Whiskey is made by distilling a fermented mash of grain, most commonly corn, rye, wheat or barley and then aged in oak barrels to give it flavor and color. Depending on the grain and the barrel in which it is aged, tasting notes will often include references to nuts, fruits, spices, vanillin and oak.
Mash - A liquid of crushed grain stirred with boiling water to create the wort. A chemical change that allows it to ferment Wort is the liquid that drains from the mash and is fermented in the wash (the liquid that contains alcohol and is used to distill whiskey).
Sour Mash - Best known method used to make most Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. A small amount of already fermented mash (now sour) is held from the previous fermentation and used in the following batch, for continued quality and consistency.Straight whiskey - Made from at least 51% of a single grain and aged for a minimum of two years in new, charred oak barrels and no additional ingredients.
Malt – Grains that have sprouted.
Can be legally produced anywhere in the United States when production standards are met. Although, Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon due to grain and water sources. At least 51% of the grain must be corn and stored in new charred American oak. A master distiller may create a single-barrel bourbon from a single superior barrel, or a small-batch bourbon by blending a few of the best barrels.
At least 80% of the grain must be corn and usually unaged. If aged, must be in a neutral container, used or uncharred oak. But if labeled as straight corn whiskey it must remain in used or uncharred new oak for two or more years.
Same as Bourbon but at least 51% of the grain must be rye.
With no U.S. legal definition, these whiskeys are similar to bourbon and can have one addition to the production process. Known as the Lincoln County Process, the whiskeys immediately following distillation will be leached or filtered through sugar maple charcoal before going into a charred oak barrel. This extra step helps filter impurities and add slight sweetness. Where brands like Jack Daniels and George Dickel use, not all distilleries in Tennessee employ the process.
Irish whiskey must be distilled and aged on the island of Ireland. Made from a mash of cereal grains (malted and unmalted), barley, corn and rye, it is usually distilled three times and must be aged three years in wood. It tastes somewhat similar to scotch but is more delicate and lacks the iodine character of the peat.
Scotch is made from a mash of barley (malted and unmalted) and cereal grains. The sprouted barley is roasted in kilns usually fueled by peat, which gives scotch its distinctive flavor. They must be aged three years in oak and often described as having notes of peat, heather, malt, smoke and iodine. Popular types include,
Regional geographical indications can appear on the label, including Highland, Speyside, Lowland, Islay and Campbeltown if wholly distilled in the relevant locality or region.