What defines whisk(e)y?

What defines whisk(e)y?

So what determines what whisk(e)y is anyway? Government laws and regulations do. They have changed over the years, but as whiskey becomes a larger contributor to government budgets (through taxes) the government tends to take a larger interest. It is no great surprise that the government would take such an interest. Before Prohibition in the United States, taxes on whiskey alone accounted for 1/2 of national revenue! (There is an argument to be made that Prohibition caused the Great Depression…) Keeping your “native spirit” under domestic control is important not only to maintain its integrity, but also to maintain its tax contributions. There are so many differences in laws relating to whiskey that the only real connection that whiskey has throughout the...

Springbank, 2 1/2 Times Distilled Whisky

We know American whiskey and scotch are usually distilled twice, and Irish whiskey is often distilled three times, but 2 1/2 times? Springbank whisky is distilled two and half times. The first distillation goes through normally to produce low wines. Then some of those low wines are distilled a second time, but there are no cuts taken, it is just raising that alcohol level and removing more congeners from the distillate. That second run of the low wines is called the feints. Those feints are then blended back in with the remainder of the original low wines. This is what the distillery considers 1 1/2 times distilled. That blend goes through a final spirit run, a hearts cut is taken, and the final distillate is used for barreling. Hence the 2 1/2 times. Springbank...

The Pope is In Philadelphia!

So the pope’s here in Philadelphia…does he drink whiskey? Apparently, there are no papal dietary restrictions. Seems the pope can drink and eat what he likes. Pope Benedict XVI was from Bavaria and he liked his beer. On his 88th birthday he chose to sit in the Vatican gardens with a pint. Pope Francis is from Argentina, and though he has been seen drinking mate tea in the streets with the people, is only known to indulge in the occasional glass of wine. He is a man of the people…perhaps just a bit of whiskey? When the Queen Elizabeth visited the Vatican in April of 2014, she gave Pope Francis a basket of goodies from her estate. One of the items in her gift basket was Balmoral Single Malt Scotch. Royal Lochnagar distillery (originally New Lochnagar),...

Mash Bills in America

Did you know that mash bills are really only used in American whiskey production? American distilleries refer to the proportions of grains used as their “mash bill”. There are quite a few distinct styles of traditional American Whiskeys. Pennsylvania style ryes traditionally carry over 80% rye in their mash bills. Traditional Maryland style ryes are closer to 60% rye, balancing the mash bill with corn and a small amount of malted barley. (George Washington’s original rye whiskey from Mt. Vernon was 60% rye, 35% corn and 5% malted barley.) Bourbon, called “America’a spirit”, is at least 51% corn and is flavored with either rye or wheat grains and a small amount of malted barley. Corn whiskey is at least 80% corn, usually more. These traditional mash bills grew...

Scottish Oak barrels for Scotch?

Scottish Oak barrels for Scotch?

Did you know that there are only a couple scotches that have actually been aged in Scottish Oak? Seems like a pretty obvious thing to age your whiskies in locally grown oak. We, thankfully, in the U.S. still have a good supply of American oak (though most good American oak timber is “kept safe” in Nationally preserved forest east of the Mississippi), but it seems the English had a pretty serious naval ship building campaign that made Scottish Oak hard to come by… There is only one working cooperage in the UK and that is Speyside Cooperage located in located in Craigellachie, Aberlour, Scotland. They use American oak to make their casks… About 97% of scotch is aged in used bourbon barrels. Because new charred American oak barrels can only be used once,...

John Glaser of Compass Box

John Glaser of Compass Box

We all know what happens when you insert Scots-Irish folks into American whiskey production. Great American whiskey, of course. But what would happen if you insert an American into Scotch production? John Glaser, of course. John Glaser is a bit of a maverick in the whiskey world. He’s not bound to the tradition-based ways of doing things that scotch production has been. Maybe it’s his inner, rebellious American spirit. (Glaser is from Minnesota) After attending college at Miami of Ohio, he began pursuing a career in wine making. After stints with wineries in Burgundy and the Napa Valley, he ended up on the business side of the wine industry, which ultimately led him to Scotch and Johnnie Walker’s global marketing department. He moved to London and started...

Is Cask Strength the Best Way To Buy Whiskey?

Is Cask Strength the Best Way To Buy Whiskey?

Is cask strength whiskey the best whiskey? Seems like a question most people you’d ask would answer “Yes!” to right away. There’s quite a bit to consider here, however. The vast majority of whiskey bottled by distillers is watered down to 40% abv/ 80 proof. Legally to be called whiskey, you have to be at least 80 proof. (There is an allowance of three tenths of a degree for loss of proof during bottling, but anything lower than that must be labeled “diluted whiskey”.) Whiskeys go into a cask/barrel at no more than 125 proof, so most cask strengths are going to be near that (60-65% alcohol) when bottled. Barrels, depending on where they are stored in a warehouse, may loose alcohol (or water) and volume to the angel’s share which alters their original barreling...

Bourbon is Not Scotch…

Bourbon is not Scotch. Silly and obvious, I know, but after reading an article where a man was blasting bourbon distilleries for removing age statements, I feel it must be said. Many bourbon drinkers today are first introduced to brown liquors through scotch. It makes sense. You grow up, you want something a little stronger and little more “top shelf”. Scotch is wonderful stuff, so you try other brown liquors and discover that bourbon is sweeter and bolder in many ways and you want to explore more…but the age statements are lower and it can’t be as good, right? Wrong. Bourbon is not Scotch. Bourbon is aged in brand new, charred oak barrels. (They don’t need to in American white oak, but they tend to be.) I usually use the analogy of...