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We humans like to pretend that we treasure mountains of knowledge. Although in a great part of the occasions our information on a subject is partial, tiny and even badly contrasted, we raise our voice to make see to the rest of the mortals that we are experts in it, that our opinion must be written in stone and that nobody else must be listened to except us. Any one of us is grateful to be taken by an illustrious focus of wisdom.
However, as we say, this is rarely true, let alone in the realm of drinking. We can get to know some kind of rum, beer or whiskey, throw two or three of their characteristics into the air, recommend a brand that we liked or heard somewhere, and even surprise our listeners with some brushstrokes of the history of that very special elixir. But nothing more. Most of us are incapable of forming a complete whole that makes us worthy of the title of Master Distiller of the drink we are talking about. And to remedy this we are here from I put the ice, which this time we offer an advanced course on whisky, from its beginnings to what varieties exist in the world. Welcome!
It happens with the vast majority of drinks that have a long past, and of course whisky could not be different. We talk about the lack of certainty about its origins. In the case of the drink we are dealing with here, Ancient Egypt is spoken of as one of the principles, since certainties of grain distillation have been found in archaeological excavations, although its purposes were to make perfumes. There are more theories, such as the arrival from China to Mesopotamia, but the truth is that in antiquity was more appreciated wine than other types of drink, and its beginnings until the drink we know today must be placed in the Middle Ages, where in a writing of 1494 is reflected as a Scottish friar received 8 bushels of malt to make water of life, as was known whiskey at that time. This name was due to the medicinal use given to the drink, which was recommended by experts to prolong life, maintain health, smallpox, paralysis or the relief of colic, among many other diseases.
Thus, it was in the British Isles where the history of whisky began to take shape, thanks in large part to the monks who distilled the grain in monasteries believed to have acquired their knowledge from the Celtic monks who came to Scotland and Ireland in the eleventh century, and on the other hand due to the climate, which prevented the manufacture of wine and the rise of beverages such as beer or the one that occupies us. Already in the sixteenth century, under the reign of Henry VIII and the success of the drink by the clouds, the monarch decided to close the monasteries, and leave their inhabitants adrift without a place to make their "magic potion". However, far from being discouraged, God's devout servants broke up in Scotland, causing whisky to be made in all parts of the country and shaping the giant we find today.
Although the whisky elaboration process is not exactly the same for all those who are elaborated in the world, the truth is that most of them share the same procedure, and this is what we are going to talk about so that you can leave your friends astonished.
Everything starts with an excellent raw material, that is, selecting the best cereal grain, whether barley, corn or any other type to turn it into malt after the germination and drying process. This consists, first of all, of soaking for several days in water and letting it rest in special germinating containers, where the sugar is obtained which will later be converted into alcohol. This grain is then placed in ovens where it is dried with the help of hot air or peat smoke, roasting the cereal for approximately three days until it reaches the level desired by the producer.
Then, the fermentation takes place, which translates into introducing the cereal in hot water, adding the yeasts to the resulting must (wort), and leaving it to ferment so that the sugar is transformed into alcohol. The distillation is then carried out in stills, the process being carried out twice: the first time obtaining a liquid known as low wine, and the second a whisky of between 60 and 70 degrees. Finally, this whisky is taken to barrels, where depending on each distillery uses one or the other to give the flavor they want to reach the consumer.
Depending on the years spent in the barrel ageing, what these barrels contained before (port wine, sherry, bourbon), the country in which it is made... There are several catalogues that can be given to whisky, and in I put the ice we are going to start with the differentiation between the composition they hold:
We speak of malt whisky when it is composed solely of malted barley, which is distilled in copper stills shaped like onions. According to this typology, we find two varieties:
Made with malted barley in a single distillery. This whisky is known by the name of the distillery, and unless specified as single cask, contains mixtures of various barrels.
This is a mixture of whiskeys from various distilleries, but only malted barley.
Prepared (usually) with unmalted barley, corn, or other cereal. It is usually distilled in a continuous distilling alembic or in columns.
Mixture of the previous two. Due to the presence of the distillation columns, a large part of the producers decided to mix their strong malt whiskies with some softer grain, obtaining an important product at affordable prices.
As we said, another way of classifying whisky is according to its country of origin. Each nation has established mandatory rules or guidelines to differentiate its product from other competitors, which are discussed below. It is important to note that this classification is not at odds with the previous one, since each of the whiskies, whether Scottish or Japanese, can in turn be classified according to their composition:
The world cradle of whiskey. The Scottish distillate is probably the most recognised in the world, and is governed by the standards of the 1990 Scotch Whisky Order. Among other things, this dictates that it should be aged exclusively in Scotland, with water and malted barley with a 94'8 alcohol content, aged in oak barrels for a minimum period of three years and contain no additional substances other than water or caramel.
Made from barley and with triple distillation, its production process is similar to that of Scotch, differing in the minimum years of aging in barrel, which in your case should be seven, four more than that of Scotland. In addition, in the same way as the American, this is known as whiskey, instead of whiskey.
Smoother and lighter than other competitors. The brew of Canada is characterized by being made exclusively in the country, based on corn and rye, and in stills that allow great control of the product. It is also aged in oak barrels for a minimum period of three years.
With strong Irish influences, due to the emigration of the latter beyond the Atlantic, it is also named with the letter "e". There are also three main varieties of Yankee whiskey:
It must have a minimum of 51% corn and be distilled and aged in Kentucky for the word bourbon to appear on its label. However, it can be legally produced anywhere in the country, despite the prestige of doing so in this area of the United States. Although there is no minimum legal period for its aging, if the drink has been aged for less than two years it must be reflected on its label. Generally speaking, bourbon is aged between four and five years in new or previously toasted oak barrels.
Minimum 51% rye.
Minimum 80% corn.
Although there is no specific law regulating its characteristics, it is also one of the most recognized varieties both in the country and beyond its borders. Its method of production is similar to that of bourbon, with the substantial difference that it is filtered in saccharine maple charcoal, varying its texture and taste. The best known brand is Jack Daniel's.
Although for years has not been widely recognized, the fact is that Japanese whiskey is one of the most prominent in the world and is being reflected in recent times. Using a method similar to Scotch, it is characterized by a powerful and unique body and flavor.
Like its island companions, Welsh whisky has a long history dating back to the Middle Ages despite its limited impact on the world, a fact that has been changing in recent years. The Penderyn Distillery stands out, with a unique distillation method from a still created and patented by David Faraday.
In Spain there is no single recipe for making our whisky, so we find wines that age more or less years, in port barrels, sherry or bo.
Because a drinking glass of a good whiskey always leave a mark. Not in vain the whiskey is also known as “the water of gods”. Flavor and aroma have always escort to a mythical drink and sorrounded of leyends.
You've seen an infinity of characters at films enjoying of their whiskey “on the rocks” or in their prefered cocktail and all of them can't be wrong. Furthermore, the whiskey is a drink that tastes better as much as you try diferent classes and brands and you learn to differenciate its flavors and shades.
The whiskey is achieved mixing water with barley that is malted. After that, it's destilled and it ferments during two years at least, getting old and getting its differents shades according the wood of the cask that contains it.
There are some differents classes of whiskey:
The flavor of the whiskey is rich in shades. Probably it's the spirit drink that stimulate more the smell. In general is a drink with warm cutting, thought to be tasted alone, with water or “on the rocks” –only with ice-. But it's also popular its mixes with cola soda, ginger-ale or Seven Up.
In the wide variety of cocktails that we can find, we highlight these ones:
It's not clear if chineses or celts were who discovered the whiskey in XIII century. What it's sure is that it's guaranted that, in gaelic, whiskey is named as “Uisge Beatha” that can be translated as “Water of life”. We can't find a better definition ;)