by Jason Stone on February 01, 2013
Americans say “whiskey,” the Scotch claim it’s “whisky.” Is there a difference?
Those who buy copper still and produce their own spirits might not know that the word “whisky” comes from the Scottish Gaelic term `uisge beatha’ which literally means ‘water of life.’ When used by the Scotch, `whisky’ exclusively refers to alcoholic beverages that are Scotland-inspired. When used by the Americans, “whiskey” could refer to rye, bourbon, Scotch and other beverages that are distilled from grain mash.
In whatever the way the word is spelled, whiskey is a general term to refer to distilled spirits derived from a mash of fermented grains.
Essentially, whether whiskey is written with an e or with no e, the term carries with it myths waiting to be proven as true or debunked – the following are but a few.
Myth 1: Dark whiskey is better than pale whiskey
Dark whiskey doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good whiskey the same way that pale-colored whiskey may or may not be equal to it being a lousy drink – despite drinkers in the Asian region thinking this way. Be aware that color is not a reliable indicator of an alcoholic beverage’s quality. Numerous whiskey brands utilize no-flavor caramel in spirits to darken its color and maintain the color consistency of all batches. Pale whiskey could even be more robust than a dark-colored whiskey, e.g. Cutty Sark.
Myth 2: All whiskey should be consumed straight
Who said that whiskey must be drunk straight? Maybe it was a dare concocted up by a group of drunks in a bar to a novice whiskey drinker as their way of initiating newbies in the world of alcohol.
In reality, whiskey must be enjoyed anyway you want whether it is with ice, straight, with soda, green tea or coconut water, etc. Whatever floats your boat, drink it. However, in order to fully appreciate whiskey, don’t put ice on it. Better yet, add a tad of water. Doing so helps open up the whiskey’s aroma and allows you to taste it’s full-bodied goodness.
Myth 3: High-priced whiskies means they are of high quality
This is not a fact. Quality depends on one’s unique personal taste. A drink’s price is not a guarantee it will be liked or appreciated. A whiskey’s high cost only reflects its rarity and how long a certain distillery held the whiskey as well as how it was marketed and packaged. But if you shelled tons of money for a drink, your head could make you believe it was all worth it – even if your palate says otherwise.
Myth 4: A whiskey’s age indicates its quality
Whiskies that are aged older does not always taste better. There is also a restriction to the duration a spirit could age. When a whiskey is aged for an unnecessarily too long a time, its character gets overwhelmed by the flavors from the wood casks they are placed in. However, some believe that a whiskey’s age justifies the price they paid to acquire it.
Myth 5: All whiskey products tastes the same
This is not a fact specially if you ask experts and enthusiasts. Do not forget that there are a slew of factors that influence a whiskey’s flavor profile. These include grain, geography, source of water, production process and techniques, management of casks as well as maturation.
The best way to fully enjoy the nuances of whiskey, whether you buy copper still to make your own spirit or if you purchase a bottle commercially, is to attend tastings. It is through these that one gets to know the subtle differences, similarities and diversity of this spirit.