Whisk(e)y Flavor Profiles: Part 1

For those of us who’ve been passionate about whiskey for decades, the fact that it has become so popular in recent years comes as no surprise. However, even seasoned whiskey lovers can use some advice when deciding on flavor profiles and personal preference. With that in mind, we’re here to shed some light on the subject so that everyone can easily find a whiskey they love.

Grapes weren’t readily available in Ireland and Scotland which meant wine making wasn’t happening. Thus they began to perfect the craft of distilling fermented grains. Scotland and Ireland both proclaim to have invented whisky but they both have distinct characteristics.

Scotch whisky adheres to a specific set of guidelines to be considered Scottish whisky. It must be produced at a Scottish distillery from a recipe that includes water and malted barley, though other types of whole cereal grains can be used in addition which makes blended Scotch whisky. The resulting liquid must then be distilled at a strength of no less than 94.8% ABV (190 proof) and aged in Scotland in oak casks no larger than 185 gallons for a minimum of three years. After aging, the whisky must be bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV (80 proof).

Irish whiskey must be made and aged in Ireland. The resulting liquid must also be distilled from grains at a strength of no less than 94.8% ABV (189.6 proof) and aged in wooden barrels no larger than 185 gallons for a minimum of three years. Eventually, whisk(e)y made its way to the United States and American whiskey is born.

American whiskey comes in a variety of different types, though bourbon and Tennessee whiskey are the most popular. All American whiskey is made from a mash of grain distilled at less than 80% ABV (160 proof) and stored in oak containers, except for corn whiskey.

All whisk(e)y flavors depend on the region they’re distilled from. These are just basic stipulations and can vary. In order to talk about specific flavor profiles it’s important to understand the regional differences. Next month, we’ll focus on the different notes and flavors.