A Beginners Guide to Whiskey

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A Beginners Guide to Whiskey

What’s in a Whiskey?

Whiskey is nothing more than distilled beer. Just like beer, whiskey is made from grain, distinguishing it from other distilled beverages such as brandy. Malted barley and other grains are the source of the sugars necessary for fermentation. The sugars in the grain are released by steeping it in hot water. This sweet liquid, known as wort, is cooled down. Yeast is added and converts the sugars to alcohol.

What Is a Blend?

A blend is a mixture of two or more whiskeys, bottles and sold as one whiskey. More specifically, a blended whiskey contains a mix of barrel-aged malt and grain whiskeys. Just because a whiskey is labelled single malt, doesn’t mean that it is the product of a single batch or barrel of whiskey. Most single malts are a blend of whiskeys.

What is a Single Malt Whiskey?

A single malt scotch whiskey is the product of a single distillery. Not the product of a single batch or a single barrel, but a single distillery.

What is a Single Grain Whiskey?

A single grain whiskey contains barley and one or more other cereal grains, usually wheat or corn. Again, this refers not to a product made from a single grain, but a product made at a single distillery.

What is the Difference Between Whiskey, Scotch and Bourbon?

All Scotch is a whiskey, but not all whiskey is a Scotch. It’s all about where the whiskey comes from in the world. Scotch whisky must be distilled and matured entirely in Scotland, and must remain in casks for at least three years before it can legally be called whiskey.

Bourbon may only be produced in the United States. The distiller can use any combination of cereal grain, as long as there is at least 51% corn in the overall mash bill. Most distillers will use a mash bill of corn, a small amount of malted barley to help in fermentation, and rye or wheat (sometimes both) as the flavouring grain. The spirit must be filled into new charred oak casks for maturation, and those casks cannot be reused for Bourbon.

What To Drink When You’re Starting Out

Whiskey drinking takes a bit of getting used to. When you’re starting out you can make it a bit more congenial by adding a little water to dilute it. Scotch whiskies are also great additions to cocktails. But the best way to really understand what your palette enjoys is to sample as many different brands as you can until you find that right whiskey for your taste buds.

Here are some suggested whiskies to get to you going on your whiskey adventure:




Once you have your whiskey in hand, just remember; swirl, sniff and sip. More than that takes time, experience and patience. If you need more advice feel free to drop in to any one of our Norman Goodfellows’ branches and we will glad to help!