Instant Expert: The Whiskey 101
It's time to expand your knowledge beyond the likes of Jim Beam and Wild Turkey.
What it is: Whiskey is made from a fermented mix of grains, like barley, rye or corn. The aging process and distillation distinguishes it.
Whisky vs. whiskey: The spelling essentially comes down to street cred — the Irish, considered the first to produce it, spelled it with an “e", and so the Scots wanted to differentiate theirs and dropped the letter. Today, whisky refers to those made in Scotland, Wales, Canada or Japan. Whiskey refers to those made in Ireland or the United States.
Age: Unlike wine, whiskey stops aging once it's bottled. A 12-year-old whiskey bottled two years ago is still 12-year-old whiskey.
Proof: All whiskey must be at least 40 percent alcohol by volume (meaning they're 80 proof). Some are as high as 70 percent — you might want to avoid those.
Single malt: Whiskey made by a single distillery from one type of malted grain and is not mixed with any other whiskey.
Blended: Two or more single malt whiskeys blended with grain whiskey; the more single malt whiskeys, the deeper the flavor.