The sweet, amber elixir that we know as whiskey is loved by many; the mere smell of it conjures up images of warm fires, stimulating conversation, and at times, raucous rambling as we sip and savor its spicy goodness. Now making a break from stuffy steakhouses and dive bars, whiskey is finally getting a bit of the attention it deserves for its taste, flavor, and contribution to American history. Whether its improved reputation is due to the debonair actors and actresses that we see in Hollywood, or to the rise of the foodie culture, we are grateful that it is making a comeback in our culture.
What is whiskey, anyway?
The chemical composition of whiskey is quite simple----water, grain, and a little bit of time symbiotically combine to form pure golden deliciousness. Unlike gin or vodka, which can be distilled in mere days, whiskey takes anywhere from 3 to 15 years to age properly. If you were to walk in and grab a bottle off the shelf today, you’re looking at batches that were begun back in 2012-2015, and we’re being conservative here! Generally speaking, the longer a batch of whiskey is allowed to age, the better its taste and flavor are going to be.
Subtle nuances make all the difference--knowledge is power!
If you are a bit confused as to what goes into making a batch of whiskey unique and flavorful, here is some clarification on what goes into its production, and the variance that makes this all-American drink so unique and special. Whiskey is both a drink and an umbrella term used to refer to specializations within a category----scotch, bourbon, moonshine, Irish, Canadian, Japanese…..it’s all part of the delicious mix. Let’s see what makes each distinctive:
As of the 1700s, rye was the most popular grain used in the production of whiskey and related spirits. For a whiskey to be classified as “rye,” over 50 percent of the mash must be composed of rye grain, and it must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years. Rye whiskey is commonly used as a base for mixed drinks such as Manhattans and Sazeracs.
Bourbon blends are comprised mostly of corn mash. The aging process of bourbon is almost identical to that of rye blends----a minimum of two years in oak barrels. The flavor difference between these two blends is quite distinctive; rye whiskey tends to be a little spicy and peppery in flavor, while bourbon has a softer taste with hints of caramel and vanilla. Part of this sweetness can be attributed to the naturally sweet flavors found in corn. Moonshine also has a corn base, but unlike bourbon, it has little to no aging process.
Scotch whisky loves to be distinctive----it’s even spelled differently from traditional whiskey. Produced almost exclusively in Scotland, fans of this peaty, smoky drink are discriminating about their choices, and they would consider traveling across the Atlantic for an authentic taste of this distinctive blend.
The oldest distillery in the world belongs to the Bushmills in Ireland. Created by King James in 1608, it has been producing Irish whiskey for hundreds of years. The Irish blend is made from unmalted barley and is triple distilled, lending to its smooth, sultry taste.
Modeled closely after scotch, Japanese whiskey is created with malted barley. Japanese whiskey is much more expensive than its counterparts; this is due to the fact that there are only two whiskey distilleries in all of Japan---Nikka and Suntory. Despite the fact that it’s a little harder to obtain, it’s worth the wait.
Canadian whiskey makers are far more inclusive when it comes to grains and distillation methods--this is no doubt what contributes to its lighter flavor and similarity to its American counterparts.
And Then There’s Palmetto Distillery…...In A Class All Its Own
There’s no need to be intimidated by one of the premier whiskeys in all the world; Palmetto whiskey is award-winning and in a class all its own. Vibrant amber hues and smoky undertones enhance the natural flavors of caramel and vanilla; its rich, smooth flavor will scintillate your senses and treat your taste buds to a one-of-a-kind experience. Savor the flavor of the South---pick up a bottle or two today. Visit www.palmettodistillery.com for the first of many orders!