My name is Jack Casey, I am 21 years old and, as the title suggests or may not, I am about to enter in to new world and a new found passion; The World of Whiskey/Whisky.My background has always been Food and Beverage since I was 17, moving into Wine, Spirits and Beers from the age of 20 and now becoming an Ambassador for a high end producer and supplier of some of the worlds most famous blends and single malts of both Irish and Scotch.
For those of you reading, young and old, you may think I am too young, lacking knowledge and experience to provide tasting notes and backgrounds of some of the worlds most exceptional drams but never judge a blog by it’s first post. What I intend to do is to try and introduce new ways and trends for people to experience Whiskey, whether you be a Beginner or Connoisseur and also provide depth reviews of both traditional whiskeys, from all over the world, and also the newest trends and releases coming on to the market as they are released.
Along the way I also hope to introduce interviews with Whiskey Industry Professionals, from Master Blenders to Global Brand Ambassadors.
Before I begin, here are some important terms that I shall be using throughout my posts in the future:
- ABV – Alcohol by volume. The alcoholic strength measured as the percentage of alcohol present.
- Age – The age of a whisky is determined by the length of time the youngest spirit in the blend has spent in oak casks. Whisky is not believed to age in the bottle.
- American Oak – Also known as White Oak or by the binomen Quercus Alba, American oak is widely used in whisk(e)y cooperage. American Oak has a high vanillin content. It is also fast growing and possesses high content of lactones.
- Barley – A cereal grain which is oft used in the production of whisky, and used exclusively in single malt whisky. Various strains of barley are used in whisky production, all hail from the grass Hordeum vulgare.
- Barrel – A large wooden vessel used to store maturing spirit. In the whisk(e)y world these must be made from Oak. They are built by coopers and are of varying sizes, depending on the industry. A standard whisky barrel has a capacity of approximately 40 gallons (180 litres). The larger the barrel, the less wood contact with the spirit. So, a smaller barrel, in theory, can mature whisky faster.
- Blending – The act of combining one liquid with another. Save for single cask whisky, blending is an important part of whisky production, particularly so in the production of single malt, where a selection of casks are blended together bringing various desirable characteristics to the finished product.
- Bourbon – An American whiskey distilled from a minimum of 51% corn, distilled to no more than 80% abv, filled into new charred oak barrels at no more than 62.5% abv.
- Cask Finish – The term refers to the maturation of whisk(e)y. When a whisk(e)y is transferred from the primary barrel to a secondary, or even tertiary, for an additional maturation, it is known as a Cask Finish. Of late, there has been a massive influx of ‘finished’ malts. Often the additional cask used is more ‘exotic’, and examples include Sauternes Cask Finish and Rum Cask Finish. Cask Finishing is fraught with much controversy, as purists argue it is not traditional and the finished spirit ceases to be a Single Malt. Proponents argue it allows for more variation and helps modernise the industry.
- Chill-filtration – A method of filtering whisk(e)y employed to remove residue and a cloudiness which appears when the spirit reaches lower temperatures. Chill-filtration involves chilling the spirit to between -10 and 4°C and then passing it through a very fine filter. At such temperatures the fatty acids, proteins and esters compound as large clumps which are too large to pass through the filter. This method is highly controversial for it is said to remove flavour and body from the whisk(e)y.
- Coffey Still – An enhanced version of the continuous still. It was enhanced and then duly patented in 1831 by the Irishman, Aeneas Coffey.
- Continuous Still – A distillation device which involves constant distillation and re-heating of an alcoholic liquid. This is an extremely efficient method of distillation and the distillate can be as high as 96% abv, though the spirit retains less character, thus is not favoured for whisk(e)y production.
- Distillation – The process of turning the mildly alcoholic wash into highly alcoholic spirit. The wash is heated in a still and the alcohol vapours evaporate and rise up the neck of the still and travel along the lyne arm, where they are condensed to form a liquid again.
- Fermentation – The process of turning sugar in to alcohol. In whisky production, a sugary liquid called wort is put into a container called a washback and yeast is added. This triggers the start of fermentation and after a couple of days, all the sugar has turned to alcohol and is called wash. The liquid has a strength of between 5-8% ABV.
- Malting – The process where the starch in barley is converted to sugar, which in turn can then be turned in to alcohol during fermentation. Malting is achieved by soaking the barley grains in warm water and then allowing them to germinate, which turns the starch present in to natural sugars. This takes place in a drum or on a malting floor. The malted barley is then dried and ground up, with the resulting substance being called grist.
- Mashing – The procedure where grist is added to warm water and the natural sugars are dissolved to form a sugary solution. This takes place in a large tank called a mash tun. The solution is then called wort and is passed to a washback tank for fermentation to take place. Any grain husks and other residue are known as graff and are collected, dried and formed into animal feed.
- Master blender – The person working for a company or distillery that scientifically selects and then mixes whiskies of different ages or origins together to form the required final flavour profile of the whisky.
- Maturation – The time taken for the whisky to gain the optimum amount of character from the wooden cask in which it is being stored. The whisky spirit draws natural oils and substances from the wood over time and the cask also pulls in air from the surrounding environment, as wood is a porous material.
- Pot still – A style of still that is the most common to be used in the production of single malt whisky. They are made of copper due to its excellent conductive qualities and is formed of the pot at the base (where the alcoholic wash is heated), the neck (where the alcohol vapours rise up) and the lyne arm/ condenser (where the vapours begin returning to the liquid form).
- Peat – A layer of earth that lays below the topsoil and consists of grasses, plants, tree roots and mosses that have been compressed over thousands of years. It is a very dense substance that when dried is used as a fuel. The peat burns with a very consistent, high temperature with a thick acrid blue smoke. Used in the whisky industry to dry malted barley, with the thick smoke being absorbed in to the grains and the flavour getting carried through the rest of the whisky making process.
- Single malt – Whisky that is made of 100% malted barley and is from just one single distillery location. They generally contain slightly different ages of whisky from numerous different casks within the distillery’s warehouse. These are then married together in a larger container to establish the required consistent flavour profile. The age stated on the bottle is the youngest age of any whisky included.
- Solera – A process for the maturation of alcoholic beverages. Barrels are filled at various times. Upon maturation, the oldest barrel will be partly emptied and bottled, with some of its contents remaining. This barrel will be topped up with the some of the contents from the second oldest barrel. This, in turn, is topped with the contents from the third oldest barrel and the process continues until the very youngest barrel is topped up with a newly made beverage. Each barrel eventually becomes a blend of various ages and no container is ever fully emptied. This is a favoured method of ageing sherry, and has been used in rum maturation, among other industries.
- Wort – A warm and sugary solution that contains the soluble sugars from the malted barley dissolved in warm water. Wort is the liquid that goes forward to the fermentation process, where the sugars are changed to alcohol.