Whisky Fundamentals

In principle, Scotch, Bourbon or Irish Whisky hardly differ in terms of production. While the raw materials differ slightly for the different types of whisky, all whisky is made using grain, water and fermentation by yeast. Malt whiskys are produced from malted barley, grain whiskys from cereals such as wheat, rye or oats and bourbon whiskies predominantly from corn.

Yet important differences can be found in the distillation technology used. Scottish malt whiskies have to be distilled in copper stills (pot stills), while large column stills are used for grain and bourbon whiskies. Further differences in whisky production can be found in the storage in oak barrels. Barrels from bourbon and sherry production are generally used for Scottish whisky, while only charred virgin American oak is permitted for bourbon whisky. In addition to the influence of the different whisky barrels, different barrel sizes also have an influence on the later taste of the whisky.

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Getting to grips with the basics of whisky is not essential to selecting and enjoying your next bottle, but the varied history and produciton methods are fascinating and can help guide you on your journey.