Whisky 101:What is whisky/whiskey?

In our first blog post, Chris and I would like to first explore the world of whisky/whiskey with our Kakis. But before we delve into that, please bear with us as we tell you our back-story. For the few twenty or so years of our lives, we only knew whisky encompassed Chivas and Johnnie Walker. Vodka was the staple when we were younger as it was cheap, easy to get and very easy to mix with other beverages.

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Ahhhh, yes! A bottle of good ol’ Johnnie hits the spot

One day, we decided that enough was enough, it was like eating the same economical beehoon for the past twenty years, some how or another, something has gotta give. We then went online to find out more about what whisky was and we were amazed by how much we were missing out on. And thus everything else was history.

the-sword-in-the-stone

Kinda like how this guy felt

What then is whisky/whiskey? And why the difference in the spelling? Whisky(ey) however it is spelled is basically a distilled spirit. There is a whole long process on how grains such as barley, wheat, corn or whatever is turned into the magically intoxicating stuff that we consume but that’s for another day. I’ll distill (pun intended) how this process takes place- 1) water + grain + cooking = wort (kinda like porridge) 2) wort + yeast + fermentation = weak alcoholic gunk / beer 3) weak alcoholic gunk + distillation = strong white spirit / moonshine 4) strong white spirit + barrels + time = magical brown liquid / whisky

Kinda cheem if you ask me, but heck! A picture is worth a thousand words!

Kinda cheem if you ask me, but heck! A picture is worth a thousand words!

In the past, the brown stuff that we now come to love was called “Uisge Beatha” or water of life by the Scots and Irish. Legend has it that the first drop of whisky was produced by monks who then spread it around the British Isles when they became missionaries. Scotch or scotch whisky is rightly named so because whisky making and drinking has long been associated with the Scottish people.

Take me to church

The monks sure know their stuff

Now, about the spelling. Whisky and whiskey are just about the same brown stuff people drink. The Scots, Canadians and Japanese prefer whisky without the “e” in the middle while the Americans and Irish stick to their ee’s. But besides the spelling, you might have heard about the terms, “blended” and “Single-malts” when used with whisky. Single-malts are whisky which only come from a single distillery in Scotland that uses only malt (germinated barley) in making their whisky. Much like how some wine are labelled as single-estate, similarly you can be sure that a single-malt whisky comes ONLY from that particular distillery made using ONLY pure malt. Of the single-malt whiskies that most Singaporeans should know, Macallan and Glenfiddich should be most familiar to everyone.

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The famous Indian distillery from Bangalore, Amrut

Blended whisky on the other hand are like a Pandora’s box. Blends like Chivas and Johnnie Walker may contain 50 or more different whiskies from different distilleries which you will never know. Also, a high proportion of that blend will come from grain whiskies which are not made from barley but instead come from wheat, corn, rye and many others. That is not to say a blended product is inferior to a single-malt. In fact, blending is an art as the master blender must be really skilled to take 50 different components and marry them to produce a consistent product every single time.

RoyalSalute62_2

You’ll never fail to find this at Changi DFS

Then there are also “blended malt whisky” or “vatted malts” which involves blending different single-malt whiskies without the addition of any grain whisky. If you come across “pure malts” like Nikka Taketsuru, Johnnie Walker Green Label and Monkey Shoulder, these whiskies are also considered blended malt or vatted malt whiskies.

Did you know? Johnnie Walker Green Label is a  blended malt

Did you know? Johnnie Walker Green Label is a blended malt

With that in mind, the next time someone hands you a bottle of whisky, I’m sure you’d be able to read the label and tell him/her exactly what kind of whisky it is. I hope you have enjoyed reading our first post. Keep on drinking. Cheers!

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