The amber liquid has many an origin tale when you get down to it. A history as rich as its various notes, dating back centuries, is debated to be scattered about different regions simultaneously. The earliest evidence of whisky production comes from ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia and Egypt, where fermented grain beverages were distilled. Whisky, as we know it today, is often associated with Scotland and Ireland. In Scotland, the art of distillation was brought by monks in the early Middle Ages, who used it to create medicinal concoctions.
While veterans prefer to have their Scotch on the rocks, there are also various other ways to enjoy whisky for those new to the world of this liquor.
"All sorts of whisky, whether it's a single malt, or a blended whisky or a bourbon, has a lot of character present in it. So when I make a whisky cocktail, the idea is to keep the flavours alive, and therefore the cocktail would be a more spirit-forward cocktail, like a Manhattan, or an Old Fashioned and maybe even a Whisky Sour or a Julep" said Yangdup Lama, one of India's finest mixologists and the man behind Delhi's Sidecar.
Over time, with improved distillation techniques, whisky production became more widespread. The production eventually spread to other countries, including the United States, Canada, and Japan. Each region developed its own unique styles and production methods, influenced by local ingredients, climate, and cultural traditions.
Exclusively produced in Scotland, it is renowned worldwide for its quality, craftsmanship, and distinct flavour profile. There are five main categories of Scotch whisky single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain and blended Scotch. Single malt is seen as the most desirable whisky. Indri Trini, India's very own single malt whisky launched late in 2021, has quickly become a favourite in the country. Talking about the notes and flavours of the drink, Prabhkaran Hundal, Senior GM of Sales and Marketing of Piccadily Distilleries, said, "The magic of the marriage of three different wood casks comes to its splendour when our malts are matured in Ex-Bourbon, Ex-French wine and PX Sherry casks."
Aged for at least three years inside large oak casks, Irish whiskey has a silky, smooth finish. The barley, which is made from either yeast-fermented grain mash or a mash of malted barley, is roasted inside a kiln over coal or gas before the distillation process. Even though the process of distilling is similar to Scotch, done in traditional small pot stills, the distillers in Ireland used almost no peat and distil the whisky thrice.
A quintessential American whiskey, Bourbon, must be crafted with a minimum of 51% corn and cannot contain any additives. As part of its unique ageing process, it is carefully stored in freshly charred oak barrels. These barrels contribute to its reddish hue as the fermentation process interacts with the charred wood. The result is a delightful balance of sweetness with a subtle smokiness, accompanied by a gentle hint of vanilla. "I started to discover the flavours of whisky twenty-five years ago towards the end of my third year as a bartender, and that was when I started to properly notice the distinctness in favours of different types of whisky, bourbon becoming my favourite," said Lama.
Tennessee whiskey, distinguished by its unique production method known as the Lincoln County process, is crafted using a mash bill that typically consists of 51-79% corn. Before being aged in wooden casks, this whiskey undergoes a crucial step it is filtered through maple charcoal chunks, imparting a distinct character. The result is a whiskey that exhibits a sweeter profile, accompanied by pronounced smoky notes, evoking even a hint of soot.
Rye whiskey, a cherished North American spirit, is crafted using a mash bill that consists of at least 41% mashed rye grain. This flavourful grain is then carefully aged in charred new oak barrels, lending distinctive characteristics to the final product. With its roots deeply intertwined with tradition, rye whiskey delights the palate with its fruity and spicy notes, creating a captivating taste experience. The ageing process, spanning a minimum of two years, allows the whiskey to develop its rich flavours and complexities. Canadian distilleries embrace their unique interpretations of the production process, contributing to the diverse array of rye whiskey expressions available to enthusiasts.
The exquisite craftsmanship of Japanese whisky unveils a distinct character that sets it apart from its counterparts. Japanese whisky showcases a drier and smokier profile and is carefully crafted using peated or double-malted barley. Drawing inspiration from the revered Scotch whisky distillation process, Japanese distilleries employ a range of still sizes, allowing for a nuanced array of flavour profiles to be created. Japanese whisky also showcases its innovative spirit by exploring unconventional ageing techniques, such as maturation in plum wine casks.
While it may not be everybody's drink of choice, there is no denying the sophisticated allure of whisky. "For those who don't enjoy whisky I would just say that they are missing out on a lot of flavours and the discovery of a lot of culture and tradition and a great experience as fas as alcohol is concerened," said Lama. "Like I say, there is a whisky for everyone"
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