But, what makes whiskey so great?
It's certainly not the easiest drink to embrace as a hobby. It's alcohol content is far higher than beer or wine, and its character usually leans towards potent flavors that calls for an acquired taste. However, its numerous variants are definitely worth investigating.
In a fundamental sense, whiskey is basically distilled beer.
It is made from a mixture of grain, malted barley, and sugar, which are heated in hot water to create a sweet liquid called 'wort.' Yeast is added, converting the sugar to alcohol, producing a beer called 'wash.' The process of distilling this wash concentrates the beer's alcohol content, resulting in a spirit that is aged in an oak barrel until it transforms into whiskey. Different whiskeys are distilled by using a variety of grains, distillation methods, and casks.
Scotch whiskeys are distilled and matured in Scotland for a minimum of three years, and employ only malt barley as the active grain ingredient. Because these malts are produced at one distillery, this process is expensive and tedious, which is why single malt scotch tends to be pricey. Coveted by aficionados, this type of whiskey boats rich flavors that are unique to the various distilleries in Scotland.
By contrast, the most popular species of whiskey in the U.S. is bourbon, a “straight whiskey.” Straight whiskeys are strictly produced in America and must contain a grain formula—a substance called “mash bill”—with at least 51% corn. Other stringent requirements include a specific ABV and aging process, which are intended to maintain a level of consistency. Because bourbons also contain rye and malted barley, they usually have an element of spice in their flavor profiles. Sometimes distillers substitute wheat for rye, which makes the whiskey less bold and more accessible. Maker's Mark is an example of a wheat bourbon.
Last is Irish whiskey, a “single pot still whiskey.” Only available in Ireland, these whiskeys use both malted and unmalted barley. Some people say that Irish whiskey isn't as smokey as scotch, but this generalization doesn't always hold true. Jameson is probably the most well-known brand of Irish whiskey, but there are a handful of other Irish distilleries.
Each of these whiskeys possess distinctive characteristics, which are fun to try out and experiment with. Fly by The Hangar's monthly Whiskey Tasting every 2nd Wednesday from 7-9pm. $10 gets guests 10 whiskey samples, light snacks and a raffle ticket.