Happy-Hour Hooch: Whiskey or Whisky (Scotch, Bourbon, Rye)

Let’s face it, whisky has always been on the tipsy part of the food pyramid, right? The best part about whisky is that there is always a brand to match everyone’s taste, from the extremely weak to the lip numbingly strong.

The spelling whisky is generally used in Canada, Japan, Scotland, England, and Wales—while whiskey is more common in Ireland and the United States. The usage is not always consistent. For example, some prominent American brands, such as George Dickel, Maker’s Mark, and Old Forester (all made by different companies), use the ‘whisky’ spelling on their labels, and the US legal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits document also uses the ‘whisky’ spelling.

Scotch Whisky (simply called scotch by most)

The Scots have been distilling whisky for quite a few centuries now, which gave them plenty of time to master the recipe, and boy, did they! There are four kinds of Scotch whisky, namely, single malt, vatted or pure malt, single grain, and blended.

Single Malt Whisky

Well, since, we’re talking about Scotch, this is the real stuff. Made up of one hundred percent malted barley, which makes it the single most complex and flavorful of all the whiskies. To make single malt, a barley mash is pumped into copper stills, the stills are heated. The vapor collects in a condenser, and viola! Becomes liquid again. This is the stuff the highlanders used to sip right off the still so yeah, single means from a single distillery. Laphroiag, Oban and Ardbeg are some of the best in the world.

Vatted Malt Whisky

Vatted malt whisky is simply a blend of single malts, usually from different distilleries. A blend of complementary malts creates a test-tube whisky that is rounder and smoother than any of its parents. Peated Monster and TheSpice Tree are some of the renowned vatted malt blends.

Single Grain Whisky

In single grain distillation, the resulting spirit is much lighter. Roughly ninety percent of the grain whisky distilled goes into blended scotch, which means you have a rare drink indeed.

Blended Whisky

Blended scotch rules the market. Most blends contain two or three grain whiskies and can contain as many as forty malts. These blends are usually smoother than the single malt variety. Great King street and Johnnie Walker are known for selling finest blended whisky.

Bourbon

Named after Kentucky’s Bourbon County, Bourbon was designated as the “Official Spirit of America” in 1964. This makes two things clear, one that it definitely isn’t Scottish and two it doesn’t belong to the Irish whisky variety either. The original ‘moonshine’ style of bourbon was a corn whisky, with the corn giving a sharp sweetness and with zero ageing. As with most spirits, there’s a wide difference in flavors between the many brands available. The majority are a balance of caramel sweetness, vanilla and spices. The most popular makes include, Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Wild Turkey, Maker’s Mark.

Rye

While Scotch and Bourbon brands usually dominate the whisky shelves, there are some great Rye Whisky brands available at the markets too. Rye is a complex grain that adds depth and spice to the still by being aged in new, charred American oak barrels. Rye Whiskey was very popular before prohibition, but basically disappeared afterwards, that is, until now. Old Overholt is considered as one of the oldest Rye Whiskey brands. Some of the other popular rye whisky brands include Russell’s Reserve, George Dickel, Knob Creek, Whistlepig Straight Rye and Redemption Rye.