Whiskey Basics: History, Drinks and Storage
Whiskey is a popular spirit used in many cocktails, but also commonly enjoyed alone or mixed simply. With a higher alcohol level than beer or wine, and a stronger taste than vodka or rum, whiskey is considered by many to be an acquired taste. However, for those who appreciate it, there is not a spirit that can surpass the depth of flavour of a high quality whiskey.
What is Whiskey Anyway?
Whiskey (also spelled whisky) is a broad category of liquor, which includes Scotch, bourbon, Canadian whiskey, Tennessee whiskey and many other types of spirit. Whiskey is made from grain, much like beer. In fact, at its simplest, whiskey is much like a highly-distilled version of beer—without the hops. The different types and brands of whiskeys are made from different grains and using different techniques, which is how all of the various flavor profiles can be created.
Types and Brands of Whiskey
While there are a number of different types of whiskey on the market today, four of the most popular include:
- Scotch – Johnnie Walker and Ballantine’s are the two brands familiar to many who don’t even drink Scotch themselves. Like all liquors, there are dozens of brands, ranging from budget-friendly shelf liquors to top name brands that cost much more than fine wine.
- Bourbon – Three of the popular brands of bourbon you’ll find in most bars are Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Wild Turkey. Bourbon is also popularly used in cooking, so you may find types designed strictly for use in the kitchen.
- Canadian whiskey – Crown Royal and Canadian Club are two popular options, but this is a category that is growing by leaps and bounds. Canadian whiskey is very popular right now.
- Tennessee whiskey – Jack Daniel’s is synonymous with Tennessee whiskey. However, there are smaller manufacturers producing whiskey in the same style too.
Whiskey, especially Scotch and Bourbon, are very popular enjoyed alone. Some people prefer room temperature whiskey, while others prefer an ice cube or two to mellow out the flavor a bit. Mixing Whiskey with soda or another simple mixer is also popular, such as in a Jack and Coke or a whiskey sour. Canadian whiskey is popularly enjoyed with ginger ale or a lemon lime soda. More complex whiskey drinks include the “old-fashioned,” Manhattan and mint julep among others.
Whiskey Storage Basics
Bottled Whiskey will keep indefinitely, if stored in a cool, dark place (such as a basement or interior storage unit. Store it upright and make sure it is protected from bumps and knocks, and you have nothing to worry about! Once you’ve opened a bottle, you will need to take a few precautions to keep your whiskey tasting fresh. If possible, try to use it within a few months of opening as the flavor profile and alcohol level will change over time. Secondly, always seal it tightly between use. Finally, do continue to store in a dry, cool location.
Whiskey is a very interesting spirit that can range in flavor from simple and smooth to exceedingly flavorful and complex. Understanding the differences is the key to making pleasing drinks and serving the right beverage to the right customer.