What makes whiskey, well, whiskey? What’s the difference between whiskey and bourbon? Ewan Lacey, Managing Director of the International Wine and Spirit Competition, sat down with us to answer some of the most frequent questions he gets about whiskey. Whether you want to be more knowledgeable when browsing the whiskey aisle or need new material for cocktail hour conversations, check out the video above to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to ask a whiskey connoisseur. You’ll also learn about some of Lacey’s favorite whiskeys that you should be sure to try.
What’s needed to make whiskey?
“You need a cereal base, which could be barley, wheat, or corn. You need a good water supply,” Lacey says. “You need a big still, so that you can distill it and make it into this strong alcohol, and then you need wooden barrels and lots of time, so it can mature.”
If you need time, does that mean that age is an indication of quality?
“It can be,” Lacey explains. “If you start with a good whiskey, it will improve over time in the barrel, but more and more we’re seeing great whiskeys made without reliance on age.”
Scotland’s known for its whiskey production, but why isn’t there one specific type of Scotch?
“It’s a small country, but a lot of very different whiskeys come out of there,” Lacey says. “From the Lowlands, that’s a really good place to start, the whiskeys are approachable and quite soft and gentle. Then, you go through the Highlands and Speycide all the way to Islay, where you get these deeply strong-flavored, complex whiskeys that tend to be favored by aficionados.”
In the United States, they tend to refer to whiskey as bourbon. Is there a difference?
“Bourbon, they use corn as a main ingredient, whereas in Scotland they use barley, so you get a different taste,” Lacey says. “Scotch whiskey has to be aged for at least three years, sometimes up to 50 years, whereas bourbon is a year’s maturation. They use new barrels to make bourbon in and they use old ones in scotch.”
Listen in as Lacey drops more knowledge about whiskey in the video above.