A Brief History of Whiskey
Whiskey is one of the most consumed alcohols in the world. Millions of people enjoy it everyday. It is really difficult to discuss about the history of whiskey because there are some many types and brands of whiskey available. The origin of the 3 most famous types of whiskey and some of the popular brands are discussed below.
Scotch whisky is probably the most famous type of whisky there is. According to most historians, the distillation of this type of whisky was first started in ancient Babylon. However, when it was first distilled, it was not to consume the whisky. Back then, it was used to make perfume. The real art of distilling alcohol started in the 13th century in Italy. Then wine was distilled to extract alcohol. From there, the practice of distilling alcohol spread to Scotland and Ireland.
The literal meaning of whisky according to the language Gaelic spoken by the Irish and Scottish people is water of life. It is believed that the process of grains for alcohol actually came from Ireland. Later, when Irish monks came to Scotland, the Scottish people learned the art. Now the Scottish people claim to have the earliest record of distilling spirit for consumption. However, it is not sure when actually people started to drink whisky produced by distilling grains. So, this part of the history of whiskey is still a little uncertain.
There are some rules that must be followed in order to produce Scotch whisky. The whisky has to be produced Scotland and has to be matured in the wooden casks for at least 3 years. There are other countries in the world that produce whisky now. And the spelling of whisky depends of the country of origin. For example, if it is produced in Scotland Canada and Japan, it is called whisky. On the other hand, if it is produce in Ireland or United States, it is called whiskey. Although many countries have tired to produce their own brand of whisky, nothing can be compared to the single malt Scotch whisky. There are 5 styles of Scotch whisky. They are as follows:
1. Distilled form 100 percent malted barley from one distillery is called single malt whisky
2. Distilled from one or a mixture of grains (generally up to 80 percent other grains and 20 percent malted barley) is called single grain whisky
3. Blended whisky is the traditional Scottish whisky containing only single malt whiskies. However, it comes form more than one distillery.
4. Distilled from a mixture of grains and coming from more than one distillery is called blended grain whisky
5. The newest from of whisky is called the blended Scotch whisky which has 20 to 40 percent single malt whisky and 60 to 80 percent grain whisky coming from several distilleries.
Some of the famous brands of Scotch whisky are Johnny Walker, Chivas Regal, Glenfiddich, and Macallan.
Irish whiskey is one of the most ancient types of whiskey out there. It is unfortunate that in the 20th century, the Irish whiskey industry did not do well at all. However, Irish whiskey has started to come back to its original position. Now it is the 4th most popular type of whiskey in the world right behind Scotch, Bourbon and Canadian whiskies.
There is not much information about the origin of Irish whisky. No one can tell for sure when it is first distilled. So, it is kind of difficult to give much information about the origin or Irish whiskey in this history of whiskey section. However, most people believe that the brewing of Irish whiskey started somewhere around the 12th century.
Irish whiskey is basically barley based malt whiskey made in Ireland exclusively. It is very similar to Scotch whisky even though the ingredients used and the brewing process is slightly different. Peat is never used in making Irish whiskey. So, the Irish whiskey tastes a lot smoother and has a sweet flavor. Most of the times, you will not get the earthy, smoky flavor of Scotch whisky in Irish whiskey.
Most people believe that the Irish people invented the process of making whisky and the Scottish people perfect the process. Obviously the Scottish people deny this claim. However, it really does not matter how it is prepared. The taste of the whiskey is the main thing. As mentioned before, in Irish tongue, whiskey means water of life.
At present, there are only three operating distilleries in whole Ireland that produces different types of Irish whiskey. Irish whiskey comes in several forms just like Scotch whisky. There is the single malt and grain whiskey. Grain whiskey has a much lighter taste and has a more neutral flavor that the single malt Irish whiskey. It is never bottled as a single grain rather used to blend with other single mail to develop lighter blended whiskey.
Some of the famous Irish whiskey brands are Tullamore Dew, Bushmills, Jameson Irish Whiskey, and Bailey Tyrconnell.
A Baptist minister named Elijah Craig is known to be the first man to distill bourbon whiskey in Georgetown Kentucky during the colonial time in America. Elijah started producing whiskey from a corn base and that is how the bourbon whiskey started its journey. The customers soon started to call the whiskey as the bourbon county whiskey from its birth place. That is how bourbon whiskey got its name.
A lot of distillers have contributed to the history of bourbon whiskey. The abundant limestone water, the fields of corn and the white oak trees also contributed towards making bourbon whiskey the number two whiskey in the world.
Bourbon whiskey is very distinct from other whiskies. The main ingredient is corn. According to the US law, at least 51% of the whiskey must be made from corn for it to be called bourbon whiskey. However, most brands of bourbon whiskey contain even more corn, around 70 percent. Some other ingredients used to produce bourbon whiskey are rye, wheat and malted barley. The age of a bourbon whiskey is also very important. The whiskey must be put inside a white oak barrel for at least 2 years. Most of the time however, the bourbon whiskey is kept inside the barrels for at least 4 years. Nothing can be added to enhance the flavor of bourbon whiskey after the ageing process is done.
Some of the most famous brands of bourbon whiskey are Jack Daniels, Makers Mark, Jim Beam, Crown Royal, and Wild Turkey