Whisky or Whiskey – Which Spelling is Correct?

One of the conundrums of the whiskey connoisseur’s world is the proper spelling of the word. Is it whisky or whiskey? The word whisky comes from the Gaelic word usquebaugh. Uisce comes from the old Irish “for water” and beatha from bethad, meaning “of life.” King Henry II’s troops changed usquebaugh to whisky in the 12th century. European farmers brought whisky making to America before the Revolutionary War. President George Washington was one of the largest whisky distillers of his day. Washington wrote a letter to his nephew shortly before he died in 1799. Apparently, the father of our country, had promised his nephew some whisky. The letter read, “Two hundred gallons of whiskey will be ready this day for your call, and the sooner it is taken the better.” We learn from this letter that Washington was spelling the word with an “e” although the majority of the colonists used the spelling “whiskey.” Interesting issues like this are often discussed at Whisky Ratings HQ.

Whisky or Whiskey - Which Spelling is Correct?During the 1870′s, Scottish whisky was very poorly distilled. Irish exporters wanted to distinguish their whiskey from the Scottish product, so they added an “e.” Today, Scottish whisky is among the world’s best and it is spelled without the “e.” Some say that the spelling of the word depends on where you live. But, it seems that the spelling depends on who is writing the word. A writer for the New York Times spelled the word “whiskey,” in an article, and he was bombarded with criticism. Independent writer and editing professional Margaret Tong wrote, “Scotch whisky has no “e.” “Irish whiskey has the “e.” The writer consulted Jesse Sheidlower, Editor-at-Large of the Oxford English Dictionary. Sheidlower replied, “It’s almost universally the case that the word is spelled “whisky” in Scotland and Canada and “whiskey” elsewhere.” There are geographical differences. The spelling “whisky” is used in Canada, Japan, Scotland and Wales. “Whiskey” is more commonly used in Ireland and the United States. Some experts compare the whisky/whiskey issue to color/colour, tire/tyre, recognize/recognise and other such disparities in spelling. There’s no doubt that whisky/whiskey depends on who’s using the word or writing it. History tells us that the user’s choice will largely depend on their background. In America, the legal term is whiskey. But, there continues to be discrepancies within the whisky industry. For example, Tennessee Distiller George Dickel says his whisky is the equal of the finest Scotch. He maintains the Scottish tradition by spelling his product, “whisky.”

Where do you land on this issue? Sound off in the comments below!

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Whisky Connoisseur

The holiday’s are upon us once again. There are those in your life who are easy to buy for and those in your life who are difficult. Now, we can’t help you with that crazy aunt who only collects miniature glass kittens. But we can help you buy for that serious whisky connoisseur in your life. We’ve tried each product listed and read each book cover to cover so we can give every one of them our full Whisky Ratings HQ endorsement. So here we go:

Books

Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch – You have over 1,000 bottles of the world’s finest Scotch listed here with tasting and buying notes. If you obsess over single malt scotch the way we do, this gift will be a must-have resource.

101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die – Ian Buxton knows his whiskey. You might love some of them and you might hate some of them. However, if you try them, you will definitely be able to wax poetic as much as any whiskey connoisseur. We are still working our way through the entire list but, so far, we’re impressed.

The World Atlas of Whisky: More Than 350 Expressions Tasted – More Than 150 Distilleries Explored – This, my friends, is your whisky bible. It’s your Encyclopedia Britannica of whiskey. It profiles whiskies from around the world. It definitely favors Scotland (by a pretty large margin) but it’s well worth the buy. A year from now, this gift will be dog-eared, underlined and highlighted the way any good resource should be.

Schwag:

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Whisky Person in your lifeTeroforma Whisky Stones – Here’s the deal with whisky stones: If you like it cold but don’t want your drink to get watered down as you sip, this is a perfect gift. We like a little water in our whisky to open up the flavors but don’t like watching ice slowly melt down and destroy the complexity of a fine whisky. So, for us, whisky stones are perfect.

Vinturi Spirit Aerator – All you need to do is one side-by-side taste test to see that this aerator actually works. It really brings out the amazing aromas and tastes of any whisky. Your fine whiskies will taste finer. But your “everyday” whiskies will really come to life and taste much more refined than they actually are. This is our go-to gift this year.

Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Tasting Glass, Set of 6 – You would be surprised the amount of whisky “pro’s” who don’t have proper tasting glasses. If you’re drinking a top-shelf beverage, you should be drinking from a top-shelf glass. That’s just common knowledge. So here’s a set of six that will get any whisky enthusiast by.

(Each link is an affiliate link meaning we get a small commission if you click. If you don’t wish to give us the commission, just search for the product on Amazon. Don’t worry, we won’t be offended.)

Got a must-have whisky holiday gift that we missed? Leave it in the comments!

The Origins of American Bourbon Whiskey

Whiskey is a distilled beverage, as are beer and cider. These beverages are produced through the distilling process, which involves the fermentation of vegetables, fruit, or grains to produce ethanol. Whiskey is produced from grain mash, and is referred to as hard liquor because it is distilled, as opposed to other alcoholic beverages that are not produced from distillation.

The product used for fermentation has an effect on the product flavouring, as do the additives used, the type of container the whisky is stored in, and whether or not the whiskey is chill filtered to remove fatty acids. All these factors can affect whisky ratings. After being produced, whiskey is left to age in barrels; those that are made of charred white oak can add distinctive flavors from the wood.

The types of grain used to make whiskey include barley, corn, malted barley (which is called malt whiskey), malted rye, and wheat (which is called grain whiskey). Then, there are further classifications depending on how different grains and malts have been used. Single malt whiskey is created from one type of grain. Blended malt whiskey is a combination of several single malts from more than one distillery. If it’s called malt or pure malt, it is most likely to still be a blended variety. Blended whiskey is created from a blend of several malts and grains. Cask strength whiskey is one that is either undiluted or only very mildly diluted. Whiskey that is created from distilled corn is called bourbon whiskey.

Origins of American Bourbon WhiskeyThere are different types of whiskeys from different countries: American whiskey, Australian whiskey, Canadian whiskey, Danish whiskey, English whiskey, Finnish whiskey, German whiskey, Indian whiskey, Irish whiskey, Japanese whiskey, Scotch whiskey, Swedish whiskey, Welsh whiskey, and more. American whiskeys can be produced from wheat, rye, malt, or corn mash. Of the corn variety, there are two kinds: corn whiskey, which has a minimum of 80% corn, and bourbon whiskey, which has a minimum of 51% corn.

So how did bourbon whiskey come to be called bourbon? It started during the American Revolutionary War, during which America received help from the French government. In order to show our appreciation to the French, many American counties were given French names, such as Bourbon County, Kentucky. The name Bourbon is from the House of Bourbon, French royalty. Bourbon County was later broken up into smaller counties, but people in the region continued to call the general geographic area Old Bourbon. American whiskey was developed in this region, hence the name.

What is your favorite bourbon? Leave it in the comments!

How to Make Your Own Whiskey

Making delicious homemade whisky can be fun and provide a sense of accomplishment. With practice, you can even refine your whiskey to best suit your individual tastes. Once you’ve mastered the art of whiskey making, invite your friends over to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Whiskey also makes an elegant and refined gift for friends and colleagues.

It may take experimenting with a few different ingredients and recipes to create something you can be proud of, but below is a recipe you can try that has garnered high whisky ratings. Best of all, you can make this whiskey from the comfort of your own home using easy to find ingredients and materials.

How to Make Your Own WhiskeyThe materials and ingredients you will need include: One cup of Champagne yeast starter, five gallons of boiling water, ten pounds of whole, untreated corn kernels, a burlap bag or sack, a pole or commercial sized masher, a standard size pillow case and a fermenter specially made for home-brewing. Make sure to use a fermenter that has a water sealed vent installed.

1. Place all ten pounds of the corn in the burlap sack and fill it with warm water. Set it aside in a dark, warm room – a basement is probably the most ideal location for this step. Leave the corn and water mixture in the dark, warm location for approximately 8 to 10 days.

2. After the designated time frame has passed, your sack should show evidence of emerging corn sprouts of at least 1/4 inches. If your sprouts have not yet reached this length, check back on their progress in a day or two.

3. Once the corn sprouts are the desired length, empty the contents of the burlap sack into a tub of water. Remove all sprouts and roots from the kernels. This can be achieved by simply rubbing the kernels. Place the remaining corn kernels in your home-brewing fermenter.

4. Mash the kernels inside the fermenter with a pole and then add the five gallons of boiling water to your mash. Once the mixture has cooled, add the Champagne yeast starter.

5. Seal the fermenter and let the mixture stand for 7 to 10 days.

6. After a week to ten days have passed, unseal the fermenter and pour the liquid through your pillowcase to remove any solids. Place the resulting liquid in your favorite decanter.

7. Sit back, sip and enjoy!

Have you made your own whisky? Let us know your process in the comments below!

Single Malt Scotch Regional Variations

Scotch whisky has a rich and storied tradition in various regions of Scotland. It’s history dates back to the end of the 15th century, and since has grown tremendously in flavor and appeal. Single-malt scotch is some of the finest, and most sought after in the world for it’s unique characteristics, aromas, and tastes, all depending on the region from which it hails.

Fermented in oak barrels on malted barley for a minimum of three years is mandatory for a single-malt scotch, although many of the best brands are aged as long as eight years or more. Increased fermenting time normally increases alcohol content, which influences the way the final product looks and tastes. Scotch whiskys are within the 80 to 190 proof range.

ScotlandOf the five regions from which true scotch whiskys hail, each holds it’s own unique traits due to various natural and local influences. Whiskys which hail from the Speyside region tend to have a smooth, somewhat fruity finish as a result of the fresh water used for distillation. This region has the highest density of distilleries, and produces Glenfiddich, a fairly well-known brand. This region also produces Macallan scotch whisky which, often time’s referred to as a Highland single malt, holds true to it’s tradition of being a Speyside regional whisky.

Formerly of it’s own region, the Island region is now considered part of the Highlands region, although they share characteristics more relative to the Islay region scotch whiskys – with traces of iodine and hints of saltiness due to the proximity to the sea with which these brands are distilled. The Islay region produces whiskys of high flavor, with a unique smokiness that can be attributed to the peat moss used in manufacturing.

Highland whiskys are variable in terms of flavor, ranging from smooth like Speyside’s to smokey like an Islay scotch. In general, Highland’s tend to be more full-bodied than other scotch whiskys. One of the most famous Highland distilleries, Glenmorangie, boasts the tallest stills in all of Scotland.

The Lowlands region produces some fine, flavorful scotch. Distilling their malts three-times gives these whiskys a light body with hints of flavor. Only three true distilleries remain in this region, but they continue to hold true to the tradition of these great malts.

So as you can see, when it comes to choosing a unique, flavorful, traditional Scotch, there are plenty of options. The whisky ratings are only determined by the connoisseur, the casual drinker, the appreciator of time, effort, and time-honored traditions which bring you the best whiskys in the world – straight from Scotland.

John Jameson – The Father of Jameson Irish Whisky

Perfection is a strange concept for some to experience, but when it came to whiskey John Jameson kept perfection as his motto for company and his whisky ratings. He was a perfectionist that would not accept anything less than the most perfect whiskey ever made. Whiskey is a very important aspect of an Irishman’s life, and even though John Jameson was actually born in Scotland and not Ireland, he kept the taste and delight of the drink up to the ideal standards of the Irish whiskey. How did he accomplish such perfection?

He made sure that his whiskey was made in only one shop, his distillery in Dublin. He had total quality control this way. It made perfect sense to him, and he never changed this aspect of his business. He did a lot of experimenting on what made a whiskey smooth and tasty, and came up with the triple distillation rule as the secret to his success. He found that triple distillation made the whiskey smoother than any other way of making it.

Most Irishmen who made whiskey distilled their whiskey two times, but John Jameson found that two times simply was not enough to suit his taste. He kept his whiskey the best tasting whiskey in the land by thinking outside the box.

John JamesonMaking whiskey became a family tradition in his family and to this day it is still considered the most top shelf whiskey you can buy. If you have a discriminating taste when it comes to your whisky ratings, you won’t settle for anything less than John Jameson’s whiskey. Once you taste it, you’ll be convinced there is none better.

You don’t have to be Irish or Scottish to understand and enjoy the taste of whiskey made by John Jameson, because John makes enough of his great whiskey to share with the world. It may cost more than other whiskeys but that is because the John Jameson family refuses to open additional distilleries just so he can make more whiskey. They maintain absolute quality control in their Dublin distillery. This means that the amount of John Jameson whiskey is also limited in quantity, so if you want the best whiskey in the world, you will have to find a location that sells their limited quantity. You will know that that location is very particular in their whisky ratings.

Take a Spirited Tour of the American Whiskey Trail

Whiskey lovers, and road trip addicts, should take a spin on the American Whiskey Trail. The Trail tells the story of American history as a subtitle to the history of distilled spirits in this country. The Whiskey Trail starts in New York and winds up in Tennessee. But, along the way, what a journey it will be. The first stop is Fraunces Tavern and Museum in Manhattan–one of the most popular taverns during the 1700′s. George Washington gave his farewell speech to his troops here and toasted them with whiskey. It’s anyone’s guess what the whisky ratings would have been for the spirits served here. The highlight of the Whiskey Trail is George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. George Washington was one of the largest and most successful whiskey distillers in the early United States. During the Revolutionary War, Washington was quoted as saying that troops should be comforted with “moderate supplies” of whiskey.

Next, we’ll travel to Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, to see Woodville Plantation. Woodville was the home of General John Neville, one of the collectors of the whiskey tax. The Congressional Congress passed a tax on whiskey in 1791–leading to the Whiskey Rebellion. Neville was one of the major targets during the Whiskey Rebellion. There are two other Pennsylvania stops on the Trail: West Overton Museum in Overton and Oliver Miller Homestead in in South Park. West Overton is a 1800′s distillery center and the Miller Homestead was the site of one of the major uprisings of the Rebellion.

American Whiskey TrailThe next stop on the trail is Gadsby’s Tavern Museum in Alexandria, Virginia, one of the most prominent social gathering places of the founding fathers. The trail goes over the mountain to Kentucky’s Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. Visitors can probably see early whisky ratings at this museum. Kentucky began whiskey making in the late 1790′s in the midst of the Whiskey Rebellion. President George Washington offered whiskey tax resisters sixty acres in Kentucky if they left Pennsylvania. Kentucky has four distilleries that are stops on the Whiskey Trail: Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey and Maker’s Mark. Tennessee has two distilleries on the trail: Jack Daniels and Georgia Dickel. Jack Daniels is credited with starting whiskey making in Tennessee in 1866. There are two rum distilleries on the trail: Bacardi in Puerto Rico and Cruzan in the Virgin Islands.

Have you toured the American Whiskey Trail? Share your experiences in the comments!

Review: The Macallan Fine Oak 15 Year Old

We would be hard-pressed to not have more than a few reviews for vintages from The Macallan. While there are a number of different routes to start, the Fine Oak 15 is a very good way to enter into the Macallan fray.

The Macallan is a single-malt scotch first produced in Moray in 1824. Since then they have gone onto produce nothing but the best of the Scotch whiskies. At a recent charity auction, a rare bottling sold for over $460,000 (no, we will not be reviewing that particular vintage as that’s a bit too steep for our bank account).

Whisky RatingsThe Fine Oak Series, produced The Macallan Distillery at Craigellachie in the Speyside region of Scotland, is an interesting “alternative” to the already well-renowned Macallan brand. Aged in American oak sherry and bourbon casks, as well as sherry casks from Spain, this is a bit different for a traditional Macallan bottling. Macallan is exclusively aged in sherry casks from Spain so you are getting some different notes here.

The nose: You are hit immediately with the overwhelming sense of oak topped off with a hint of butterscotch and vanilla. This is followed by hints of smoke and raisins. At a 43% ABV you get a bit more intensity than you typically would with the 10-year version.

The palate: As with the nose, you are hit rather aggressively with sherry and oak notes. There is definitely some vanilla also in the glass, which helps with the harshness. This is followed with notes of raisins and caramel.

The finish: The finish has notes of wood (and very subtle earth tones), grain and spices. An interesting contrast, to say very the least.

At $90 USD, this is a decently pricey bottle of scotch and one that you may only share with the most discerning of friends and colleagues. All in all, because of the differences in this scotch, it’s definitely worth your purchase if your collection is a deep one. While we do have a bottle on the whisky ratings shelf, it’s not the most sought after when it comes to evening comfort.

Rating 89/100

Have you tried Macallan Fine Oak 15? What are your thoughts on it? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

4 Affordable Whiskies You Can Drink Today

Here at Whisky Ratings HQ we love rare and expensive whiskies that delight the senses. Drinking whisky is something that can be done anywhere and it can transport you to countries throughout the globe without leaving your living room.

But, not everyone has an unlimited budget to build a shelf of whiskies that would make even the most discerning mixologist jealous. Some of us just want a good dram that tastes good and doesn’t come with a handle.

So, here are a four of our favorite every day whiskies that will get the job done and not make you feel like a hungover frat boy in the morning.

Laphroaig 10 – Unlike its much bigger brother Laphroaig 18, the 10 year old is a magnificent whisky providing a rich, smoky drinking experience. The nose of leather is extremely pleasing to the senses. I’ll bring a bottle of Laphroaig 10 for a friend who likes scotch but doesn’t have a lot of experience drinking the good stuff. At $34 USD, it isn’t the cheapest but it’s the best Scottish whisky for under $35 bar none.

Whisky Ratings HQBushmills Irish Whisky – At $22 USD, Bushmills is a hands-down bargain for the price. Aged in bourbon seasoned barrels, Bushmills has a lovely golden color with a vanilla and caramel sweetness that permeates the nose and the palate. It’s an extremely clean and sweet Irish whisky for everyday consumption.

Crown Royal Black – As I said in a previous post, I came to Canadian whisky quite late in my journey. At $30 USD you’re not getting something subtle here. Crown Royal Black still retains its smoothness for those familiar with the brand but it’s 90 proof so it can pack a punch (so enjoy it responsibly!). As you would expect from a Canadian whisky, Black label has a palate of maple syrup and vanilla. Its color is darker thanks to being aged in oak barrels.

Gentleman Jack – We would be remiss to not add a good ‘ole red-blooded American whisky to our everyday drink. Gentleman Jack is charcoal double-filtered. You get toasted oak, floral notes and corn on the nose. The palate has notes of honey, corn and spiced vanilla. We’ll get more into our journey in to American whisky down the road but this is a great go-to bourbon at $34 USD.

The point of this post is that drinking good whisky can be done at an affordable price. As much as we might like to break the bank from time to time, you don’t need to suffer if you’re on a budget. Of the brands listed, Laphroaig is the Whisky Ratings HQ favorite for everyday drinking. Yours might be different. Everyone has a different palate.

Got a go-to bottle? Let us know what it is and why in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!

Review: Glenmorangie Finealta Single Malt

As a whisky connoisseur I love when world-renowned brands make small batches. It’s a labor of love that often produces some amazing concoctions. When a bottle of Glenmorangie Finealta came across my desk, I dropped everything and poured myself a dram of this fine scotch. Using a recipe that dates back to 1903, Finelata is matured in American white oak casks and Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. Made at The Highland distillery in Scotland where Signet and Pride were also assembled, Finelata is another crowning achievement for the Glenmorangie brand.

The Nose: This is a departure from some of the other Glenmorangie that I’ve tried in the past. Immediately you’re hit with roasted walnuts, pepper, smoke and a hint of leather (it reminded me, in a way, of Laphroaig) which leads into caramel and roses.

The Palate: What stuck me is how deep and robust Finealta is. You get more pepper and leather and a brief hint of citrus (strawberry mostly) that reminds you of an old weathered pub in the Scottish Highlands.

The Finish: Here you get a dry-ness, fruit and spices. A wonderful combination.

Whisky Ratings HQWhile the name “finealta” is Gaelic and translates to “elegant”, I feel like it is more on the line of rich and robust. Elegant? Certainly. But this scotch is deep. While it’s true that every person enjoys their whisky differently, this is meant to be served straight up. There’s no need for water to open it up. Just pour and enjoy it deeply.

Bottom line, this is another must-buy for your already crowded whisky shelf. At $80 USD, this scotch tastes like twice the price. You’ll be hard-pressed to find it at your local liquor store but it can be found. If you’re travelling abroad, pick one up at your duty free shop and tuck it away when you return road weary. It’s hard to hide my unabashed fanboy-ish-ness when it comes to Finealta but, here at whisky ratings, that comes with the territory.

Rating: 95/100

Has Glenmorangie Finealta Single Malt made it to your whisky shelf (or even to your glass)? Leave us your thoughts about it down below. We’d love to hear from you!