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The Generic Whisk(e)y Topic


chef koo
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so i know nothing of whiskey except that it's distilled like cognac. and even there i'm not entirely sure. but i'd like to start learning about it. so to start i'd like to know what the quintessential whiskey to start drinking would be. i want the no bullshit no gimmick whiskey. also i know that there are grades like single malt and in that there are different ages for them like 18years or 12 and such. is there a difference? money is not an issue with me for i'd be willing to save up a couple months to get a top notch whiskey.

edit: along my pursuit for information i've discovered that scotland is THE country for whiskey. and that to get the purest example of a whiskey that only a single malt should be consumed. can anyone confirm this?

Edited by chef koo (log)

bork bork bork

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Wild Turkey Rye.

Single malt v. blended, Scotch v. bourbon v. Rye v. Irish, is a definite matter of personal taste. I'd say, it's a waste going straight to what somebody tells you is the top brand, especially if you're spending big bucks on something you haven't learned to appreciate. Get a little of this, a little of that, see what you like, compare the flavors against each other, and develop a taste for what's good.

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I once attended a function hosted by the traveling rep from Johnny Walker Scotch. He told the story of how a lady kept insisting single-malt should be the only scotch to drink. The rep tried to explain it as a single-malt would be a piano recital, and a blended scotch would be a symphony orchestra. The woman would not yield so he finally said "you're right m'am".

I'm a big fan of Bourbon (esp. Knob Creek) and Rye, and some Canadian whiskey, but I don't much care for Scotch or Irish whiskey.

As WoBuJiDao noted, try many different whiskeys and get a feel for the styles and brands you enjoy.

Cheers!

Kevin

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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I will attempt to give you a few suggestions since that is what you are looking for, but before I do that I'll give you a slight rundown of myself and what I like.

I like a LOT of different spirits. I love bourbon, single malts, GOOD blended scotches (not so much the lesser ones), tequila, rum, gin, cognac, beer basically I am a big fan of GOOD, top shelf type spirits.

Understand, the longer a spirit is aged, the more it will cost and typically the smoother the spirit will be, but not always!

Also, I drink ALL my whiskies, tequilas, and rums NEAT. No ice or water 95% of the time. I someetimes cut my drink with spring water IF the proof is really high. One of the bourbons listed below I used to cut with water, but now I drink it neat. If you don't drink these neat, it might be worthwhile to try the less expensive bottles first and work from there.

With that said, I will give you some high and price low recommendations of whiskey I like:

Bourbon Whiskey

Elmer T Lee

Tremendous for the price. Reminds me of pumpkin pie.

$22

Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Lot B

Excellent bourbn, deemed "nectar" by some, but trully great for

$35

George T Stagg

Good, but VERY high proof. Might need to cut it with water. 131+ proof.

$50

Eagle Rare 17

Another great one for $50

Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20

Another van winkle product, but different than the one above and currently my favorite bourbon on the market.

$80

Single Malts

When I first got into single malts I started with the brand I saw most around stores and seemed pricey and had a broad range. That brand is Macallan. I think it's the Nike of SMSWs. It's always a great product, but you pay a little more for it due to it's popularity and availability. It always performs though at leaat IMO. After trying many many more SMSWs I still think some of the Mac's are among my favorites.

Macallan 12 - great starter SMSW for $35

Mac 18 - once you learn to appreciate the 12, try this one but the price jump is significant, $100

Mac 25 - My favorite SMSW to datea dn one of my top 5 spirits of all time so far. Unbelievably good, but I only drink it on special occassions. $300+

There are TONS of SMSWs out there, but Macallan is pretty regularly available. What I like about the Macallan is the hint of sherry tastte in them. It's very nice.

Blended

I don't have a lot of experience in this realm because I don't really like the blends as mucha sthe single malts, BUT wth that said the one I am going to recommend velow opened my eyes to what a blend can be.

Johnnie Walker Blue label

Wow, what a blend! 100 times better than the black (which I am not a big fan of) and ultra smooth.

I am sure other HIGH end blended whiskies are great like JW Blue, but I have't tried them yet, but they are on my list!

Hope this helps and good luck!

I am new to this forum, but intend on being around more often. Some great stuff here!

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You need to develop your own palate for distilled grains. Nobody can tell you what you're going to like the best. This is a field composed only of individual opinons. Some people like young whiskies, others like them old. Some like the coastal influences that show themselves in island whiskies, while others do not (There's a scotch in which I swear I can taste shellfish). Some find the sweet vanilla notes of bourbon cloying, while others love it.

Don't let anybody tell you that you are wrong for liking what you like. And don't think that just because something is expensive it must be better. There are a huge number of whiskies out there, and even the cheaper ones are fairly enjoyable.

You do need to know the taxonomy of whisky so that if you find one you like, you can try things that should be similar to it. Here's a rough snapshot... feel free to flesh it out more.

I. American

a. Bourbon

b. Rye

c. Blended

d. TN Sour Mash

II. Irish

III. Scotch

a. Single malt

1. Highland

2. Lowland

3. Speyside

4. Islands (Islay + Campbeltown + Mull +Orkney, etc.)

b. Blended

IV. Canadian

Pick something, taste it, and if you like it, then figure out what else is in the same category and try more.

Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I am going to agree with most people here about developing your own palate as the way to go. I gave you my opinions because it's good to have a starting point. I have an online database of all my spirits and tasting notes and ratings just so I remember what I like and why and when...

https://67.85.199.137/em/tequila.nsf/frmall

I do know one thing, once you dive into the whiskey world, there is no turning back. I started and now I am hooked. I want to try everything. There is so much out there, you will find what you like.

As for the last question you asked. Let's try this.

Question:

"What is the best and purest whisley?"

Answer:

Irishman: "Irish Whiskey"

Scotsman: "Single malt scotch whiskey"

Master distiller in a bourbon distilley: "Bourbon whiskey"

...

You get the point. It's all about what you like. Enjoy the ride!

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as for definitions, here's what i know (correct me if i'm wrong):

whiskey - spirit distilled from grain (typically barley, corn, wheat, rye), usually aged in charred oak barrels (although this varies)

single malt - whiskey made from a single "batch"; made and aged together

blended malt (or vatted malt) - many single malts blended together to create a more complex whiskey

blended - whiskey blended with neutral spirits which then take on the flavor of the whiskey (i beleive a blended whiskey is something like 20-35% whiskey)

Scotch whisky - whisky made in scotland; mash mostly barley that's often raosted with peat fires; typically single malt, but i've heard there are good vatted malts, also

Irish whiskey - whisky made in Ireland (duh)

Bourbon - Whiskey made in Kentucky; always single malt; distilled and aged to certain standards (mash must be 51%-79% corn, distilled no higher than 160 proof, etc.)

TN whiskey - made like bourbon and filtered through charcoal

Rye - Whiskey made with at least 51% rye (used to be produced primarily in PA and Maryland, but now mostly made by the big bourbon distilleries; i think this has to be single malt, also)

Canadian Whiskey - uh, made in canada (i beleive this is typically a blended corn whiskey and is not straight rye like some beleive)

Age - how long the whiskey has been aged in barrels (typically charred oak); some whiskeys have a standard (i.e., rye must be marked if it's aged less than 4 years); not a rule, but the longer the age the more flavorful the whiskey (and more expensive)

a total generalization, but scotches are smokey/spicy, bourbons are sweet, and ryes are like a dry bourbon. use the suggestions in this thread and try it all.

i'm not too experienced with whiskey, but i love all ryes (bourbon is good, but sometimes too sweet for me). i also love Islay (pronounced i-la, i think) scotch, like laphroig and ardbeg. super, super smokey, salty, and nice and spicy. makes me think of a good anejo tequila.

edited to add new facts about whiskeys.

Edited by lostmyshape (log)
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There's more to it than just location. Different kinds of whiskeys are distilled from different grains.

Scotch is made (predominantly) from barley; bourbon from corn; rye from rye. I don't know what Irish is made from; I think Candian might also be made predominantly from rye but I'm not sure.

There's also the question of what's used to cook the grain. Islay scotches use peat, for example, whereas highland scotches use something else.

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Canadian is often thought to be primarily rye, but it's actually corn. ask the historians here, but i think that this misconception started during prohibition, when Canadian whisky was used as a substitute for rye that had ceased production.

i don't beleive there are government regulations on irish whisky and scotch like there are on american whiskey. i think scotch is primarily barley, as you said, but i think irish whisky varies.

flavor comes from so many things: the grains used, how they're roasted, the strength of distillation, the barrels it's aged in, the length of aging. hard to predict what exactly you'll like, but follow the suggestions here. people on this forum know what they're talking about.

edited for grammer.

Edited by lostmyshape (log)
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Scotch is made (predominantly) from barley; bourbon from corn; rye from rye.  I don't know what Irish is made from;

Irish is also made predominantly from malted barley, however, after malting, the barley is dried in a closed kiln rather than over an open fire, so it doesn't have the smoky flavor associated with scotch.

The ingredient differentiation between American Bourbon and Rye Whiskey, is, rye is made with at least 51% rye, and bourbon made with at least 51% corn.

scotland is THE country for whiskey. and that to get the purest example of a whiskey that only a single malt should be consumed.

I'm not really that much of a Scotch fan, so I will disagree with you here. It's fine and all; but, I prefer the flavor of a nice Bourbon, Rye or Irish. Plus, I don't have to take out a second mortgage to sample the good stuff.

It's also my understanding there is some very nice blended Scotch out there, like that from Compass Box. Kind of a different animal from Single Malts, though.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Here's my two cents on the topic of whisky. Of the four major whisk(e)y producing countries Canada and Ireland are similar in that they produce smooth drinking whisky, that is almost always blended. Scotland and the US (Bourbon) are similar because they have the most flavourful whisky. Scotch being smokey with peat and Bourbon being sweet and vanilla with strong wood flavours. Of course these are generalizations.

If you have never tried whisky, start with a Canadian or Irish blend. Crown Royal is an excellent choice and available just about everywhere. Jameson is a good smooth Irish whiskey. Blended whisky tends to be easier drinking and are very reasonable price wise.

Scotch and Bourbon have lots of flavour, and can be harsh to a new palette. But once acquired, everything else seems bland, hence the loyalty and sometimes fanaticism.

Here's some facts about Canadian whisky:

The Canadian government regulates whisky production and requires that all whisky produced in Canada be three years or older. Most Canadian whisky is 6 to 8 years old. It is generally a blended spirit, meaning it is made from different types and ages. Canadian whisky can be made from rye, wheat, corn, barly and malted barly. It is aged in new or used oak barrels and many times former bourbon or port barrels are used. The final product is consistent from year to year.

Canadian whisky is refered to as "rye", but the majority of brands are not 100% rye. There are a number of Canadian rye whiskies available. Canadian blends do not ocntain unaged neutral grain spirits.

Darcy S. O'Neil

Chemist | Bartender | Writer

Website: Art of Drink

Book: Fix the Pumps

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There's also the question of what's used to cook the grain. Islay scotches use peat, for example, whereas highland scotches use something else

Are you certain about this?? It's my understanding that all Scotch starts with barley that is sprouted and then toasted/dried over peat fires or in kilns that have peat fires. The differences in flavor come from the fact that the Highlands are less rainy and wet than either the Lowlands or Islay areas so the peat both smokes less and burns more quickly as it is less damp and humid to beign with. The Lowlands and Islay areas are much rainier, colder and more humid (I'm told the rain comes down sideways in some places) so the peat starts out "wetter" and hence smokes more and takes longer to burn, hence the much more pervasive flavor of peat in the Scotch whisky from these places. The person who explained all this to me was Simon Brooking, the "Scotch ambassador" from Dalmore, so I'm thinking he knew what he was talking about. I attended a Bourbon vs. Scotch luncheon with Fred Noe of Jim Beam and Simon Brooking as the guest lecturers. It was pretty interesting. I still like bourbon better myself, but I now know I can actually stomach the less "peaty" tasting scotch from the Highlands as well.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I still like bourbon better myself, but I now know I can actually stomach the less "peaty" tasting scotch from the Highlands as well.

Katie, give Caol Ila a try. It's an Islay malt, but of a more floral nature. The 12 y.o. is readily available. It's a major component of Johnny Walker Black. Caol Ila was my introduction to the world of single malts, and it's quite inviting.

Edited by rlibkind (log)

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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maybe i should rephrase the question. is there one whiskey that will give me a good general idea of what all whiskeys taste like? i would like a solid foundation of whiskey knowledge before i start drinking other stuff

bork bork bork

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I don't think there is an ur-whisky that incorporates the features of all of them. Closest you're going to get is to pick a representative of each of the major varieties of blends. If I were going to pick representatives I'd pick the following based on my own tastes and preferences. They're all good:

Scotch: Famous Grouse, a blended scotch

Irish: Black Bush from Bushmills

Bourbon: Old Forester

Canadian: Canadian Club

If you picked up a full bottle of each, you'd be out about $100, and would have a fine variety to try. I think all of the above come in airline bottles, so you could get 4 of them and narrow down your preferences really inexpensively.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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maybe i should rephrase the question. is there one whiskey that will give me a good general idea of what all whiskeys taste like? i would like a solid foundation of whiskey knowledge before i start drinking other stuff

Though I don't know what an "ur-whisky" is, cdh is right that there is no ONE whiskey to represent them all. Just as you couldn't drink Gosling's Black Seal and know what Bacardi is like, though they are both rums, Knob Creek bourbon is completely different than Paddy Irish whiskey.

Larger liquor stores usually have a good selection of miniature (airline bottles) and that is a great suggestion to try many whiskeys without spending a fortune.

Thanks,

Kevin

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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There's also the question of what's used to cook the grain. Islay scotches use peat, for example, whereas highland scotches use something else

Are you certain about this?? It's my understanding that all Scotch starts with barley that is sprouted and then toasted/dried over peat fires or in kilns that have peat fires. The differences in flavor come from the fact that the Highlands are less rainy and wet than either the Lowlands or Islay areas so the peat both smokes less and burns more quickly as it is less damp and humid to beign with. The Lowlands and Islay areas are much rainier, colder and more humid (I'm told the rain comes down sideways in some places) so the peat starts out "wetter" and hence smokes more and takes longer to burn, hence the much more pervasive flavor of peat in the Scotch whisky from these places....

This may have been true in the nineteenth century, but nowadays all but a tiny handful of distilleries buy their barley malt from one of the big maltings, where the amount of peat-smoke added, which varies from none at all (in a surprising number of cases) to quite a lot can be carefully controlled and adjusted to each customer's precise needs. Most of the highly smoky Scotches are that way because they used to be that way in the past, not because the conditions they're made under mean they have to be. The modern world, God bless it.

Springbank still does things completely the old-fashioned way, BTW.

aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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Chef Koo - I'll second what you've heard here. Each style is distinct and even within styles the variety is tremendous.

Bourbon - Elmer T Lee to Bookers - huge distinction

Scotch - Glenlivit to Laphroaig - huge distinction

As posted previously, try a wide variety, you'll quickly decide where your preferences lie. This is one thing that makes Whisk(e)y a poor gift choice if you know nothing about the recipient's whisk(e)y preferences.

My personal favorites are:

Scotch - Laphroaig, Lagavulin

Bourbon - Kentucky Spirit, George T Stagg

Rye - Wild Turkey Rye

Canadian - 40 Creek sangle barrel

Irish - Bushmills 16 (but I don't drink much Irish)

Ken

(PS - Hey Evangelos! Fancy running into you here!)

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There's also the question of what's used to cook the grain. Islay scotches use peat, for example, whereas highland scotches use something else

Are you certain about this?? It's my understanding that all Scotch starts with barley that is sprouted and then toasted/dried over peat fires or in kilns that have peat fires.

Yeah, you're right.

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HEY KEN! Nice to see you here as well!

Here is a perfect example of people with differing palates. Ken knows his whiskies and one of his favs is Lagavulin. I like whiskey as well and do not really like Lagavulin at all. It's way too peaty and smokey for me. I can see WHY people like it, it's just not my thing. I prefer the sherry flavor profile in the Macallans or in Aberlour A'Bunadh.

Things like this happen in the whiskey world and there isn't one TELL all of whiskies. If it was that easy there would only be one brand for each type and we'd all be drinking it!

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  • 2 weeks later...

This may have been true in the nineteenth century, but nowadays all but a tiny handful of distilleries buy their barley malt from one of the big maltings, where the amount of peat-smoke added, which varies from none at all (in a surprising number of cases) to quite a lot can be carefully controlled and adjusted to each customer's precise needs. Most of the highly smoky Scotches are that way because they used to be that way in the past, not because the conditions they're made under mean they have to be. The modern world, God bless it.

Springbank still does things completely the old-fashioned way, BTW.

I'm pretty sure that even Springbank only malts a very small percentage of their barley.

Almost all malt used in the production of Scotch comes from commercial maltsters and has its peat content specified by the master distiller. It makes for a much more consistant product when you specify in parts per million how much peat smoke you want. It certainly takes a bit of the romance out but I suppose it also takes out some of the commercial risk when you consider the majority of it will not see the light of day again for 10 years.

I'm going to visit one of the four or so working maltings at Balvenie when it starts back again in March. Not much peat involved there though.

Cheers

Ian

Vist Barbore to see the Scottish scene.

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I am not an expert, but I've drunk a few whiskies in my time. :wink: I'll leave the expensive whiskies and American ones to the rich Americans to advise on :biggrin: My very simplistic (Ulster-Scots) advice is:

In my house the "generic" whisky is Famous Grouse. It is the most popular whisky in Scotland. I was surprised to discover that this is the favourite of Prince Philip (the British Queen's husband) I thought he'd be into something much fancier! Anyhow, it is a nice smooth blended whisky.

The Irish whiskeys are less smokey than Scotch due to the grain being air dried rather than smoke dried and are distilled x3 (scotch is usually x2). This makes them mild and good for whiskey newbies. Bushmills varies depending on the casks it has been aged in, e.g. Black Bush is aged in sherry casks. For a first taster of Irish whiskey, I'd probably go for ordinary bushmills blended.

The Bushmills 16 year old is pretty spectacular as a single malt.

Now, as for Old Comber: I'd love to tell you, but they stopped producing it in 1953. We have many bottles in the attic, but my dad won't let me try it. Apparently it's an investment. If I manage to sneak a bottle I'll let you know :wink:

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