Types of Whiskey: A Comprehensive Guide

Types of Whiskey: A Comprehensive Guide

Ever wondered about how many types of whiskey are there, what the difference is between whiskey and whisky, and why various people spell it differently? In this article, we will answer your questions. Let's get started.

How Many Types of Whiskey are There?

The categorization of whiskey varies depending on the regulations of each country. However, there are generally nine (9) distinct categories of whiskey to choose from. These include:

  • Bourbon
  • Rye
  • Scotch
  • Irish
  • Canadian
  • Japanese
  • Tennessee
  • Corn
  • Wheat

Each type of whiskey has its own unique flavor profile and production process. It's important to understand the differences between each type in order to fully appreciate the nuances of the spirit.

Most Popular Whiskey Types

Whiskey is a popular spirit that comes in many types. The most popular whiskey types include Rye, Canadian, Japanese, Bourbon, Tennessee, Irish, Scotch, Blended, and Single Malt. Each type has its unique flavor, aroma, and production process.

Whiskey vs Whisky - Which One Is It?

When it comes to spelling the word for the beloved spirit, whiskey and whisky are both correct. The difference in spelling depends on where the spirit was made. American whiskey is spelled with an "e" because of the Irish tradition that was passed on to American distillers. On the other hand, Scottish, Japanese, and Canadian distillers spell their spirits as whisky without an "e". In this section, we will explore the various types of whiskey and whisky.

1. Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey is a type of American whiskey that is made with at least 51% rye content. The remaining ingredients typically include barley and corn, although some distillers experiment with other ingredients for special batches. The distilling process is identical to that of bourbon, with barrels aged for two or more years labeled as "straight rye whiskey". Rye whiskey tends to have spicier notes and is less sweet and smooth compared to bourbon.

2. Tennessee Whiskey

Tennessee whiskey is technically classified as bourbon, but some distillers resent being lumped into that category and choose to label their spirits as Tennessee whiskey instead. This whiskey is distilled in Tennessee, and state law there requires that all distillers use a filtering step called the "Lincoln County Process" before letting the whiskey age.

3. Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is made from a malt mash and can only be distilled using both water and caramel coloring. It is a requirement that this spirit be distilled in wooden casks for no less than 3 years to be legally called Irish whiskey. Known for its smooth flavor and palate, Irish whiskey is a favorite among whiskey lovers.

4. Bourbon Whiskey

Bourbon whiskey is an American style of whiskey that is made from at least 51% corn mash. It must be aged in a brand new oak barrel and made in America. There is no minimum required aging period, but it must be bottled at 80-proof or higher. Bourbon whiskey is known for its sweet and smooth flavor.

5. Japanese Whisky

Japan has quickly risen to become a well-respected producer of whiskies. The Japanese follow a process similar to scotch, with the end result similar to some of the finest Scotches produced.

6. Canadian Whisky

By law, Canadian whisky is required to be barrel-aged for a minimum of 3 years. This process results in a smoother and lighter whisky. Most Canadian whiskies are made from a high corn content sometimes mixed with rye, wheat, and/or barley.

7. Scotch Whisky

Scotch whisky is made ONLY in Scotland. The Scots take the distillation process seriously, with tight regulations and laws surrounding how the spirit is made. Using either malt or grain, each whisky must be aged in an oak barrel for a minimum of three years, with an "age statement" listed on each bottle. Scotch is notoriously complex and nuanced, with a smoky flavor from the use of peat water.

8. Blended Whiskey

Blended whiskey is a mixture or "blend" of more than one single malt whiskey or a blend of other blended whiskies. This term is also used to describe a whiskey that is blended with other flavors, grains, or colorings. Although high-end blended whiskies exist, in most cases, blends are seen by whiskey aficionados as inferior. As such, blended whiskey is often a more budget-friendly option and used frequently in the making of cocktails where the quality of the whiskey is overshadowed by other flavors and thus less important.

9. Single Malt Whiskey

Single malt whiskey or scotch is made from a single batch at a distillery. All single malt must be aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels prior to being bottled. The term single malt stems from a key ingredient: malted barley. However, within America, single malt is sometimes made from rye instead of malted barley. Single malt whiskey is highly sought after by whiskey enthusiasts for its complex and unique flavors.

In conclusion, whether you prefer whiskey or whisky, there is a type of spirit for everyone. From the spicy notes of rye whiskey to the smooth flavor of Irish whiskey, each type has its own unique characteristics that make it stand out. So, go ahead and explore the world of whiskey and whisky to find your perfect match.