What Makes Whiskey Whiskey?
(Or Whisky, or Scotch, or Bourbon)
The origins of whiskey have long been debated. Some say Irish monks were the first to distill the ‘water of life’ and bring it to other countries in Europe. The Scotts also take credit for being the first to distill whisky, but we’ll get back to the ‘e’ dropping, later. Regardless of its origins, whiskey is here, and we’re darn glad to have it. But what makes whiskey whiskey?
What Is Whiskey?
Don’t say ‘Delicious,’ ‘cause we know it is. We mean ‘What is whiskey made of?’ Well, in all honesty, whiskey is beer. Not actually beer, but the exact same ingredients that go into making your favorite brew go into making your favorite whiskey. Distillers take malt, barley, grain, or corn, water, and hops (some Bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys are made with hops) and mix them together to get their first batch. They then take that ‘beer’ and distill it, sometimes up to three times, to bring up the alcohol content. The distilled beverage is then taken to an oak barrel and aged to perfection.
The Origins of Whisky
We don’t want to get in on this debate. It’s been raging for centuries and we’d rather sit on the sidelines and let them swing it out. Regardless of who invented the original whisky, we do know it came from either Ireland or Scotland sometime in the 15th century. Every kind of whiskey is different. They all depend on the type of grain used, the water, or the oak barrels that it’s aged in, but Scottish whisky is the only whisky that can call itself whisky. Everything else, even Irish whiskey, is whiskey. Just to repeat; whiskey is whisky only if it’s from Scotland. If whiskey is from anywhere else on the planet, it’s called whiskey. Got it?
Now that we’ve got that whole ‘e’ or ‘no e’ under our belts, it’s time to get to the important stuff: the American whiskey. There are really 3 main regions of whiskey in the Americas: Tennessee, Bourbon, and Canadian. Bourbon, made in Bourbon county, Kentucky, is only distilled once, has to be made within Bourbon county, has to be 51% corn malt, has to be aged for at least two years, and have at least an 80 proof rating when it comes out of the barrel (phew, that’s a lot of restrictions.) Tennessee whiskey is made basically the exact same way bourbon is, but with one extra step. In Tennessee, the distillers take the alcohol and run it through a vat of sugar maple charcoal, which mellows out the product before it’s put into the oak barrels. Canadian whiskey, on the other hand, can be distilled any number of times, but instead of using corn as the grain, uses malted rye.
There is also another type of whiskey that we haven’t talked about: the whiskey blend. Whiskey blends can be either made of whiskey or whisky, and some of the most coveted labels are actually blends, like Johnnie Walker Blue. Blended whiskeys can have a variety of components and mixers, either taking a stronger, more expensive label and mixing it with a weaker one, or mixing any number of flavors and ingredients in to give the whiskey a special taste. There are hundreds of rules and regulations worldwide for whiskey blends, so we won’t even bother with regional variants. Just know that blends are our there, and they make up some of the most coveted whiskey labels in the world.
What’s your poison? Is it a blend? Is it the Scottish whisky? How about the good old Kentucky bourbon? Well, we know where our vote goes, and that’s with Texas whiskey. Here at Rebecca Creek Distillery, we take pride in our Texas whiskey blend, and we want to show you how it’s done. Come on by for a tour, and see how we make our whiskey the best tasting in Texas.