Whisky is a drink that is enjoyed by many people. It has been adopted and altered to best suit the tastes of various cultures. This has lead to fans of specific regional whiskies and created loyalty amongst enthusiasts. Overall, like most things when there is a wide array of choices on offer, confusion can then set in.
We feel it is only necessary to inform readers of 10 things you may not have known about Whisky. These range from the spelling of Whisky to the regions of production. Read on and be better informed and then, why not have a drink to celebrate your new found knowledge.
Whisky or whiskey?
Always a tricky one if you are the kind of guys who regularly fumbles their and there. The Irish and the Americans call it whiskey (with the exception of Makers Mark), while the rest of the world calls it whisky. During the late 19th century the Scots were producing terrible whisky and so the Irish and the Americans added an “E” to differentiate themselves.
Scotch whisky has to be matured in oak for at least 3 years to legally be called whisky. Prior to that, it is simply called spirit. It’s pretty much just unfiltered vodka before it goes in the cask. Australian law requires whisky to be matured for 2 years in oak.
Whisky Starts Off as Beer
The word whisky comes from the Gaelic “uisge beatha” which means lively water or water of life. This clear spirit is obtained by distilling beer to capture the alcohol. Most American and Canadians even use hops, while the Scots, the Irish and the others around the world making Scotch-style malt whisky don’t use hops.
Single Malt vs. Blended
Single malt is generally the good stuff because blends are let down by the cheapies like Bells, Chivas and Johnny Red. The difference lies in the base grain and the type of still used. Single malt is made in a copper pot still from malted barley grain and water and has to have been made and bottled by the same distillery. Blended whisky, as the name suggests, it is a blend of grain and malt whisky.
The grain component is distilled in a Coffey still and the rule of thumb is that the cheaper the blend, the less malt whisky that it contains. A good example of this is Johnny Walker Red (cheaper end) vs. Johnnie Walker Blue (very expensive).
Ice or no ice?
The simple rule is ice for blends and no ice single malts. Ice was introduced to whisky culture in order to mask the harshness of blended whisky and has no place in malt whisky appreciation. This is because it hides around three-quarters of the nose (aroma) and ruins the structure of the whisky on the palate.
Booze in Australia attracts one of the highest excise (tax) rates in the world. Currently, every litre of pure (100%ABV) alcohol is taxed at $79.22. This means that your average bottle of malt at 46%ABV has $25.50 tax and GST is taxed on top of this! As an example, your bottle of Johnnie Red at Dan’s has $22.18 tax, leaving $12.35 to be shared between the producer, the wholesaler, the importer and the retailer.
The Big Boys
Blended whisky is the most common form of Scotch whisky and one of the biggest selling alcoholic drinks categories in the world. Johnny Walker leads the pack with 19.7 million 9l cases or 28.1 million bottles. Glenfiddich is the biggest selling single malt at 1 million 9l cases or 1.4 million bottles, but to put it into context, there are 18 blended brands that sell more than 1 million cases, totaling 66.5 million cases or 95 million bottles, and the crazy thing is you probably have never heard of most of these brands. Diageo is the company that owns Johnny Walker and they are the world’s biggest drink company. Their portfolio includes Smirnoff, Guinness, Captain Morgan and Gordon’s Gin. Glenfiddich is owned by the Grant family, who are…surprise surprise…the richest family in Scotland.
India drinks more whisky than any other country on the planet. They necked a staggering 2 billion bottles in 2012.
The Angel’s Share
This refers to the whisky lost to evaporation from maturing casks every year. It’s about 2% a year in Scotland and Tasmania, but can be as high as 15% in places like Taiwan. Yes, Taiwan makes really good single malt believe it or not.
Scotland is Too Far to Visit.
Don’t worry, reliable sources suggest that whisky magic is happening right here on our doorstep. Tasmania has no less than 9 distilleries and the island’s flagship distillery Sullivan’s Cove also hold the crown for the World’s Best Single Malt. Better get yourself and the lads down to the airport.
Whisky can be a Lucrative Investment
If you can stop yourself from drinking your collection you’ll find that the right whiskies are outperforming most alternative investment indexes.
The Whisky Club was created by Bertie Cason, one of the chaps leading the whisky movement down in Tasmania, and the Club offers members a fantastic combination of whisky education and a monthly supply of the world’s finest and rarest single malt whisky.
To celebrate their 1000th member, the Club is giving away a year’s supply of FINE and RARE single malt whisky specially selected by Gordon and MacPhail, the world’s leading whisky specialist. This ultimate whisky collection comprises of twelve bottles covering all the regions and flavours of Scotland and it’s probably the best thing you have ever seen….like a meat raffle only way better!
If you like or want to like whisky, then visit www.thewhiskyclub.com.au
To see what we’re drinking, follow our Instagram feed @manofmanytastes for a regular dram.