Whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash with distinctive smoky flavors due to the use of peat smoke to treat the malt. Ironically, whiskey starts its life as beer as it is made from wort, which is the ‘beer’ that gets distilled. Wort is made from all the ingredients that you would find in a pint of chilled beer – water, yeast, and malts.
Various grains (which may be malted) are used for different varieties of whiskey, including barley, corn, rye, and wheat. Typically aged in wooden casks, made of charred white oak, whiskey is a strictly regulated spirit worldwide with many classes and types.
There is such an array of whiskey types from around the globe, making it near impossible to list them all but the general rule of thumb is single malt, blended malt, blended, cask strength and single cask.
The unifying characteristics of the different classes and types are the fermentation of grains, distillation, and aging in wooden barrels.
A still for making whiskey is usually made of copper, since it removes sulfur-based compounds from the alcohol that would make it unpleasant to drink. Modern stills are made of stainless steel with copper innards. The simplest standard distillation apparatus is commonly known as a pot still, consisting of a single heated chamber and a vessel to collect purified alcohol.
Whiskies do not mature in the bottle, only in the cask, so the "age" of a whiskey is only the time between distillation and bottling. This reflects how much the cask has interacted with the whiskey, changing its chemical makeup and flavor. Whiskies that have been bottled for many years may have a rarity value but are not "older" and not necessarily "better" than a more recent whiskey that matured in wood for a similar time.
While aged in wooden casks, whiskey goes through 6 processes (Extraction, evaporation, oxidation, concentration, filtration and coloration) that contribute to its final flavor and are often aged in previously used barrels of other spirits such as rum or sherry, to absorb remnants of the spirits that previously inhabited the barrel.
It is recommended that enthusiasts try whiskey neat at first to allow it to express itself as its creator intended but if that is not your cup of tea, whiskey is ideal with a range of mixers and can be found in cocktails such as Manhattan’s, Whiskey Sours and Old Fashions.