Pick Your Poison: Different Types of Whisky

Ryan Yip Whisky Leave a Comment

It is time that we touch on this topic. Often times, we talk about whiskies but the term ‘whisky’ is really vague itself, it is an umbrella term. So, what exactly are under this umbrella? How many different types of whisky are there? Let’s find out.

Scotch Whisky

The SMWS Biting a fireman’s glove

Perhaps ‘the most commonly drank whisky in the world’ title belongs to Scotch. What is Scotch? First and foremost, Scotch has to come from Scotland. Although this may be a stupid/obvious thing to say, a lot of people still refer to all whisky as ‘Scotch’ which is WRONG.

Second thing, Scotch is made with malted barley. The term ‘malted’ refers to the process of “soaking the grain in water for two to three days and allowing it to germinate”, according to the most trusted online source in human history, Wikipedia.

Take a look at the Raasay ‘While We Wait’ Single Malt Review

There are also different regions when it comes to further categorizing of Scotch.

  • Highland (e.g. Dalmore, Clynelish)
  • Speyside (e.g. Balvenie, BenRiach, Glenfiddich)
  • Lowland (e.g. Glenkinchie)
  • Islay (e.g. Kilchoman, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich)
  • Campbeltown (e.g. Glen Scotia)

Types of Scotch Whisky

There is also another way to categorize Scotch:

  • Single malt (MUST BE distilled in a single distillery)
  • Single grain (Also from one distillery but with cereal grain rather than just malted barley)
  • Blended Scotch (Combining malt whisky and grain whisky from different distilleries)
  • Blended malt Scotch (Combining different malt whiskies from different distilleries)
  • Blended grain Scotch (Blend of single grains from different distilleries)

Now that we know what Scotch whiskies are, let’s move on to the next one, Bourbon.

Bourbon Whiskey

There aren’t as many categories in Bourbon compared to Scotch but there are rules to follow as well!

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

One common misconception most people have with Bourbon is they think that bourbon can only be made in Kentucky, or like with Scotch, only whiskey made in Kentucky can be called Bourbon. While this may seem to be the case as Bourbon is so intrinsically linked to the state, Bourbon just generally refers to whiskeys made within the United States.

A major difference between Bourbon and Scotch is that the mash (the mixture of grains) must contain at least 51% of corn.

Yes. Corn.

Bourbon must also be distilled at 160 proof or less and when in barrels, 125 proof or less. ‘Proof’ is just a fancy word for ‘alcohol content’. Whatever the ‘proof’ is, divide that by 2, that would be your abv.

Rye Whisky

Similar to bourbon but with at least 51% of rye instead.

American Rye is as stated above, heavily regulated and is the easiest to find.

Canadian Rye, on the other hand, isn’t as strictly regulated. There are no written rules on how much Rye the Canadian Rye whiskey should contain.

So there you have it, different types of whisky! Next time when you are ordering at a bar or when your friends ask, you will know what differs between them!

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