Whiskies - What are the Differences?

January 20, 2023

Calgary is now home to one of the most unique whisky retailers in North America. Co-op's 'World of Whisky' opened in the downtown core this past December, and sells approximately 850 different varieties of the dark, delectable spirit. The four main types that most of us buy are rye, bourbon, scotch and Irish whisky…but what differentiates them from each other? Here’s what I learned from store Manager, Chris Sikorsky.

Rye Whisky

This is what most of us Canadian's tend to drink, either on the rocks (on ice) or mixed with coca cola or ginger ale. Rye is a type of grass in the wheat family, and is closely related to barley. In Canada, our rye is usually distilled from a combination of rye, barley, wheat, and sometimes corn, however some are made with 100 per cent rye. The United States also has America rye whisky that must be distilled from at least 51 per cent rye and aged two years or more. Canadian rye tends to be lighter and smoother that it's American counterpart.

Wheat Field iStock 187321018

Bourbon

This American whiskey must be made of at least 51 per cent corn to be considered bourbon and must come from Kentucky. It also stored in charred oak containers and does not contain any additives. The U.S. also has Tennessee Whiskey, like Jack Daniel’s, that obviously must be made in Tennessee. Tennessee Whiskey is filtered through sugar-maple charcoal, which is what distinguishes it from a typical Bourbon, like Jim Beam.

Corn Field iStock 172989273

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey, as the name points out, is a whiskey distilled in Ireland. The name includes an 'e' in the spelling of whisky unlike most other types. Irish whiskey must be aged for three years in wooden casks and goes through three rounds of distillation before it's bottled. This gives it a very smooth taste that's great for sipping.

Irish iStock 464455174

Scotch

Last but not least, we have the mother of all whisky, Scotch. Scotch only comes from Scotland, is made from malted barley, and is aged in oak barrels for at least three years. You'll notice that on every bottle of scotch there’s a number beside the name that indicates how many years it was aged. Generally, the older the bottle, the more it costs. The production of scotch is also tightly regulated in Scotland, which ensures a consistent, quality product. There are a few different ways to drink scotch; either on the rocks or most often than not, neat (no ice). When drinking scotch neat, experts recommend adding a few drops of water to help reveal the flavours of the drink. There are also five distinct variations of scotch including: 

Scotland iStock 508026716

Single malt - produced in single batches and contains only one grain; malted barley.
Single grain - produced in single batches but with malted barley and one or more other grains.
Blended malt - contains two or more single malt Scotches made in different distilleries.
Blended grain - made from two or more single grain whiskies, in different distilleries.
Blended - made from at least one single malt blended with at least one single grain Scotch.

Be sure to go check out the downtown store, located at 240, 333 5th Avenue SW.

 

 

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