Whisky or Whiskey. The former, a Scottish concoction, the latter, an Irish origination. According to the website for World Whisky Day, “The term ‘whisky’ derives originally from the Gaelic ‘uisge beatha’, or ‘usquebaugh’, meaning ‘water of life’. Gaelic is that branch of Celtic spoken in the Highlands of Scotland.” There are some origin stories about Monks bringing the distilling process back from missions to Mediterranean countries as far back as 900-1000 AD, but back to where is a point of contention (Scotland or Ireland) though most scholars seem to credit Scotland as the birthplace.
Scotland, Canada, and Japan distill “Whisky” whereas Ireland and the United States distill “Whiskey”. Notice anything there?
Now what about Bourbon? Bourbon is of U.S. origin and is defined by law (U.S.) — and named for an area of Kentucky known as Old Bourbon which is also its source — as being at least 51% corn, stored in new/charred oak containers, distilled to no more than 160 Proof, with a barrel entry proof of no more than 125. Whisky is defined by law (U.S.) as a spirit distilled from grain, stored in oak containers, distilled to no more than 190 Proof, and bottled and no less than 80 Proof. Bourbon is really a categorization of Whisk(e)y much like Scotch, Rye, Tennessee, Canadian, but that’s about enough of all that for today. If you are dying to know more (there are numerous versions of truths, myths, and musings out there) then Google yourself silly or go to Amazon.com and type “Whisky” or “Whiskey” into the search bar. I’ve also included a site or two to visit at the end of this article in References.
My Whisk(e)y of choice happens to be a Straight Kentucky Bourbon: Woodford Reserve. It is to be consumed neat; this is not up for debate with me. If you insist, don’t throw a quality, hand-crafted product like Woodford into a glass alongside soda, at least consult their site for decent recipes. Woodford is a deep-amber color and to my nose most notably caramel and oak. The taste, well, since I’ve already told you it’s my choice it gives away all surprise as to my proclivity for it, and when you try it you can compare your experience to mine, but I get caramel, spices, honey, vanilla, almost-a-butterscotch, and the “I definitely can tell it’s got a goodly amount of Rye to it” finish which is smooth but spicy. You know all that Whisky vs Whiskey stuff earlier? Woodford is also the only Bourbon to use a triple-distilling processing using special copper pot stills from Scotland. I don’t actually know what that means but it does seem to tie my Bourbon to their Whisky quite nicely.
References and places for you to visit
- The Origin of Scotch, http://www.worldwhiskyday.com/the-origin-of-scotch/
- American Whiskey, and How It Got To Be This Way, http://www.ellenjaye.com/index-history.html
- Irish whiskey (In Brief), http://irishwhiskeychaser.webs.com/irishwhiskeyinbrief.htm#353014544
- Well-crafted Cocktails, http://www.woodfordreserve.com/bourbon-drinks-recipes
- All bourbon is whisky, not all whisky is bourbon, http://cdn2.thatsnerdalicious.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Bourbon-vs-Whisky.jpg
- Irish whiskey vs Scotch whisky, http://www.tullamoredew-usa.com/irish-whiskey/irish-scotch.asp
- Know your whiskey, http://www.realmendrinkwhiskey.com/know-your-whiskey-the-difference-between-bourbon-and-scotch/
- Tennessee whiskey (legal definition, House Bill 1084, July 1 2013), http://static.squarespace.com/static/5101b837e4b0202016c6b5c9/t/52363a84e4b0855d9f5aca50/1379285636684/Tennesee%20Whiskey%20Law.pdf