Whiskey 101

Whiskey is an alcohol that is often used in cooking. This renowned spirit comes from a wide range of locales, each with its own distinct flavor profile. Whiskey from around the world then finds its way into the cuisine of the area. For example, Scotch whiskey is generally paired with haggis. So what makes all these variation taste so different? Here’s a basic guide to several signature types of whiskey:

Scotch whisky (spelled without the “e”, in this case) must be made in its country of origin and  matured in oak barrels for a minimum of three years. Scotch is often single malt, which means the malt of only one distillery was used in the production of the whisky, making the flavor very distinct. Any whisky that is not designated as single malt uses a blend of malts from several distilleries to create a more balanced flavor profile. If it has a smoky flavor, it was probably made from malted barley that was dried over a peat fire.

Although Scotland boasts more whiskey distilleries than any other country in the world, neighboring Ireland has very few. Irish whiskey is distilled three times, whereas Scotch is only distilled twice. This produces a lighter flavor. Similarly to Scotland, Irish law dictates that whiskey must be matured for at least three years. Jameson, produced by the Midleton Distillery, is perhaps the best-known Irish whiskey in the United States.

Bourbon is the most well-known type of whiskey in the United States. To qualify as bourbon, the whiskey must be crafted in the United States, contain at least 51 percent corn mash and mature in a freshly charred oak barrel for a minimum of two years. Though the majority of bourbon is made in Bourbon County, Kentucky, the origin  of its name, bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. Often mistaken for bourbon, Jack Daniels is actually a Tennessee whiskey.

When compared with the whiskey of other countries, Canada produces the lightest of these spirits, often considered good for mixed drinks. Canadian law allows any whisky to be called rye, which often leads to confusion with American rye, a whiskey with a much bolder flavor profile.

Rye is similar to bourbon, with the main difference being the mash. Instead of a majority of corn mash, this whiskey uses a rye-based mash.

Participate in a culinary arts program online to learn about how to incorporate whiskey in the kitchen.

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