Alcohol Education: 10 Mandatory Facts to Know About Whiskey
At Mandatory, we love whiskey. Whether it’s bourbon, Scotch, rye, or Japanese whisky, we can’t get enough of it. We enjoy it straight, on the rocks, and in cocktails like the iconic Old-Fashioned or the more contemporary Penicillin.
For those new to this planet, whiskey (or whisky depending on the country it’s made in) is a distilled, alcoholic spirit made from fermented grains, including rye, barley, corn, or wheat (besides a handful of other ingredients). After distillation, the spirit is usually matured in wood barrels for a varying amount of time. That is the most basic description, but this truly global spirit is so much more complicated than that.
That’s why we decided that the time was right to have a little alcohol education class. Here are 10 Mandatory facts you need to know about whiskey.
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All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.
If you didn’t already know that whiskey (or whisky) is an all-encompassing term for myriad varieties, now you do. A bourbon is a whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. Just like all Scotch is whisky, but not all whisky is Scotch. Get it?
The word 'whiskey' is derived from Gaelic.
Like most things, the word whiskey evolved from another word. It’s derived from the Gaelic “uisce beatha” that translates to “water of life.” Now we can definitely understand why it got its name.
Depending on the country, whiskey is spelled with or without an 'e.'
You might be used to seeing the word “whiskey” if you live in the U.S. But, it might surprise you to learn that only the U.S. and Ireland use the version with the "e." The rest of the world (including Canada) spells it “whisky.”
George Washington was a well-known whiskey distiller.
You might not realize it, but besides being America’s first president, George Washington was a well-known distiller. In 1797, after his presidency, he hired a Scottish plantation manager named James Anderson. The duo decided to use the barley and on-premise grist mill to make whiskey. You can actually visit a recreation of Washington’s distillery in Mount Vernon today.
The Jack Daniel’s distillery is in a dry county.
One of the most famous distilleries in the world, the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, is actually in a dry county. So, the only place you can buy the charcoal-filtered, smooth sipping whiskey is the on-site store.
Whiskey doesn't need to be aged.
If you’re like most of us, when you envision whiskey, it’s brown. Technically, as soon as the whiskey is distilled, it’s already whiskey. At this stage, it’s called white dog, white lightning, or moonshine (illicit and otherwise).
The angels always get their share.
One of the saddest terms in the whiskey world is “angel’s share.” That’s because, during the aging process, there’s a great deal of evaporation. That evaporated whiskey is referred to as the “angel’s share.” There must be some tipsy angels hanging around barrel houses from Kentucky to Taiwan.
Bourbon doesn't need to be made in Kentucky.
Many people believe that for a whiskey to be called a bourbon, it must be made in Kentucky. While whiskey purists will disagree, it definitely doesn’t need to be made in the Blue Grass State. It just needs to be made up of at least 51 percent corn, aged in new, charred oak barrels, distilled to no more than 160 proof, and added to the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof. Otherwise, it can be made anywhere -- although 95 percent of bourbon is still make in Kentucky.
Frank Sinatra was buried with a bottle of whiskey.
“Old Blue Eyes” Frank Sinatra was such a fan of Jack Daniel’s that he would order boxes of bottles and have them shipped to Las Vegas in the days when you couldn’t grab a bottle of Jack at every corner liquor store. He loved the juice so much that he was buried with a bottle as well as a lighter, a pack of cigarettes, and a roll of dimes to call his friends in the afterlife.
A Scotch whisky has been to outer space.
Taking the idea of a “global” spirit a little far, Scotch whisky brand Ardbeg launched a vial of the peat-smoked whisky into outer space in 2011. The reason was to study the effect of zero gravity on the molecular makeup of whisky.