Types of Whisky


Before we get into the specifics, lets first understand What is Whisky?

What is Whisky?

Whisky is an alcoholic beverage derived through fermentation, distillation and maturation.

It is made using three key ingredients; Grains (malted barley, rye, wheat or corn), Water and Yeast. Depending on the country of origin and the type of Whisky, the composition of grains used to prepare a Whisky might be different.

Whisky making can be dated back by millennia but the modern distillation and maturation process as we know it today, was developed and perfected a few centuries ago.

Today, Whisky is one of the world’s most widely produced and consumed commodities. The different countries that produce some of the world’s best whisky are Scotland, Ireland, America, Japan, Canada, Australia, India and more.

Types of Whisky

There are three major different types of Whiskey or Whisky based on their geographical origin and method of preparation.

  • Scotch Whisky
  • Irish Whiskey
  • American Whiskey or Bourbon Whiskey

1. Scotch Whisky

The term Scotch Whisky is strictly used to describe the product prepared in the country of Scotland and has to adhere to a set of specific guidelines. Some of the world’s best Whisky brands are located in the country of Scotland due to their abundant freshwater supply and distinct method of preparation.

Scotch Whisky must;

  1. Be prepared in the country of Scotland and using malted barley and smaller amounts of other grains
  2. Matured in Oak barrels for no less than three years and one day
  3. Contain no added substances or flavoring except caramel food coloring
  4. Have an Alcohol By Volume strength of 40% (80 US Proof)

Once Scotch Whisky is fermented, distilled and matured, it can be bottled in five different ways such as

  1. Single malt scotch whisky,
  2. Single grain whisky,
  3. Blended malt whisky,
  4. Blended grain whisky,
  5. Blended Scotch whisky.

Single Malt Scotch Whisky signifies the bottling of spirits developed at a single distillery, whereas Blended Malt Whisky is a product of mixing together source whiskies from different distilleries and age statements.

Single Grain Whisky implies the making of Whisky implies the use of a different sort of grain in addition to malted barley, whereas Blended Grain Whisky means the mixture of two or more Single Grain Whiskies.

Blended Scotch Whisky is used to describe Single or Blended Malt Whiskies with other Single or Blended Malt Whiskies.

Some of the world’s most popular and best Whisky brands are listed below;

The Glenlivet, Macallan and Glenmorangie are impressive single malt Scotch whisky brands whereas Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, Johnnie Walker and others are popular blended Scotch whisky brands.

2. Irish Whiskey

Whiskey was one of Ireland’s chief exports, and Irish Whiskey like Scotch Whisky, needs the beverage to be prepared, distilled, and matured in the country of Ireland.

Irish Whiskey must;

  1. Be fermented using yeast and prepared using a mash of malted and unmalted grains
  2. Aged for a period of no less than three years in wooden casks
  3. Have no added colors or flavoring except caramel food coloring
  4. Have an Alcohol By Volume strength of 40% (80 US Proof)

Irish Whiskey can be classified into three different categories based on the ingredients and the manner of their preparation;

  1. Single Pot Still Whiskey
  2. Single Malt Whiskey
  3. Single Grain Whiskey
  4. Blended Whiskey

Some of the most popular Irish Whiskey brands are, Jameson, Kilbeggan, Bushmills, Paddy among many others.

3. American Whiskey – Bourbon

Bourbon Whiskey is legally classified per US regulations that, much like the Scottish and Irish authorities, specify the criteria for a Whiskey to be called a Bourbon. Surprisingly unlike Scotch Whisky and Irish Whisky, Bourbon Whiskey or American Whiskey has no specified aging period.

An American Bourbon Whiskey must be;

  1. roduced in United States with a grain mixture that is at least 51% Corn.
  2. Aged in charred, new Oak barrels
  3. Distilled at 160 US Proof (40% ABV), barreled at 125 US Proof (62.5% ABV) and bottled at 80 US Proof (40% ABV)

Some of the world’s most renowned Bourbon Whiskey brands are Jim Beam, Pappy Van Winkle, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Maker’s Mark.

Apart from Bourbon Whiskey, the United States of America also famously produce some minor different types of Whiskey such as Corn Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Wheat Whiskey, Malt Whiskey and Tennessee Whiskey.

Corn Whiskey

Corn Whiskey is produced by using a mash that consists of more than 80% of Corn and can be aged in new or used charred oak barrels.

Rye Whiskey

Rye Whiskey employs 51% of Rye and other malted or unmalted grains.

Wheat Whiskey

Wheat Whiskey uses a mash that is 51% Wheat and other malted or unmalted grains.

Malt Whiskey

This type of Whiskey is developed using a mash of 51% malted barley.

Stryker Smoked Single Malt and Westward are two examples of American Malt Whiskey.

Tennessee Whiskey

Although similar to Bourbon Whiskey in many ways, is differentiated through the unique filtration process it goes through right before it gets barreled in charred, oak casks. This filtration process is legally known as the Lincoln Country Process.

Jack Daniels is the world’s most popular Tennessee Whiskey and also America’s bestselling whiskey worldwide.

Other than the three major different types of Whiskey or whisky, Japan, Canada, Australia and India are also well-known for producing the spirit.

Hibiki, Noh Karuizawa, Nikka and Yamazaki are some excellent examples of Japanese Whisky.

Crown Royal, WhistlePig and Caribou Crossing are some terrific Canadian made Whisky brands available in the market.

Blender’s Pride, Amrut Fusion Single Malt, Imperial Blue are some well-known Whisky brands in India that are also sold in foreign markets. Indian whiskies are typically created using imported Scotch malts and blending them with domestic grain spirits.

These are the different classifications and types of Whiskies based on their geographical origin, ingredients and distillation process.