Scotch whisky must be distilled in Scotland, aged for at least three years in oak, and subject to several other restrictions. The age on a label of scotch has to be the youngest year of whisky used in the final beverage. There are five main regions of Scotch production, Highland, Lowland, Islay, Campbeltown, and Speyside. Scotch whiskys run the gamut from sweeter, smoother varieties like Glenmorangie to heavy, peatier whiskys like Laphroaig and Lagavulin. Single Malt Scotch is Scotch is a further restriction, as it needs to be produced only from 100% malted barley, and it can only come from a single distillery.
Irish whiskeys have diversified in recent years. Traditional Irish whiskies have been from a mix of malted and unmalted barley, and are triple distilled in a pot still. Irish whiskeys tend to be smoother and sweeter than most of their Scottish and American counterparts, and are great for new whiskey drinkers.
Though whiskys were first made in Japan in the 1870s, they weren’t commercially produced until Yamazaki opened its doors in 1924. Japanese whiskys tend to be based on single malt Scotches, and often have similar flavor profiles. Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Nikka are three of the most common Japanese whisky brands available around the world. In recent years Japanese whiskys have been attracting increasing attention, especially since Nikka and Suntory’s whiskys have started to beat some of the most highly regarded Scotches in head to head competitions.
Bourbon & Rye Whiskey
America’s gift to drinking culture, bourbon dates back to the mid 1800s. Technically a bourbon is any American whiskey that’s produced in the US from at least 51% grain, distilled to less than 80% ABV, barreled at no more than 125 proof, aged in new charred oak, and bottled at more than 80 proof. Most Bourbon is aged for at least 2 years, and made in Kentucky, but there are some interesting new bourbons cropping up at distilleries across the US in recent years.