What about Whiskey?

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Whiskey_M Huy photography

Photo: M Huy Photography

Whiskey_Patrik Nygren





Whiskey seems to be the new “it drink” but what makes it so special? And what’s the best way to enjoy it?

Whiskey_Kuba Bozanowski

Photo: Kuba Bożanowski




What is whiskey?


Let’s keep it simple. A true whiskey is any liquor distilled from some sort of fermented grain mash such as malted barley, corn, rye or a combination of the above. Not all whiskey is bourbon but all bourbon is whiskey. However, the “e” matters because bourbon is not “whisky.” Regardless of how it’s spelled, the final product is about the many types of alcoholic spirits that are made from fermented mash of grain, distilled at less than 190 proof and aged in oak barrels.


The spelling boils down to geographic preference. The Scots, Canadians and Japanese are adamant about spelling it “whisky” while the Americans and Irish refer to it as “whiskey.”


So what is bourbon?


Bourbon is a variety of whiskey designed to meet exact regulations stipulating that it is made from fermented mash of grain, including at least 51% corn. The rest of the grains can include wheat or rye. It is illegal to add any colors, flavors or anything other than water to bourbon before it is bottled.


Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 proof and bottled at no less than 80 proof.


Bourbon must be aged in brand new, charred oak barrels.


Another big regulation for bourbon is that it must be distilled in the United States. In fact, Congress recognized bourbon in 1964 as a distinct American product and passed an official act declaring bourbon “America’s native spirit.”

Whiskey_Can Mustafa Ozdemir

Photo: Can Mustafa Ozdemir

Scotch and Irish whiskey?

Simply put, Scotch is made from malted barley, water and yeast. It has to be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years with an ABV (alcohol by volume) of less than 94.8%. Origin is vital. If it isn’t made in Scotland, it’s not a true Scotch.

A single malt Scotch is made from a single batch of whiskey while a blended Scotch is made from a mixture of batches. Irish whiskey is a bit like Scotch. It has to be made with an ABV of less than 94.8% and aged for at least three years in wooden casks, although the type of wood doesn’t matter. And no surprise here… a true Irish whiskey can only be distilled in Ireland.


Rye whisky

Canada has been distilling rye for roughly 150 years, hence Canadian whisky. However, over the years, Canadians seem to very lenient on distilling their rye with actual rye mash. It appears that in Canada the only rule is to have some rye mash in it. Canadian rye is sometimes distilled with nine times more corn mash than rye mash. In America, however, rye must be made with no less than 51% rye mash. It must also be aged in brand new charred oak barrels and distilled to an ABV of less than 80%. To be considered rye, it must also be aged for at least two years.


Photo: Carmine’s Very Italian Manhattan


Let’s Drink!

There are many ways to drink whiskey. First off, it’s important to note that whiskey is not meant for chugging. It is intended to be sipped. The goal is to enjoy the varying flavor profiles of the whiskey, not to get totally trashed.

Tasting a whiskey properly can improve the enjoyment. Smell it twice by inhaling with your mouth and nose, with the glass away from your face. Smell as slowly as you possibly can. That way, the alcohol level is turned down and you can smell the fruit and the balance of the spirit. Don’t bury your nose in the glass like wine or it will burn your nose. Next, sip twice. The first sip will acclimate your palate to get past the first burn of alcohol. The second sip is what counts.

As far as how to drink it, some people drink their whiskey “on the rocks” with ice or “neat” which is plain, without ice.

Others will water their whiskey down a bit to help bring out some of the more intense flavor profiles.

You can even mix it with other alcohols and juices, creating mixed drinks such as the classic Manhattan, which can be enjoyed “up” in a martini glass or on the rocks.



  • 1 1/2 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 oz. Pomegranate Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
  • Ginger Beer
  • Combine bourbon, lemon and pomegranate juice into a shaker. Shake and pour over ice into a rocks glass and top with ginger beer.



  • 1 1/2 oz. Scotch
  • 3/4 oz. Amaretto
  • Pour over ice into a rocks glass and stir.


Boulevardier: Cousin of Negroni

  • 1 oz. Rye
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • Orange Twist
  • Shake with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.


Midnight in Ireland

  • 1 oz. Irish Cream
  • 1 oz. Irish whiskey
  • 1 oz. Frangelico


Mix over ice into a highball glass.

Whiskey_Fumiaki Yoshimatsu

Photo: Fumiaki Yoshimatsu


Hassett Gravois



Hassett Gravois is the famous Mixology Connoisseur and author.  She is also Vegas 2 LA Magazines Beverage Director and Resident Mixologist

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