Why Are Whiskeys So Confusing? LOVE Them But Flummoxed…

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It’s been so ridiculously hot over the last few months that my cocktailing has taken a back seat to orders of Rose over ice!

But I was just reminded by the good people at Dewar’s that August 25th is Whisky Sour Day!! Who knew?? I do look forward to trying the Dewar’s Sour Rouge (Dewar’s 12, lemon juice, rosemary honey syrup, Lillet Rouge floater – pic top left), created for them by Cyllan Hicks of Midnights Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sounds very refreshing!!

However, truth be told, August 25th may still be too balmy for me to get fully into whiskey mode. I need the temperatures to drop before I pursue my Whiskey connoisseurship. And while I love brown spirits, I am utterly confused by the category – and I don’t think I’m the only one. What is whiskey vs. whisky vs. scotch vs. rye vs. bourbon vs. Irish – YIKES, can they make it any more complicated???

What I do know is that between 2000 and 2015, sales of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey climbed 32%. Also explains why the Old Fashioned is suddenly everywhere – some people say it’s because of Mad Men but brown spirits were trending well before that show came along.

Here are a few things I do know about whiskey thanks to realmendrinkwhiskey.com.

  • Scotch has to be 100% made in Scotland
  • Bourbon has to be 100% made in the USA
  • Tennessee Whiskey has to be made in Tennessee. And Jack Daniels insists you not call their product bourbon
  • Rye, is tricky, and it’s all Canada’s fault. All Rye’s have to include rye mash but the amount varies by country (51% in USA while Canada has no rules so many of their ryes are predominantly corn mash)
  • Irish Whiskey – very few rules except that it has to be aged in Ireland.

All the above brown spirits are made from similar ingredients i.e. fermented grain mash BUT they are categorized differently based on how – and in what kind of barrels – they are aged.

Besides developing my whiskey knowledge, I also plan to make The Manhattan and The Old Fashioned my cocktails of choice. And, of course, there’s a lot of confusion about those cocktails as well. Thank you to abarabove.com for these helpful tips:

  • The Old Fashioned is made with rye or bourbon, sugar and bitters
  • Looking forward to checking out the Smoke & Spice, Nothing Nice at Oak & Ivy when I am in Las Vegas for The Life Is Beautiful Festival in September. They make it with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, bitters and simple syrup with a hint of (actual) smoke and it sounds wonderful.
  • If you get to Seattle, order an Old Fashioned at Damn The Weather in Pioneer Square – sounds really good.
  • The Manhattan was created from the Old Fashioned, after vermouth became available in the late 1860’s.
  • In craft cocktail bars, most Manhattans are made with rye, which is considered more authentic and adds interesting spice notes.
  • In a run-of-the-mill bar, the Manhattan is made with bourbon which gives it a softer taste.

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