An Interactive Visual Guide to Whiskey
Flavor Profile: Smoky
Known for smokiness, Islay whiskies have a pungent medicinal tang stemming from sea salt infused peat moss employed to dry the barley malt.
Flavor Profile: Sweet
Known for a smooth, fruity finish due to the fresh water used for distillation. Considered by some to be the most elegant of the country’s whiskies, the Speyside has more distilleries than any of the other regions.
Relative sweetness & simplicity
Only three true distilleries remain in the region, but they produce whiskies with a light body, relative sweetness, and a dash of flavor.
Flavor Profile: Medium-bodied
Highland Scotches vary in character, and can include the peaty smoke of an Islay or the smoothness of a Speyside. Generally they’re considered to be medium-bodied and aromatic, with a range of tasting notes from complex to delicate.
Flavor Profile: Complex
Scotch may be the largest category of whisky in terms of variations based on process, ingredients, and region. Scotland has more distilleries than any other country. While a common assumption is that Scotch is ‘smoky’, only a handful are. This is a remnant of the malting process, where smoke from burning peat is used to dry the barley, today it’s an optional flavor enhancer.
“Single malts” must be matured in Scotland for at least 3 years in oak barrels, and are produced at a single distillery, using only malted barley as grain, distilled in copper pot stills. This causes them to be more expensive and individualistic. “Blended scotches” are more mellow, easier to drink, but more difficult to make. Blend masters receive whisky from all over Scotland and must create a mixture that tastes consistent with what was produced the year before, even though the ingredients have changed. The blending smoothes out the rough edges and fills in gaps that are present in a single malt. Both varieties can be delicious for different reasons.
Flavor Profile: Woody & Sweet
Bourbon was invented by Elijah Craig from Bourbon County, Kentucky around 1789. By law, it must be made in the US (though 99% of it is made in Kentucky), be 51% from corn (most are 70-80%) and the remaining ingredients are rye and malted barley. The corn in bourbon makes it sweeter than rye. The inclusion of rye is what gives bourbon its spiced flavor.
Flavor Profile: Light
A lighter, sweeter style, Canadian Whisky (no ‘e’) is easy to drink even in the warmer months. Because of this, Canadian Whisky blends well with mixers. One aspect to the whisky of the north: Consistency. A decades old bottle should taste the same as a new one.
As far as liquors go, Canadian whisky is pretty unrestricted. Canadian law allows Canadian whisky to be called Canadian Whisky, Canadian Rye Whisky, or Rye Whisky, even though there is a greater percentage of corn in the mixture and only a small bit of rye.
Flavor Profile: Sweet & Smoky
Tennessee whiskey is made just like bourbon, but with one extra key step known as the “Lincoln County Process”. Before being put in charred oak barrels for aging, it is poured over sugar maple charcoal. The result is mellower, gently sweeter, and smoky. Due to a state institued prohibition that outlasted the national prohibition, only a small number of distilleries have survived.
Flavor Profile: Dry & Fruity
It is believed that missionary monks began distilling an aqueous ethanol solution for medical compounds when arriving in Ireland in the 7th century. Likely fruit-based in the beginning, by the mid-1500′s the use of barley was common and whiskey was born. From there, the spirit made its way to Scotland and around the world.
While the malt used in producing scotch was dried with burning peat, the malt in Irish whiskey was dried in kilns, resulting in a smooth, light spirit that’s easy on the palate. Once the most common whiskey in the world, now only 3 distilleries remain.
Flavor Profile: Mellow & Nutty
In a wheated bourbon, rye is replaced by wheat. The result is a sweeter whiskey. Maker’s Mark is the most ubiquitous of this variety.
Flavor Profile: Spice & Smoky
American rye can be made anywhere in the US. It is made of a 51% rye mash mixture, versus corn for bourbon or wheat for wheated bourbons, and is noticeably spicier than bourbon. George Washington produced rye at Mount Vernon, and it was the most common whiskey of the northeastern states, but died out after prohibition. It’s seen a revival in recent years. When used in a cocktail instead of bourbon, the result is drier.