Since starting Gold Tooth, a lot of our friends and family have been asking what the differences are between different types of whiskey. First off, most whiskeys are distilled from a fermented grain mash with some being made from corn. All whiskeys have to be distilled between 40% and 94.8% ABV. What type of grain the distillers use in their mash is the main difference among whiskeys. Let’s see what defines Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey, Rye, Scotch, Irish Whiskey, and Canadian Whisky.
Bourbon’s grain mixture must be at least 51% corn, must be distilled below 80% ABV, and may only be made in the United States. It must be aged in oak barrels and can be no more than 62.5% ABV when put into casks. Although bourbon does not have a minimum aging requirement, distillers need to age their product for 2 years for it to be called “straight bourbon.” The requirements for blended bourbons are that they be at least 51% straight bourbon and be classified as the youngest whiskey’s age.
Tennessee Whiskey is basically straight bourbon made in Tennessee. The only difference is that the Tennessee distilleries put their whiskey through a charcoal filtering process. Because of this, they believe it deserves its own name.
Rye Whiskey needs to be made from a mash that is 51% or more rye to be official. Like bourbon, rye must be distilled to no more than 80% ABV and can be no more than 62.5% ABV when put into barrels to start the aging process, and, to be “straight rye,” the spirit must be aged at least 2 years.
Scotch can only be produced in Scotland and must be less than 94.8% ABV and aged for at least 3 years. Their mashes are made from malted barley and can include other cereal grains and caramel coloring; however, no fermentation additives or other shortcuts are allowed.
Irish whiskeys go through three rounds of distillation (as opposed to the normal two) and must be distilled below 94.8% ABV. These whiskeys must be made from a yeast-fermented grain mash and aged in Ireland for three years or more. Any cereal grains may be used and if two or more distillates are used it must say, “Blended,” on the label.
Canadian Whiskies are mostly made of corn with additional Canadian grains. They all must be at least 40% ABV and aged for three years. To be Canadian Rye, the spirit just needs to have some rye in it. There aren’t many rules for these whiskies, so if you see a whisky made in Canada, it’s probably Canadian Whisky.
Now that you’re a cultured whiskey/whisky expert, you can explain the differences to everyone you meet. Show that cutie at the bar how smart you are with this new knowledge.