Beginner's guide to whiskey: Everything you need to know about Bourbon, casks, ingredients

This is for all you whiskey afficianados: Your guide to whiskey cheat sheet starts here


This is for all you whiskey afficianados: A beginner's guide to know whiskey cheat sheet. Keep these oft-repeated words in mind next time you are in a party. And while you are at it, catch up on the best American whiskeys, beyond the usual Jack Daniel's or Jim Beam. Read all about it here. And if Japanese whisky interests you, here's your beginner's guide to the best Japanese whiskies you should check out. It's time you savoured The Yamazaki 12-year-old, Suntory Hibiki 21-year- old edition or even the Nikka Coffey Grain whisky.

Bourbon: There’s still some disagreement on whether it was Kentucky’s Bourbon district or New Orleans’ famous Bourbon street that inspired the name. But it’s the French Bourbon dynasty that lent its name to American whiskey. 


Also read: Dark or white for you? Rum is ready to take on its fine spirit rivals

Ingredients: In 1964, the US Congress recognised Bourbon as America’s ‘native spirit’ and laid down clear rules. Bourbon or American whiskey needs to be made from a grain mixture at least 51 per cent corn (rye and barley are the other grains) and has to be distilled in the US. Which is why all Bourbons are whiskey but not all whiskies (if the corn percentage is less than 51 per cent) are Bourbons! This distilled spirit should not be more than 80 per cent alcohol (180 proof) and no more than 62.5 per cent when put in casks and has to be completely natural — nothing other than water can be added. The fermentation process blends this mixture with a mash from an older batch, a process known as sour mash. The fermented mash is distilled into a spirit which is usually clear. Water is added to the spirit from the cask before it is bottled. 

Also read: Best summer cocktail recipes with gin, vodka, scotch and more


Casks: Most American whiskies do not reuse the casks. The whiskey gets its dark hue from the cask. The somewhat extreme weather (hot summer and cold winter) in Kentucky and Tennessee also results in the whiskey ageing much faster (compared to the whiskies that age in colder weather in Scotland). This is one reason why most experts equate one year of a Bourbon with three years of a Scotch. All American whiskeys that are aged under four years need to have a label announcing how many years they were aged.


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