What Is Whiskey – Audio

Whiskey drinking was once reserved for grandfathers only. Today, people of different ages enjoy this classic drink in various ways. The rise in mixology in the United States also fueled the popularity of whiskey, as bartenders started using it to make other kinds of cocktails. If you are new to the world of whiskey, this article will serve as a crash course on the subject. 

What is the Definition of Whiskey?

Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic drink produced from fermented grain mash. It is typically aged in charred oak barrels. 

What is Whiskey Made Of?

Different kinds of grains are used to make whiskey, like rye, corn, wheat, and barley.

What Defines a Whiskey?

Whiskey without an e is technically whiskey from other countries besides the United States and Ireland. Two countries that produce high-quality whiskey are Canada and Japan. 

The Three Main Types of Whiskey

When the Europeans immigrated to America, they found plenty of rye and used it to make rye whiskey. As they formed settlements, they learned to plant corn, had abundant harvests, and used it to make bourbon whiskey. There are many types of whiskey in America, but the three basic types are rye, bourbon, and Tennessee. 

Guide to whiskey types: Rye, Bourbon, Tennessee.
What is Whiskey – The Three Main Types of Whiskey

What is Rye Whiskey?

Rye whiskey is made from 51–100% rye and aged in new oak barrels for at least two years. The rye gives it its spicy flavor. It doesn’t contain additives. 

What is Bourbon?

Bourbon is typically produced at distilleries in the South, especially in Kentucky, using 51% to 100% corn. The corn in it lends to its slightly sweet flavor. Like rye whiskey, it is also aged for at least two years in new oak barrels. 

Bourbon is a kind of whiskey made primarily from corn. It has a smoother taste and a more gentle feel in the mouth compared to other types of whiskey, which is why it’s the perfect drink for someone new to whiskey. whiskey, however, has variations based on the grain it is made from and the aging process. In addition, whiskey is made in different parts of the world, while bourbon is produced in the United States. 

What is Tennessee Whiskey?

Tennessee whiskey is a type of whiskey produced in the state of Tennessee, United States. While it shares many similarities with bourbon, Tennessee whiskey undergoes an additional step in its production process known as the Lincoln County Process. This process involves filtering the newly distilled spirit through charcoal before aging it in barrels.

Common Flavor Profiles

Whiskey encompasses a wide range of flavor profiles influenced by factors such as the type of grain used, the distillation and aging processes, the type of barrels used for maturation, and environmental factors like climate and terroir. Here are some common flavor profiles found in whiskey:

  • Sweetness: Many whiskies exhibit sweetness, often derived from the grains used in production, such as corn in bourbon or barley in Scotch whiskey. Sweet notes can range from caramel and toffee to honey and butterscotch.
  • Fruitiness: Whiskies can offer a variety of fruit flavors, including citrus (lemon, orange), orchard fruits (apple, pear), stone fruits (peach, apricot), tropical fruits (pineapple, mango), and dried fruits (raisins, figs). These fruity notes can be influenced by yeast strains, fermentation, and aging in specific barrels.
  • Spice: Spicy notes are standard in many whiskies, particularly rye ones. Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and black pepper can add complexity and warmth to the flavor profile.
  • Oak and Woodiness: Whiskies aged in oak barrels often develop flavors of vanilla, caramel, coconut, and toasted oak. These flavors can vary depending on factors such as the barrel’s char level, the whiskey’s age, and the type of oak used (e.g., American oak, European oak).
  • Smoke and Peat: Some whiskies, particularly those from Scotland’s Islay region, are known for their smoky and peaty character. Peat smoke, derived from burning decomposed plant matter during the malting process, can impart flavors of earthiness, medicinal notes, and campfire smoke.
  • Nutty and Malty: Whiskies made from malted barley often exhibit nutty and malty flavors reminiscent of toasted grains, malted milk, and almonds.
  • Herbal and Floral: Certain whiskies may feature herbal and floral notes, such as heather, chamomile, lavender, and dried herbs. These flavors can be influenced by factors like the distillation process and using botanicals in production.
  • Earthy and Mineral: Some whiskies showcase earthy and mineral notes, evoking characteristics like damp soil, wet stones, and sea salt. These flavors may be more prominent in whiskies aged in coastal regions or those influenced by maritime climates.

Where is Whiskey Made?

Whiskey is produced worldwide, though production processes may vary. Here’s a closer look at whiskies from America, Europe, and Asia.

Infographic: Global whiskey production by country.
What is Whiskey – Where is Whiskey Made


American whiskey contains corn and other grains like rye, barley, and wheat. It’s aged in new charred oak barrels, giving it a rich, sweet flavor profile with caramel, vanilla, and oak notes.


/” data-type=”post” data-id=”133761″>Canadian whisky is a blend of various grains known for its smooth, light flavor profile with a slightly sweet taste. It’s aged in oak barrels for at least three years, though some may be longer for added complexity.

Unlike other countries, Canadian whisky regulations are relatively loose, allowing for significant variations in flavor profiles.


Scotch whisky is produced in five places in Scotland: Islay, Speyside, Campbeltown, Lowland, and Highland. Its primary ingredient is typically malted barley or grains, aged at least three years. 

Scotch is made in Scotland, while whiskey is made in America and Ireland.


ey/” data-type=”post” data-id=”132938″>Irish whiskey is one of the most beloved kinds worldwide because of its smoothness. It is made in Ireland, often from a blend of unmalted barley and grain whiskey. 


Japanese whisky has gained international acclaim for its craftsmanship and quality. It often contains malted barley, though some blends may have corn or wheat. 

Japanese whisky distilleries often combine pot stills and column stills, allowing for greater control over the distillation process and resulting in a diverse range of styles.

How is Whiskey Made?

The whiskey production process varies geographically. Different distilleries have different practices, and specific processes depend on the type of whiskey being produced. Here’s a general overview of the whiskey production process.

Informative whiskey production process infographic with glass image.
What is Whiskey – How is Whiskey Made

Ingredients Selection

Distilleries carefully select ingredients for whiskey production based on tradition, regional availability, and desired flavor profiles. The primary grains in whiskey production include barley, corn, rye, and wheat, each contributing distinct characteristics to the final spirit. 

In addition to grains, water quality is crucial in whiskey production, affecting fermentation and distillation processes. Distilleries typically source water from natural springs or wells known for their purity and mineral content. The mineral composition of the water can influence the flavor and mouthfeel of the whiskey, with softer water often preferred for its ability to produce a smoother spirit. Furthermore, the choice of yeast strains for fermentation can impact the whiskey’s flavor profile, with different strains contributing varying levels of fruitiness, spiciness, and complexity. 

Malt Vs. Single Malt

Single malt whiskey is typically produced in pot stills, emphasizing the distillery’s unique characteristics and terroir, while malt whiskey may include whiskies from multiple distilleries. The term “single malt” is often associated with Scotch whiskey, though similar practices are followed in other whiskey-producing regions around the world.

Sour Mashing

Sour mash whiskey is whiskey made using the sour mash process. The sour mash process involves using old grain and water solutions in the distillation process. Such a process allows the distillers to maintain the pH level of their whiskey. A sustained pH level will result in a great-tasting whiskey. Technically speaking, all bourbon and Tennessee whiskies can be classified as “sour mash whiskey,” as the sour mash process is used to make them. However, only a handful of whiskey brands use the phrase “sour mash whiskey” on their bottles. 


Blended whiskey is produced by mixing one or more high-quality straight whiskies with less expensive grain spirits and ingredients. Because they include less costly ingredients, blended whiskies are usually affordable. But that is not to say there are no premium varieties. Blended whiskey is often used to make cocktails and other mixed alcoholic drinks in a bar because of its affordability and the subtler tastes of its ingredients. Straight whiskey will tend to taste strong in a cocktail. 


whiskey is distilled by heating a fermented grain mash in a still, causing the alcohol to vaporize and rise through the still’s neck. The vapor is then condensed into liquid form, resulting in a higher-proof distillate known as “new make spirit,” which is then aged in oak barrels to develop its flavor and character.


After distillation, whiskey is typically aged in oak barrels to develop its flavor and character. During aging, the whiskey interacts with the barrels’ wood, extracting compounds such as vanillin, tannins, and lignins, contributing to its aroma, taste, and color. The whiskey absorbs flavors from the barrel, undergoes chemical reactions, and matures over time, with more extended aging periods generally resulting in more complex and nuanced flavors.

What is the Best Whiskey?

Choosing the best whiskey will ultimately come down to preference. However, some of these whiskies have been taking the market by storm.

Henry Mckenna Single Barrel 10-Year

Henry McKinney Single Barrel 10-year won the “Best in Show whiskey” award in 2019, the highest award for a whiskey brand. It tastes smooth and delicious but is less expensive than other premium bourbons. 

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Every whiskey lover should try Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. Its rich taste, derived from butterscotch and caramel flavors, will captivate you and give you a lingering finish. 

Glenfiddich 21-Year Gran Reserva

Glenfiddich 21-year-old Gran Reserva is currently the most popular single malt whiskey. It has hints of toffee, oak, and banana. A bottle of it would be a perfect gift to anyone who likes whiskey or, better yet, for yourself to drink on special occasions. 

Cask Strength Rye from Knob Creek

Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye won the “Best in Rye Whiskey” award in 2018. Many whiskey lovers will tell you this is one of their favorites. It has a pronounced spicy taste with hints of oak and vanilla. 

The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old

The Macallan Sherry Oak 12-Year-Old is one of the single malt whiskies aged in specific oak barrels made by Sherry Oak. The particular oak barrels give it its spicy and fruity flavors. Sherry Oak has been producing whiskey since 1820. 

What is the Smoothest Whiskey?

Many connoisseurs describe whiskey as “smooth.” Here are a few of the smoothest whiskies available.

Eagle Rare 10-Year Bourbon

Eagle Rare 10 Year is a multi-award-winning bourbon that was aged for ten years. It has a hint of vanilla and a long finish. A bottle of this would be a great addition to your home bar. 

Knob Creek 12-Year Bourbon

If you want a flavorful premium whiskey that doesn’t cost too much, get yourself a bottle of Knob Creek 12-Year Bourbon. At 100 proof, it has notes of oak and vanilla bean. 

Heaven’s Door Double Barrel

Another excellent option for a whiskey bottle that doesn’t break the bank is Heaven’s Door Double Barrel. It is a blend of two bourbons aged for seven years. 

Evan Williams Bottled In Bond Bourbon

Straight Bourbon’s Evan Williams whiskey is the distillery’s second best-selling whiskey. It has a unique flavor and has notes of oak, vanilla, and barley. 

Larceny Bourbon

Larceny is smoother than typical bourbon because it uses wheat as its secondary grain. It is perfect for drinking neat or for use in cocktails. 

How Much Does Whiskey Cost?

Most whiskies go for about $30 to $50 a bottle, with some exceptions. Expensive whiskies feature very high-quality ingredients and unique tastes. 

Infographic of top-priced Macallan whiskies.
What is Whiskey – The Most Expensive Whiskey

The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926

Only 40 bottles of The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 have been produced, and three have been sold for over a million dollars. 

The Macallan Peter Blake 1926

A bottle of The Macallan Peter Black 1926 sold for approximately $1 million. It is highly valued because Sir Peter Blake, the designer of its labels, also designed the cover of a Beatles album. 

The Macallan Red Collection

The Macallan Red Collection sold for about nine hundred thousand dollars in 2020. The set consists of six whiskey bottles aged for decades, with one aged 78 years. 

The Macallan M

The Macallan M was auctioned for $628,000, the highest price anyone paid for a whiskey in an auction. 

The Macallan Lalique Legacy Collection

The Macallan Lalique Legacy Collection sold for $993,000 in 2017, four times its expected value. 

What is the Best Way to Drink Whiskey?

Some habits can make the whiskey-drinking experience more pleasurable. These include choosing the right whiskey glass, mixing whiskey with other drinks and spirits, and pairing whiskey with food. 

Whiskey Glasses

What whiskey glass you drink from can impact the drinking experience more than you might anticipate. Here are a few common whiskey glasses:

  • Tumbler or Rocks Glass: Also known as an Old Fashioned glass, this short, wide glass with a thick bottom common for serving whiskey on the rocks or neat. Its wide opening allows for easy nosing and sipping.
  • Glencairn Glass: Designed specifically for whiskey tasting, the Glencairn glass features a tulip-shaped bowl that concentrates aromas, a narrow neck for nosing, and a wide base for stability.
  • Copita Glass: Similar to a Glencairn glass but with a longer stem, the Copita glass is often used in formal whiskey tastings. Its narrow opening helps concentrate aromas, while the elongated stem prevents the hand from warming the whiskey.
  • Snifter Glass: Commonly associated with brandy, the snifter glass is also suitable for whiskey. Its wide bowl and narrow opening allow for swirling and nosing, while the tapered top helps concentrate aromas.
  • Decanter: A whiskey decanter is an elegant glass or crystal container. Due to its classy design, it can hold your favorite whiskey and also serve as home decor. 

What is a Good Mixer for Whiskey?

Drinking whiskey neat is just one way of drinking it. Whiskey’s versatility in flavors can be seen when you combine it with other ingredients to make a cocktail or mixed drink. Usually, an excellent way to bring out the possible flavors of whiskey is to use a whiskey mixer. Different types of whiskey may require different kinds of mixers as well. You need trial and error to find the best mixer for whiskey. The following are some good whiskey mixers. 

Infographic on popular whiskey mixers and cocktail recipes.
What is Whiskey – Good Whiskey Mixers

Citrus Fruits

Most citrus fruits complement whiskey. During the summer, whiskey with some lemon juice would make for a refreshing drink. In the winter, however, the whiskey-mixed drink Hot Toddy would be incomplete without a slice of lemon. To be complete, the Old Fashioned, a popular whiskey cocktail, requires a citrus fruit, specifically a slice of orange. 


Bourbon goes best with Coca-Cola; we recommend mixing it with the cheap kind. 

Soda Water

Japanese bartenders have made it trendy to use soda water in whiskey. Soda water goes well with whiskey with either a bold or a funky flavor. 


Vermouth is used in many whiskey cocktails, the simplest of which is the Manhattan. Rye whiskey is often used in these cocktails, as its spicy flavor complements the sweetness of vermouth. 

Ginger Ale

Ginger has various tastes, making it go well with whiskey. The simplest way to use it with whiskey is to combine it with bourbon, one of the classic combinations. 

Enhancing the Whiskey Experience

Here are a few great ways you can enhance the whiskey experience and get the most out of each sip:

What is a Whiskey Stone?

Whiskey stones are small stones chilled in the freezer and placed in your whiskey drink. They allow your whiskey drink to cool without dilution. Thus, you can still drink your whiskey neat. Whiskey stones have become popular whiskey accessories. You can give these as a gift to a whiskey lover. 

What Food Pairs Well with Whiskey?

Whiskey pairs well with a variety of foods, with the right pairing enhancing both the flavors of the whiskey and the dish. Common whiskey-centric dishes include cheese, chocolate, charcuterie boards, nuts, grilled meats, and spicy foods.


Here are a few frequently asked questions:

What Proof is Whiskey?

Most of the whiskies on the market are 80-proof. 

What is the Whiskey Rebellion?

The Whiskey Rebellion, which occurred in 1794, was a revolt against the government’s tax on alcohol. George Washington was the president at the time. The people’s rallying cry was “Liberty and no excise.” 

What Type of Whiskey is Jack Daniels?

Tennessee whiskey is Jack Daniels. It is one of the best-selling whiskey brands in America and has been making them since the 1880s. 

What Kind of Whiskey is Crown Royal?

Crown Royal is a Canadian-blended whiskey introduced by Samuel Bronfman in 1939. It was available only in Canada until the 1960s. It is currently the best-selling Canadian whiskey in the US. 

What is in Jameson Whiskey?

Jameson whiskey is made from malted and unmalted barley and distilled thrice for a smooth taste. It is a product of Ireland. 

What is a Whiskey Sour?

Whiskey sour is one of the popular mixed drinks served in bars. whiskey sour is an alcoholic drink made by mixing whiskey, sugar, and lemon juice. Bourbon is often used for this drink. Variations to this drink are made by adding an additional ingredient. If you add an egg white, it will be called the Boston Sour. If you put red wine on top, it will be called the New York Sour. 

What is Whiskey Neat?

“whiskey neat” refers to a way of drinking whiskey. It means you pour whiskey into a glass and drink it without adding anything, not even ice cubes. Some say this way of drinking is the purest form of drinking whiskey. 

What’s the Difference Between Whiskey and Scotch?

Scotch is made in Scotland, while whiskey is made in America and Ireland.


whiskey is a complex drink with a long and interesting history. We hope you learned important facts about whiskey in this blog post and are now inspired to go out and try some of the many available variations. Whether you’re a bourbon, rye, or Scotch fan, we know you’ll find a whiskey you love.