The Whisky Guide: FAQs

Discover the answers to the most frequently asked questions about whisky.

What is whisky?

Whisky (or whiskey) is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. The grains can include barley, corn, rye, and wheat. The spirit is aged in wooden casks, which gives it its distinct color and flavor.

What is the difference between whisky and whiskey?

The primary difference lies in the spelling, which often indicates its country of origin. Generally, “whiskey” is used for spirits distilled in the United States and Ireland, while “whisky” refers to those made in Scotland, Canada, Japan, and other countries.

What are the main types of whisky?

The primary types are Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Irish, and Canadian. Each type has distinct characteristics and regulations regarding its production and ingredients.

How long is whisky aged?

Whisky is aged for various periods. The minimum time it has to be aged to legally be called a Whisky is 3 years. Typically they are aged between 3 and 30 years, though some can be even older. The age statement on a bottle indicates the youngest whisky used in the blend.

Does whisky get better with age in the bottle?

Once bottled, the aging process stops, and the whisky’s character remains static. Therefore, a bottle stored for ten years will taste the same as when it was first sealed. However, after opening, exposure to oxygen can lead to slow oxidation, potentially altering the flavor and aroma of the whisky over time. While some changes might enhance the whisky’s profile, prolonged exposure can lead to a deterioration in quality. To maintain its integrity, it’s best to consume an opened bottle within 1-2 years and ensure it’s properly sealed between servings.

How should whisky be stored?

Store whisky upright in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and drastic temperature fluctuations to preserve its flavor and character.

What’s the difference between single malt and blended whisky?

A single malt whisky is produced at one distillery using only malted barley, while a blended whisky combines several single malts and/or grain whiskies from different distilleries.

How should I serve my whisky?

Whisky should always be served how you enjoy it most. Whisky can be enjoyed neat, with a drop of water, or on the rocks. Adding water can open up the whisky’s flavors and aromas, but it’s all down to personal preference.

Why do some whiskies have a smoky flavor?

The smoky flavor comes from peat, a type of soil rich in organic material. When peat is burned during the malting process, the smoke infuses the barley, imparting a smoky taste to the final product.

What does ‘cask strength’ mean?

Cask strength means the whisky is bottled at the natural strength it comes out of the cask, without dilution, making it typically higher in alcohol content.

Why is some whisky so expensive?

Factors like age, rarity, production methods, packaging, and branding can influence a whisky’s price. Limited editions or those from prestigious distilleries often fetch higher prices. However, there are many outstanding whiskies that won’t break the bank. For great value options, check out our best budget whiskies page

Is older whisky always better?

Not necessarily. Age can add complexity, but it doesn’t guarantee a superior taste. Some whiskies are best enjoyed young, while others benefit from extended aging.

Why is there no age statement on some bottles?

Some distillers believe they can create a consistent and high-quality blend without relying solely on aged whiskies. These blends prioritize flavor over age.

What does ‘finish’ mean in whisky tasting?

The ‘finish’ refers to the aftertaste or lingering flavors and sensations after swallowing. It can be short, medium, or long, depending on the whisky.

What is the “Angel’s Share”?

During the aging process, some whisky evaporates through the cask, resulting in a loss known as the “Angel’s Share.” This evaporation can influence the whisky’s final flavor and character. Hotter and more humid countries have a higher “Angel’s Share”.

How many units in a bottle of whisky?

The number of units in a bottle of whisky depends on the bottle’s size and the alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage. In a standard 70cl (700ml) bottle of whisky with an ABV of 40% contains 28 units.

43% ABV = 30.1 units
46% ABV = 32.2 units
50% ABV = 35 units
60% ABV = 42 units

To calculate the units:
Units = Volume (in liters) × ABV (as a decimal)

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