I have been tasked with devoting my column to a Q & A all about whiskey. This is not a problem because, for one, I have a certification in Wine and Spirits, and two, my husband and I have co-taught single malt (scotch) whisky classes in our home. I’ll answer some of the usual questions we get, some of our favorite single malts and next week I’ll share some yummy brown spirit cocktail recipes.
Q: Why did you just spell whiskey/whisky those two different ways?
A: Simply put, any scotch made in Scotland is spelled without the “e;” whiskies made anywhere else – Japan, China, Ireland the U.S. and other places – spell it with the “e.” Think of this rule just as you would when applied to wine. We aren’t allowed to call our U.S. made sparkling wine Champagne anymore, even if made in the same method. Only wines from Champagne, France can legally have that distinction.
Q: Then the next logical question is: What in the heck is the difference between whiskies labeled as scotch, bourbon and rye?
A: Here is your cheat sheet. Scotch is distilled from malted barley. Bourbon, a U.S.-only product, is distilled from grain mash, and rye is from, well, mostly rye mash.
There are several rules about the percentage of mash used, barrel types, aging and filtering processes for each distilled product, etc., but we can save that for a Whiskey/Whisky 102 class! And a note on bourbon: this category has gotten huge in the last few years, with male and female drinkers, so try a few and see what you think. We currently enjoy Bib and Tucker, Woodinville and Bardstown the most.
Q: What is your favorite whiskey, and do you pair with food?
A: That’s a great question, and I usually get it regarding wine. My answer is the same: It’s dependent on my mood and what I’m pairing it with. If I want something spicy, I go for rye. Smokey? I go for bourbon. When I don’t want to mix it with anything, I enjoy a single malt scotch. As far as the pairing, I like all whiskies, in a cocktail or alone, with oysters, a charcuterie plate and dark chocolate flavored with dried fruit or nuts.
Q: I’m feeling emboldened now – how do I hold my own single malt scotch tasting?
A: You can hire us (flagrant self-promotion!) or visit your favorite large liquor store with a map of Scotland in hand. Choose scotch from different areas – Islay, Lowland, Highland, etc. Just like wine, single malt will taste different based on the influence of salt, air and/or peat moss!
Q: Favorite Las Vegas Whisky Event?
A: The Universal Whisky Experience. The Nth is “a spectacular whisky master event, showcasing the best whiskies and brands in the world. This affair is a singular opportunity for serious whisky aficionados to come together to taste, savor, discuss and learn more about fine rare whiskies in the lavish, opulent atmosphere of the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas…” Usually a “4-day destination event” pre-Covid where “you’ll indulge in exceptional whisky tasting opportunities, mingle with master distillers and blenders, and take pleasure in epicurean delights.” https://universalwhiskyexperience.com/
Q: What’s the best way to drink single malt scotch whisky?
A: Serve in the proper nosing glass – or any glass – but pour less than one ounce. Smell and taste without water, then taste again with a drop or two. Water opens up aromas in single malt, the opposite of what water does to wine.
Return to the blog next week for WHISKEY 101 (Part 2) – Favorites And Cocktail Recipes June 23, 2023
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits