Essentially, there are two main types of whisky – malt whisky and grain whisky.
Malt whisky is distilled from malted barley in a pot still. This is a batch process, which yields relatively small quantities. This type of whisky tends to be labelled with the name of the distillery and a statement about the age of the spirit. Malting is a time-consuming process that transforms complex sugars in the barley into simple sugars that dissolve in water. This sugar-water (worts) is used to feed the yeasts that produce alcohol in a mixture called a wash. The wash is fed into the still and eventually becomes whisky.
Grain whisky is distilled in a column still and can be made from a number of grains (malted and un-malted), sometimes including some barley. Column stills are commonly used for large-scale commercial production and they are responsible for producing the vast majority of whisky that is sold worldwide.
Whisky is subject to certain regulations. In the UK a whisky must have been aged for a minimum of three years. In addition to an ageing requirement, whisky is labelled under different categories:
- A Single Malt Whisky is a malt whisky from a single distillery.
- A Single Grain Whisky is a whisky from a single grain distillery.
- A combination of malt whiskies from different distilleries is a known as Blended Malt.
- A blend of both types of whisky (no matter the proportions) is a Blended Whisky.
Sometimes a whisky carries a statement about the age of the whisky in the bottle. This statement denotes the age of the youngest whisky used in that release. Whiskies of different ages and from different barrels are used to try and keep a well-known product (such as “Highland Park 12 Year Old”) consistent from one year to the next.
Occasionally, the contents of a single barrel are released as a “single cask” bottling and smaller batches can be made from specific casks. Ideally, the colour of whisky is extracted from the wood in which it’s aged. In practice, the colour is often adjusted with caramel and one can usually assume this is the case unless stated otherwise on the label. Chemicals formed during the manufacture of caramel additives also have important flavour characteristics – some are identical to chemicals released when oak is toasted. In addition to colouring, most whisky is filtered to remove natural compounds that make the spirit look oily when water is added and cloudy when it’s cold.
The casks used for ageing whisky tend to be old Bourbon barrels. This is because Bourbon (a type of American whisky made from grain and distilled in a variety of ways) must be matured in new oak barrels. Once the Bourbon distillers have used these barrels once they are sold on to distillers of other spirits who use them to add character and complexity their own spirits. Whisky distillers also use barrels that have previously contained fortified and other wines, in order to add character to their spirit.
Although Scotland is the most famous region for whisky distillation, there are whiskies from around the world. Our own selection includes whiskies from India, England, Wales, Japan, Ireland, Sweden and New Zealand.
A special mention of peat: A key part of malting grains is drying grains. Before other forms of fuel became more common, malting barley in Scotland was dried in kilns fed with solid peat. The smoke from this fuel rose and left particulate matter in the grain that would make it through to the distillate, giving it a characteristic flavour. These days grain of different peating levels is available to purchase (very few distilleries malt any grain on site) and used to make spirit in places as far flung as Goa and Yoichi in Japan.Hide Description
Showing 151–157 of 157 results
Whistlepig 12yr Old World MarriageSize: 75clFrom: USA
Whistlepig 12yr Old World Series Madeira CaskSize: 75clFrom: USA
Whistlepig Straight Rye 10yr oldSize: 70clFrom: USA
Wild Turkey 101Size: 70clFrom: USA
Woodford Double OakedSize: 70clFrom: USA
Woodford ReserveSize: 70clFrom: USA
Woodford Straight RyeSize: 70clFrom: USA