbon ever. If you can handle the kick, Bookers (125+ proof) is great as well.

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  9. Dylan January 12, 2013 at 12:42 am

    There is more of a difference between Irish and Scotch Whisky than where it is made. The Irish use a closed kiln to stop the germination of their barley, while the Scotch use an open kiln, hence why Scotch has a ‘smokey’ profile, while Irish whisky does not.

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  10. Mike January 12, 2013 at 12:48 am

    To me, Jack Daniels tastes absolutely NOTHING like bourbon. I thought it reminded me more of Irish whiskey. I loathe bourbon but I rather enjoyed Jack.

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  11. I'm only 21 January 12, 2013 at 2:54 am

    but… my can of coors is cold! I felt like cheap beer tonight instead of Jack. It is always cheap beer or whiskey. This is very informative though! I’m really glad stumbleupon brought me here!

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  12. Matt January 12, 2013 at 6:17 am

    How about going into the different regions of Scotland when explaining Scotch as this adds a massive difference to taste?

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  13. Jack90 January 12, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Just to point out, “Scotch” is an americanism and not the name of the greatest drink in existence>
    “whiskey” is american or canadian, while “whisky” is Scottish or irish. Scotch is not a word outside the united states.

    Best regards, A scottish whisky lover

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  14. Nathan January 12, 2013 at 10:20 am

    So, any thoughts on bookers small batch bourbon?

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    • Anthony Galasso January 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Love Bookers. I actually only first had it recently. But it was quite a pleasant experience.

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  15. Ernest Salsberry January 12, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Great article! I was converted over from the world of “long necks” a few years back after spending a few weeks in Lexington, KY. After a few “propaganda” bourbon tours, I was convinced of the error in my 12oz ways, and I was sold! I am a solid bourbon advocate now, with Basil Haydens and Buffalo Trace being my preferred choices! Thanks for the great article.

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  16. Jfrench January 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    If you’re getting Johnnie Walker like the article recommends, make sure it’s Black Label or better. Red Label has an attractive price tag, but that’s about all that’s attractive about it. Red just isn’t very good. There’s so much variability amongst scotches as well. For ex., Macallan 12 aged in sherry oak casks tastes much different from the Laphroaig Quarter Cask aged in small oak casks. Not to take away from this great article, I too love all whiskey. It’s just that scotch is a Whsky that a man (or woman) can spend years drinking, and still not have mastered all the varieties

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  17. Tom January 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Hi, I like your website, a few suggestions though. Firstly, there are at least three other Tennessee whiskies: George Dickel, Collier and McKeel, and Benjamin Prichard’s has one. I have personally only seen George Dickel in the stores. It’s not bad.

    Secondly, when we refer to Single Malts, Blends, and Blended Malts, it counts to be specific. A Single Malt comes from a single distillery, not from a single batch. They usually specify on the bottle if it is from a single batch or from a single cask, even. A Vatted Malt is a term you wouldn’t likely find on the label, but I suspect that most distilleries do indeed vat together various batches to produce a single bottling. These are still Single Malts.

    A blend comes in two forms. Typically, blended scotch is mostly composed of grain “whisky.” which has all the characters of scotch, and pulls together the flavors of the single malts within. The youngest malt in the blend is the age on the bottle. Then there are malt blends, which are composed solely of single malts, but from various distillers.

    You have some great recommendations. Also, Sean made an excellent point about water. When you are tasting it consciously, water goes a long way. At the end of the day, it is all about taste, and how you like to drink.

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  18. John Cates January 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Great site and blog! Can you help me understand that strange aftertaste I get from some single malts? Someone said it’s the peet? Not sure, I’ve been a single malt guy for a few years now and have found Oban to be my favorite thus far, although I heard that they were shutting down operations this year after what, about 200 years or so, anyone heard that rumor? It’s sad id they are, I’ll need to stock up! Thanks again.

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    • Jess January 14, 2013 at 2:25 am

      Yep, that smokey flavor you’re tasting is from the peat fires used to dry malted barley in some distilleries.

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  19. Des Riordan January 12, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    A very interesting website. Let me just reinforce the idea that whisky always refers to the spirit made in Scotland, and whiskey may be applied to similar drinks made elsewhere.
    For my money, and that of many master distillers at the various Scottish distilleries that I have visited, a good whisky should always be diluted according to its strength. So, a spirit that is 40% alcohol should have its volume increased by an additional 40% with water. The water should be at room temperature, although there are some who would suggest that the water should be slightly warm.
    I say that this should be applied to ‘good’ whiskies, but I have also found that this is a useful tool in discovering which of the blended whiskies actually suits your taste. For instance, I had always dismissed Teachers whisky as being a little cheap and cheerful, but a little dilution revealed some very appealing peaty characteristics. Perhaps the best bit of advice on the website is to dilute the whisky until you tongue stops ‘buzzing’ – a very pithy way of expressing it! Don’t be fooled that real men (or women) drink their whisky straight, real connoisseurs will take the time to discover the king of spirits in a manner that best suits their personal taste.

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  20. denise January 12, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    you know naaaaathing about whiskey where are the scottish malts?

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  21. Mat January 12, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Whiskey / whisky is spelled with an ‘e’ only if the country it is made in has an ‘e’ in it’s name. Hence, whisky from Scotland and whiskey from Ireland

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  22. lou January 12, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    What’s up with the Canada hate in this?

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  23. Truoiolo January 12, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Single malt on the rocks is a sin!!!!

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  24. Merete January 12, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    My personal favorites are Jack Daniel’s, Johnny Walker and a scotch whisky called Isle of Jura. There are 7(i think) to choose from, but the best Isle of Jura in my.opinion, is The Prophecy. A bit pricey, but worth it! And it’s 46% alcohol. Greetings from a Norwegian woman :-)

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  25. WhiskEy January 13, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Great page…Always love reading about whiskey.

    Just a little more on the name whiskey/whisky itself. Coming from Celtic roots absolutely. In Irish (in Ireland we call it Irish whereas other countries mostly know the language as Gaelic) what we call whiskey is “uisce beatha”. This actually means water of life when the words are translated directly into English believe or not! Phonetically, uisce beatha goes something like “isshhka bahha”! We spell things daft in Irish! Throughout the years obviously with the copying of some Irish words, the uisce part of uisce beatha was changed a little in sound and a little more in spelling to become whiskey today. However Irish whiskey, spelled in English, still holds that link to its Irish language translation in that we keep the e in our whiskEy, as opposed our neighbors who don’t, spelling whisky without the e!

    That 12 year sherry cask jameson in the picture by the way is a tasty little drop too, for a reasonable price most places!

    Keep enjoying the whiskey/whisky!

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  26. L. Rowan McKnight January 13, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Whiskey (or whisky) loving lady here!

    I am a bad-spelling-hater, though. It’s “whiskies,” not “whisky’s.” The apostrophe makes it possesive.

    Nit-picking done. Great article!

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    • Anthony Galasso January 14, 2013 at 11:38 am

      Great find! Thanks for helping edit! Haha.

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  27. Willy Hernandez January 14, 2013 at 4:26 am

    What a great post for those that are starting to indulge in the in the fine points of alcohol (aka me the 23 year old sitting in finance class wanting a drink). Thanks for the detailed information, it will surely come to use. Besides the Manhattan and Jack & Coke, are there any other mixed drinks you’d recommend?

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  28. Bill January 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Many of the famous whiskey-lovers you list are what we would today call “high-functioning alcoholics”.

    Is it “manly” to try to “class up” by doing something just because “tons of manly men” of history have done it? I’m sure we can all name some extremely distasteful things which people did in the past that were considered common at the time. We don’t try to glamorize their womanizing, racism, bank robbing, or murder. Why do we still try to glamorize their alcoholism? Are you going to promote all of the other drugs that were consumed by history’s “manly men”?

    I’m not against drinking a little whiskey on a Friday night if you enjoy it, but you seem to be advocating that “every man” should drink it, and for all the wrong reasons.

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