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When it comes to liquor, whisky could not be closer linked to masculinity, whether refined or roughian. It is the drink of both the cowboy and the classic movie star... the most admired acquired taste. But beyond the short glass and infamous brands, there is a mysterious thing or two about whisky worth discovering. After all, the man who drinks whisky is intriguing to most, but the man cleverly informed about what he’s drinking is all the more admired.
The first thing you may not have known about whisky is that the aforementioned spelling is not a mistake. The Scottish and Canadian spelling, most commonly used by traditional whisky enthusiasts, refrain from utilizing the ‘e,’ unlike the Irish and American spellings to which we are most usually accustomed. ‘Whisky’ is from the traditional Gaelic, ‘uisge beatha,’ meaning ‘water of life.’ Though whisky was traditionally produced in Scotland and Ireland, it is now an extensively popular enterprise in America, Canada and Japan.
The five major categories of whiskeys available in our modern world are Bourbon, American Blended, Scotch, Irish and Canadian. While their tastes vary, they are not technically different drinks. Bourbon is simply the American labeling, Scotch is Scotland’s, so on and so forth. The quintessential ‘smoky’ taste attributed to whiskey varies from place to place, as the Irish barely-malt whiskey and other Scottish whiskeys are much lighter than the American blends. These blends are aged in long-used barrels for a considerable amount of time, as single malt scotches generally span ten to thirty years aging.
Bourbon Whisky:U.S. made from fermented mash of corn, aged for at least two years. I.E. Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam.
Irish Whisky:Blend of various whiskies of different ages, including malted and unmalted barley and other grains. I.E. Jameson, Bushmills.
American Blended: 20% 100-proof straight whiskey blended with other whiskies and grain spirits. I.E. Seagram’s 7, Kessler.
Canadian Whisky: Blend of several whiskies with a high percentage of rye, barley, corn and wheat. I.E. Crown Royal.
Scotch Whiskey:Also known as the Single Malt Scotch, made completely by one distillery, compiled of malted barley. I.E. Jonnie Walker, Glenlivet.
Tenneessee Whisky:Jack Daniels
Whisky drinkers are advised to taste the liquor both with and without a small helping of water:
“The answer is to take advantage of the situation and sample both ways... Then by adding a measure of water, the full aroma of the whisky will be witnessed. A word of caution, the quality of water is of paramount importance to tasting enjoyment. Sparkling and soda waters are not compatible with whisky as they tend to react and divide the complexity of flavours, making the finest whisky taste some what coarse...” says J.A. Bell of the Whisky Connoisseur Column.
So enjoy your Whisky gentleman... And have one for me.