Alcohol seems to serve as the ultimate axiom for our worlds literary greats. William Faulkner, Earnest Hemingway, Mark Twain, James Joyce and Edgar Allan Poe all reveled, quite publicly, about their sheer delight and immense appreciation for the various whiskeys (or whiskys depending on the poison and geographic locale).
When one considers that it is not what we think but how we think that springs forth ingenuity, progress and creativity it is no wonder that alcohol is the life blood of writers. Spirits slither into the chambers of our mind with the potential for tremendous imaginative expansion. They also dampen our tendency to be highly critical of ourselves, freeing our minds to roam however they please.
So here’s to whiskey; for the magnificent, insightful and witty influence it has had on our novelists, poets, playwrights and great thinkers of our time!
Often people are confused as to the difference between bourbon, scotch and rye. Many people think that whiskey holds its own as a specific drink when in reality whiskey serves at a category for more distinct spirits with slight variations. Bourbon, scotch, rye and Irish whisky all fall under the whiskey branch. Allow me to shed some light on these liquid sunshines.
All whiskeys are made from fermented grain mash and that mash determines what kind of whiskey you enjoy. Other than that the only major differentiation that can be made is based on geography. For instance, scotch can only be called a scotch if it was made and bottled in Scotland. Bourbon is strictly American. Irish whisky is from Ireland. You get the idea.
Bourbon- can only be called such with a grain mash that is at least 51% corn. You have two main types of bourbon; blended and straight. If you are interested in the purity of the distillation process then always opt for “straight” bourbon as they have laws banning additives. Straight bourbons are also required to age for no less than 2 years in new charred oak barrels. Blended bourbon can have added synthetic or natural colouring and flavoring to the final product. They also have no minimum aging period.
Scotch- is a whisky made from a fermented grain mash that consists of malted barley. Scotch must be aged for no less than 3 years regardless of whether or not the scotch is single malt or blended. Caramel colouring is allowed but no fermentation additives are. Single malt scotch is considered to be the prime choice since it uses only three ingredients; barley, water and yeast. Scotch, unlike bourbon, is more commonly consumed as is, or “neat”. There is a noticeable smokiness to the taste and aroma of scotch that makes it a little tricky to use in mixed drinks.
Rye- is a grass in the wheat tribe and closely related to barley. Rye is usually synonymous with Canadian Rye but there is also an American Rye and the differences are actually pretty great. Canadian rye has an aging minimum of 3 years but has no regulation as to how much rye is required in the mash to be called a rye whiskey. In fact, in the majority of Canadian rye batches you find have little to none rye as Canadians have some of the most relaxed laws on quality control for whiskey. There are a few brands that produce 100% rye whiskey though, one of the most popular being Alberta Premium. American rye consists of a grain mash of at least 51% rye with a two year minimum aging process.
Irish whisky- is made and aged in the Republic of Ireland with a minimum 3 year aging process. Pretty much any grain mash variants are green-lighted which makes for a rather large adaption in the flavor profiles. Irish whiskey, like Canadian rye, has the most relaxed laws in whiskey production.
Tennessee whiskey- has to be made and bottled in Tennessee and with only one exception is identical to bourbon. Legally, it can be labeled as straight bourbon but the Tennessee distillers use a process called the Lincoln County Process that sets them apart from all the other whiskeys around. The Lincoln County Process is a filtration process that is performed before the distillation process begins. It utilizes thick maple charcoal to filter the water claiming that it not only enhances the end result flavor but also improves the quality of the water being used.