Whisky / whiskey in 10 questions
It is certainly the most complex alcohol. Its aromatic palette is wide depending on its age, its breeding, the way it is distilled. Faced with this range of possibilities, here is some information to better understand this unique eau-de-vie.
Let’s find out with the drinks and cocktails experts from Xu Lounge on 75 Hai Ba Trung in Saigon – Vietnam, about important elements to understand about whiskey!
But who invented it?
The Irish and the Scots still dispute the paternity of this alcohol. Indeed, there is no written record claiming that this distilled drink made from cereals was born in one of these countries. We just know that it was the Irish missionaries, led by Saint Patrick (whom the Scots claim was born in their country), who, in 432, would have brought back from their evangelizing journeys the technique of distillation (it was already used in Egypt 3,000 BC for perfumes).
They adapted it to produce "uisce beatha", a Celtic translation of brandy. This drink had nothing to do with the current distillate. It was plant-based and recommended against diseases, hence its name spirit. This name was so unpronounceable by the English that they changed it ….
What criteria must this spirit meet?
To have the right to be called whiskey, the eau-de-vie obtained after distillation must age for at least three years in barrels. If its aging is lower, the alcohol will not be able to claim the name of whiskey. The degree of alcohol must be at least 40 degrees.
The same recipe around the world?
Regardless of the country of origin, whiskey consists of three ingredients: water, cereals and yeast. The water must be of an irreproachable purity because it intervenes during the major stages (fermentation, distillation, and dilution). It is for this reason that the distilleries are located close to a watercourse. The choice of cereal is essential. It will determine the type and aromatic palette of the whiskey. Barley is the most widespread, but we also find wheat, corn, rye…
The blend was previously the most common whiskey. It is a blend of different kinds of whiskeys from several distilleries. The Japanese blend Hibiki Harmony, for example, was made from ten malt and grain whiskeys from the Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita production units.
Or single malt?
The term malt refers to a malted cereal, that is to say germinated and cooked to release its aromas. This is usually barley. When we discuss a single malt, it means that the blended whiskeys come exclusively from the same distillery.
Is a single malt better than a blend?
Nope! It all depends on individual tastes. The blend is undoubtedly more complicated to achieve because the alcohols come from different production units. The talent of the master blender is at work to offer a complex distillate.
Peaty, that is to say?
As soon as the whiskey is poured into the glass, a powerful aroma of open fire or Chinese lapsang souchong black tea emerges. This strong smell comes from peat (an agglomerate of plants and decomposing earth used during the malting of cereals). It is burnt during the drying process and thus naturally embalms the green malt, which will then be used in the development of the whiskey. The distilleries on the Isle of Islay, in Scotland, are a world reference in peated whiskies.
Whiskey or whisky?
The spelling changes, but it is the same product. Just remember that whiskey (with an e) is produced in the United States and Ireland. In the rest of the world, it is called whiskey.
What about bourbon?
Bourbon is made in the United States with a minimum of 51% corn. You can add malted barley, rye, or wheat. The proportion of maize is most often around 80%. The alcohol must be aged in new oak barrels for at least two years.
What does the number of years on the label mean?
When on a label is indicated 15 years of age, for example, it means that the youngest whiskey entering its composition has, at least, 15 years of aging. But the bottle can contain whiskeys of 18 or 20 years of age.