The Basics On Naming Whisky Or Whiskey on Origin, Price and Quality
Whisky is an alcoholic drink with at least 40 % of alcohol, that is made from distilled malt and riped at least 3 years in oak barrels and can be produced worldwide. It is the general term for all drinks that match up this definition, without getting to in dept in the production process. Still the process of distillation, the kinds of malt used and the origin of the drink can determine it to price from about 10 euro to even more than 300 euro a bottle.
Here some elementary information, that might get you started to know more about whisky.
1) Names and origin
The name whisky is derived from the Irish Gaelic Uisce Beatha and the Scottish Gaelic Uisge Beatha, meaning "water of life". It were indeed the Celts that invented this drink and it is still a subject in many of their known traditional music. Most popular is "Whisky in the Jar", covered by many bands and many styles throughout the ages.
Today whisky is produced all over the world, even in countries as Japan, that have no Celtic roots name of the song above about a highwayman "Whiskey in the Jar", you might be forgiven. It is a song of Irish decent and therefore it will most likely be whiskey in the jar.
Some brands of whiskey are: Paddy's, Jameson, Tullamore Dew, Connemara, Bushmill's (despite this is Northern Ireland),
Also whisky can be written whiskey, when it comes from the United States, although some rare US whiskey is also called bourbon.when in comes from a certain region called Bourbon county, which is between the borders of Kentucky and Virginia. It has very specific qualifications and therefore can be more expensive than the other whiskies.
Most known US brands are: Johnny Walker (often wrongly seen as bourbon) and Jack Daniels. Imported brands of bourbon are: Four Roses, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey
So whiskey is the right spelling in Ireland and the USA, but nowhere else in the world. It is on the other hand not illegal to call bourbon or scotch whiskey. Other way around, it is. Whiskey is the official spelling of whisky for Americans and Irish, but it is not a protected trademark. Scotch and bourbon are. You can only put scotch on a bottle when the brand comes from Scotland. If your whisky is not from Scotland, you are not legally allowed to call it scotch. Same for bourbon. Only whiskies coming from the right region, produced to a very severe procedure are to be called bourbon.
But do not make this mistake with the Scottish song "Nancy Whisky". When the whisky comes from Scotland, it is also called scotch.
Important brands of scotch are: William Lawson's, Haig, Ainslie's
All the rest is whisky, whether is from Japan, Italy, New-Zealand, France of Belgium.
2) Price and quality
There are two kinds of whisky on the market: single malt and blended. Whisky connoisseurs prefer the single malt, because this has a rougher taste and is harder to have a constant production of quality and taste. Therefore a single malt whisky is more expensive than a blended whisky. The rarer the kind of malt used and the longer it riped, the more expensive whisky will be.
Most commercialized whisky is blended and can also contain grains next to malt. This grain whisky has the advantage that you can give it a more complex taste, that you can guarantee. Also it might be a little cheaper to (mass) produce. Therefore most whiskies you find in a supermarket priced under 20 euro a bottle are most likely blended and riped the least length of 3 years.
Three years is the minimum a whisky has to ripe on oak barrels to be called that way. Since this is quite a long production process, you may understand why the cheapest whiskies are on average more expensive than cheap beers and wines.
But whisky can ripe longer to get a more powerful taste. Bourbon for example needs at least 4 years of riping. There are 6 year old whiskies, 10, 12 and even 18 year old variants. You understand that even for whisky producers time is money, so the older whiskies will be more expensive.
How much you will spend on whisky depends really on what you like. Especially for mixed drinks or for in coffee, it is best to use a cheap blended one, since some of the taste will get lost by your mix.
Keep in mind that there are indeed very rare bottles that cost a lot of money. But most of them are for collectors and connoisseurs, that truly love to have this unique bottle. Most whisky is bought to be drunk and not as an investment like wine, although some bottles make up unique collection items, that it might be a shame to drink them. Some whiskies can also contain up to 60 % of alcohol.
It is also up to your taste. According to where whiskies are made and how, they can have a different taste. Now, this is something you have to find out yourself what you like most. Best way to start your journey as a whisky connoisseur, is investing in some bottles from different origin and taste them several times at different moments.
Keep in mind that because whisky contains at least 40 % of alcohol, unlike wine, it will not go bad after opening a bottle. The high percentage of alcohol kills all germs in it at once and as long as you store it in a cool, dark place, your whisky will remain tasteful for many years, so there is no time limit to drink the bottle.
Good quality whiskies do not have to cost fortunes. If you are just starting to taste whisky, best is never to spend more than 60 euro a bottle. For that price you will already have a good quality single malt whisky or a 12 year old blended. All you spend more is just for the exclusiveness of the bottle and not really for the quality of the whisky.