Oh the width of whiskies,
lined up on the wall,
which one for the tipping
and which for longer haul.
The world of whiskies can seem truly daunting to the beginning whisker* but fear not for here is a guide to types of whiskies!
First let’s start off with Scotch/Scottish whisky. Scotland has an organization called the Scotch Whisky Association which controls/protects the way whisky is branded in the UK. They have outlined some rules about the different types of whiskies produced here in sunny Scotland.
Single Malt Whisky – From only malted barley, distilled in pot stills only, from a single distillery, aged for a minimum 3 years in oak casks.
Blended Malt Whisky – From only malted barley, distilled in pot stills only, from multiple distilleries, aged for a minimum 3 years in oak casks. Also sometimes labelled as Vatted Malt but this is no longer allowed by SWA rules. (Same as above but from multiple distilleries)
Grain Whisky – From any grain, usually distilled in column stills, aged in oak casks for a minimum of 3 years. Can be sold as single grain whisky if from a single distillery.
Blended Whisky – A blend of both malt whisky and grain whisky.
New Make – Not technically whisky but this is the spirit fresh off the stills without any aging in casks. Not commonly sold but it is becoming more available as new Scottish distilleries pop up.
Note the difference in spelling for the “W” word. Ireland has a rich whisky history and as such there is a special type of whiskey associated with Ireland in addition to the types defined in Scotland. One important thing to note is that Irish whiskies are often produced from a mix of malted and unmalted barley. Thus these whiskies are not technically single malts. The reason for this practice is that a tax was placed on malted barley in the 18th century. As a result, distilleries would throw in unmalted barley into their mash to save on taxes.
Pot Still Whisky – Used to denote that only pot stills were used for distillation but the mash bill was from malted and unmalted barley. Jameson whisky is a famous example of this.
The most famous type of American whisky is Bourbon but there are other well known styles. An important note to make is that Bourbon must be matured in virgin oak casks, thus the Bourbon industry cannot reuse casks. Because of this little law, many of the used Bourbon casks are sold to Scotland where they can be used to make good ole’ Scotch!
Bourbon – Made in America, at least 51% corn in the mash, aged in new charred oak casks, distilled to no more than 80% ABV, casked at no more than 62.5% ABV, bottled at 40% ABV or more.
Straight Bourbon – Same as normal bourbon but with additional rules. Cannot have additives, aged at least 2 years, if less than 4 years then requires an age statement.
Rye – At least 51% rye in the mash, distilled to no more than 80% ABV, casked at no more than 62.5% ABV, bottled at 40% ABV or more.
Straight Rye – Same as normal rye but needs to be aged at least 2 years.
Rye Malt – Similar to normal rye but needs to be at least 51% malted rye.
Malt Whiskey – Similar to Bourbon but needs to be 51% malted barley.
Wheat Whiskey – Similar to Bourbon but needs to be at least 51% wheat.
Corn Whiskey – At least 80% corn, needs no aging but if aged then must use previously used casks or uncharred oak, distilled to no more than 80% ABV, casked at no more than 62.5% ABV.
While Japanese whiskies are perhaps the most clostly tied to the Scottish whisky tradition, the lack of an SWA like presence in Japan has fostered a more experimental attitude toward whisky. Thus in addition to the Scottish whisky types, Japan has a few of their own.
Coffey Malt – From only malted barley, distilled in a Coffey column still, aged for at least 3 years in oak casks.
Pure Malt – From only malted barley, a blend of malt whisky and Coffey malt whisky.
While there are certainly many more types of whiskies which are produced in other countries, the lack of regulation means that there is no defined names for these new styles.
*A person who drinks whisky. I made it up ok? Just like the way it sounds.