Home > Whiskey > Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine: Whiskey Around The World

Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine: Whiskey Around The World

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project was closed and  even the web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, I decided to re-post them in this blog. Also, in that project, posts were grouped into the mini-series, such as “Best Hidden Secrets” and “Forgotten Vines”. The post I’m offering to you today was from the mini-series called “Liquid Pleasures Beyond Wine”, and the subject of this post is Whiskey. Well, it is almost an original – I had to make a few small edits.

Also note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

In the previous post about Whiskey, we focused solely on Scotch, a malt Whisky produced in Scotland. The whole world of Whiskey (see, we are even changing the spelling from whisky to whiskey to accommodate the change) is much larger, with various kinds of whiskey coming the from different places all over the globe.

CoonemaraLet’s take a look at those places. We can and should start from Ireland – a close neighbor of the Scotland. Despite the “geographical closeness”, Irish Whiskeys are typically very different in style from the Scotch – to be more precise, they are much lighter. There are a few factors which define the lighter taste of the Irish Whiskeys. First, they are usually triple-distilled, versus double distillation process used in production of the Scotch. The next factor is reduced use of a peat smoke (actually, it is practically not used with some exceptions, such as Connemara, which is nicely peated). Lastly, many Irish whiskeys are made from the mix of grains as opposed to the malted barley used in Scotch production, which also leads to the lighter tasting final product.

JamesonIrish Whiskeys are probably the oldest distilled spirit produced in Europe – at least based on information in Wikipedia, with the first notices going back to the 12th century. While there are only four acting distilleries in Ireland, one of those four, Old Bushmills Distillery claims to be the oldest officially recognized distillery in the world, tracing its history to 1608 (hence the name of one of their Whiskies, 1608). Each one of the four distilleries produces a substantial number of different lines of whiskey, so there is a good variety of the Irish Whiskeys available in the stores today. Some of the best known examples of Irish Whiskey include Jameson, Bushmills, 1608, Tullamore Dew – but of course there are lots more.

Let’s move to the United States, where a number of different whiskeys had being made for centuries. Some of the most popular kinds include Bourbon, a whiskey made out of the corn mash (mash should contain at least 51% of corn), and Rye Whiskey, which is, of course, made out of rye. As any other whiskey, American whiskey undergo a process of fermentation of the mash, distillation (usually single), and oak barrel aging. Sometimes a special filtration process is used in order to remove impurities and have softer tasting final product. Jack Daniels is probably one of the most famous examples of Bourbon, along with many others:

Some of the examples of the Rye whiskies include Old Rip Van Winkle, Whistle Pig and many others:

Whistle Pig Straight Rye

History of Bourbon and Rye Whiskey accounts for a few hundred years and includes interesting chapters such as Prohibition (you can read more about different kinds of American Whiskey here). What I have to mention is that today we are literally are living through the Whiskey revolution in the US – in addition to all the “traditionalists” in Tennessee and Kentucky, amazing Rye, Bourbon and Malts are produced in New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, North Carolina, Colorado – and these are only some of those I’m aware of, I’m sure there are lots of others. It will make it for a very long post if I will start naming all those Whiskeys, so let me just give you a few examples in the pictures:

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In addition to US, a number of other countries should be mentioned here as the world-class Whiskey producers (I would be curious to know if you would be able to guess what those are, so pause your reading for a moment). To answer my own trivia question, here are some of them – Japan, Taiwan and India (surprised?).

In all of those countries, blended and single malt whiskeys are made in the best tradition of Scotch Whisky. Whiskeys from those countries are quite rare and hard to find, but definitely worth seeking. One of the most famous Japanese Whiskeys is called Yamazaki and it is made as 12 and 18 years old single malts, using copper pot stills very similar to those used in Scotland. Another Japanese whiskey which is somewhat available in US is Hibiki, which is a blended 12 years old (there is also Hibiki 18, but it is even harder to find). Both Yamazaki, Hibiki and many others are owned by Suntory, a Japanese conglomerate.

Then there is Amrut, which produces whiskey in India, again using the Scotch methodology – with very good results. Amrut produces a number of single malt and blended whiskeys – for more information and tasting notes you can read this blog post.

With this we are finishing our exploration of the world of Whiskeys – and remember that paper exercise can not replace an actual experience which a good whiskey can bring. If you never had whiskey before, you need to resolve to try it now. For those who already knows the beauty of the Whiskey spirit – pour some of your favorite in the glass and cheers!

  1. March 14, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    This is fascinating! Outside of wine, a small glass of really nice bourbon is the best. I had no idea how far-reaching the origins of whisky are. I am curious about the taste of rye vs. corn varieties that separate whisky from bourbon… that is something I didn’t know about!

    • talkavino
      March 14, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      The world of spirits is truly fascinating (unless people cross the border and start abusing it). Rye whiskey is typically a lot drier compare to bourbon, so if you like Bourbon, the Rye might not be your things. But – the only way to find out is by trying 🙂

      • March 15, 2015 at 5:16 pm

        It is fascinating. Fortunately, I like a little bit of something spectacular when it comes to spirits. Generally enjoyed before a dinner party. I will try the rye next time we have friends over. Is there a certain make/model 😉 that is smooth and impressive? Have a great night, Anatoli.

        • talkavino
          March 16, 2015 at 2:22 pm

          Well, this is a tough one. While I had some of the Rye and Bourbons which I liked, I’m generally drinking Scotch or Scotch-style whisky (such as the ones from Japan, for instance). Also, I had a few of the Rye whisky which I liked, but they are mostly local (such as Catskill Distilling Company Defiant Rye), and probably will be hard to find for you. What I might recommend is a somewhat rare grain whisky ( blended) from Scotland, called Hedonism and made by the company called Compass Box. It is very delicate and flavorful, so this is something I think you might like. It should be available in the better stores, but note that it is a bit on the expensive side (around $100). If you will try it, let me know how you will like it!

        • March 16, 2015 at 2:42 pm

          I didn’t realize the Catskills had distilleries- it would be fun to tour it. The Scotch sounds nice. It would probably last a while- quality over quantity. My dad’s mother was Scottish, married a nice Jewish boy, never gave up her nightly Scotch / piano playing with friends. 🙂

        • talkavino
          March 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm

          See, you have great roots! I’m sure you will like it 🙂 The distilleries are everywhere now 🙂 Do you know that New Mexico has distilleries? You can just google “New Mexico distilleries” and you will get a whole bunch. This one particularly looks very interesting: http://santafespirits.com/

        • March 16, 2015 at 6:57 pm

          My roots are diverse and fascinating! 🙂 As I know yours are. There are two wineries here I thought were good – Gruet and Casa Rodeña. I’ve never ventured into the NM spirits arena. I have a friend out in Santa Fe who might be a perfect person to take on a tour. And help carry spirits out. 🙂 Thank you! Salute!

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