First things first: Whether it's called Rye, Bourbon or Scotch - they're all liquor that is distilled from a grain and therefore are all Whiskies.
Why two different spellings?: Traditionally, whiskies made in Scotland and Canada are spelled without an "e". Ireland and the U.S. spell it with an "e" (Whiskey).
Blended Whiskey – A combination of two or more (100 proof) whiskies. The blend is then placed into a cask for a period of time but only after each liquid has itself has been aged. The amount of straight whisky in the blends will vary depending on the country and the brand's formula. Blended Whisky is the preferred style for cocktails that call for them.
Bourbon – Named after Bourbon County, Kentucky - this whiskey must be made from a mash of between 51 & 79% corn grain. If that percentage hits 80% or higher, it becomes known as a Corn Whiskey. Bourbon is usually distilled at 160 proof which is equivalent to 80% alcohol. It must also be aged for at least 2 years in new charred oak barrels. Blending and additives other than water are unwelcome in any Bourbon making process.
Canadian Whisky – With a style considered more light-bodied and versatile - blended Canadian Whisky is a popular choice for mixed drinks. Corn and wheat - supplemented by rye, barley or barley malt are the primary grains used. While most are aged from 4-6 years in oak barrels - the minimum allowed is 3 years.
Irish Whiskey – There are different types of Irish whiskey. A single malt whiskey made from 100% malted barley distilled in a pot still and a grain whiskey made from grains distilled in a column still. Pure pot still whiskey (100% barley, both malted and un-malted, distilled in a pot still) is unique to Irish whiskey. The un-malted barley gives the pure pot still whiskey a spicy, uniquely Irish quality. Irish whiskey malt is dried on a closed kiln, away from fire and smoke - which separates it from Scotch.
Rye Whiskey – United States law says that Rye must be made from at least 51% of any grain. The most common grain used in Rye are wheat and barley. While there are many similarities Bourbon, Rye's spicy and slight bitter flavor set it apart. Few distilleries restarted production after prohibition was repealed, but Rye is currently making a trendy resurgence.
Scotch Whisky – Named for whisky made in Scotland, 'Scotch' is usually double-distilled, and will have a degree of smoky flavor that is derived from its barley (into malt) drying process. A peat fire allows smoke to come in contact with the malt - giving the Scotch a level of "peatiness". The two types of Scotch are blended and single-malt.
Single –Malt Scotch Whisky - To be called a 'single-malt' Scotch - it must be produced by a single distillery - in one season from a single batch of whisky. There are approximately 100 distilleries in Scotland that create single-malt whisky - each with it's own well-guarded recipe. One could spend a lifetime learning the different the different nuances and notes of the distilleries. The casks (wooden barrels) used to age the single-malts include, Sherry, Port, Burgundy, Rum, Madeira, Sauterne and many more.
Tennessee Whiskey – This is a type of American whiskey similar to bourbon, in that it is composed of at least 51% corn and aged in new, charred oak barrels, typically for four or more years. The difference between Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey is that Tennessee whiskey goes through a filtering stage called the "Lincoln County Process". This process consists of the whiskey being filtered through a thick layer of maple charcoal. This step gives the whiskey a distinctive flavor and jump-starts the aging process. The process is named for Lincoln County, Tennessee, which is where the Jack Daniel's distillery was originally located. In 1871, the Jack Daniel's distillery, and the surrounding area became part of the newly created Moore County. See: Jack Daniel's and George Dickel.
Private / Independent Bottler – A company that will contract with a malt distillery to buy individual casks of malt whisky. The 'bottler' will use it's own label on the bottle but will indicate the distillery of origin. Independent bottlers include, Cadenhead, Gordon & MacPhail, Hart Brothers and Montgomeries.
Both Russia and Poland claim to be the originators of vodka.
Vodka is produced from the fermentation of a sugar source by yeast. Most vodka comes from cereals, such as rye, wheat, oats and barley, but it can even be produced from potatoes.
It should also be pointed out that vodka is not necessarily tasteless or odorless and there are distinct differences between vodkas. The flavor of vodka is subtle, often like a clear grain, and if you taste enough of a variety you will begin to pick up on the differences
The heat of a vodka is another term you may hear. This is the burn that is revealed on the tongue or back of the throat when you drink vodka straight and this is often another way of deducing how clean or smooth a vodka is.
Heat is often determined by the care a distiller has put into the methods of creating a clean vodka, the number of distillations and filtering method is often going to determine a vodka's heat. Less expensive brands tend to burn in the mouth and throat, while premium brands tend to be more smooth and subtle.
Blanco (White or Silver) – An unaged tequila that goes directly from distillation to the bottle.
Oro (Gold) – This is when caramel flavors are added to Blanco tequila in order to smooth out the taste.
Reposado (Rested) – In order to be labeled as a Reposado, the tequila must be aged for at least two months in oak barrels.
Anejo (Aged) – The Anejo is aged in oak barrels for at least one year.
Reserva – Although not a category in itself, it is a special Añejo that certain distillers age in oak casks for up to 8 years.
Light Rums – Also referred to as silver or white rums, these rums generally have very little flavor aside from a general sweetness, and serve accordingly as a base for cocktails. Light rums are sometimes filtered after aging to remove any color.
Gold Rums – Also known as amber rums, these dark colored, medium-bodied rums are generally aged in wooden barrels (usually the charred white oak barrels that are the byproduct of Bourbon Whiskey).
Spiced Rum – These rums obtain their flavor through addition of spices and, sometimes, caramel. Most are darker in color, and based on gold rums. Some are significantly darker, while many cheaper brands are made from inexpensive white rums and darkened with artificial caramel color.
Dark Rum – Also known as black rum, it is generally aged longer, in heavily charred barrels. Dark rum has a much stronger flavor than either light or gold rum. It is used to provide substance in rum drinks, as well as color. In addition to uses in mixed drinks, dark rum is the type of rum most commonly used in cooking.
Flavored Rum – Some manufacturers have begun to sell rums infused with flavors of fruits. These serve to flavor similarly themed tropical drinks, which generally comprise less than 40% alcohol, and are also often drunk neat or on the rocks.
Over Proof Rum – This grade of rum has a higher percentage of alcohol than standard 40% alcohol. Most of these rums bear greater than 75%, in fact, and preparations of 151 to 160 proof occur commonly.
Premium Rum – As with other sipping spirits, such as Cognac and Scotch, a market exists for premium and super-premium spirits. These are generally boutique brands which sell very aged and carefully produced rums. They have more character and flavor than their "mixing" counterparts, and are generally consumed without the addition of other ingredients.
London Dry Gin – is the most common kind of gin and is used in most mixed drinks.
Old Tom Gin – is a sweeter version of London Dry Gin. Simple syrup is used to distinguish this old style of gin from its contemporaries.
Plymouth Gin – is a clear, slightly fruity, full-bodied gin that is very aromatic.
Dutch Gin – is a lower proof type of gin and is distilled from malted grain mash similar to whiskey.
Sloe Gin – is a common, ready-sweetened form of gin that is traditionally made by infusing sloes (the fruit of the blackthorn) in gin.
For the different brandies the classifications breakdown as follows:
Armagnac VS = A 2 year minimum in barrels.
Armagnac VSOP = A 5 minimum year in barrels.
Armagnac XO = A 6 year minimum in barrels.
Armagnac Hors d'Age = A 10 year minimum in barrels.
Armagnac Vintage = All of the grapes must be from the harvest year that appears on the label.
Calvados Fine/Three Stars = A 2 year minimum in barrels.
Calvados Vieux/Reserve = A 3 year minimum in barrels.
Calvados VO/Vieille Reserve/VSOP = A 4 year minimum in barrels.
Calvados Extra/XO/Napoleon/Hors d'Age/Age Inconnu = A 6 year minimum in barrels.
Cognac VS/Three Stars = A 2 year minimum in barrels.
Cognac VSOP = A 4 year minimum in barrels.
Cognac XO/Hors d'Age/Napoleon/Extra = A 6 year minimum in barrels.
Cognac Vintage = All of the grapes must be from the harvest year that appears on the label.
Barbera – This red wine grape is similar to Cabernet Sauvignon but with higher acid levels. These grapes commonly produce a deep, intense wine and are commonly used as a "backbone" for California "jug" wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon – This red wine grape is known for its depth of flavor, aroma and ability to age. A "noble" grape famous as one of the main varieties used to create the magnificent French Bordeaux region blended red wines.
Chardonnay – This white wine grape typically balances fruit, acidity and texture. It's the best-known white wine producer grown in France. The Chardonnay vine is widely planted in the Burgundy and Chablis regions. Australia and New Zealand have succeeded in producing world-class Chardonnays in recent years.
Chenin Blanc – This white wine grape produces fresh, delicate floral characteristics. It's also known as White Pinot (Pinot Blanco)
Gewurztraminer – This white wine grape produces distinctive wines rich in spicy aromas and full flavors, ranging from dry to sweet.
Merlot – This red wine grape is important as both a single varietal and as a blending agent. It's known for adding softness to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Muscat – This white wine grape makes some of the best sweet wines, both light fizzy ones and heavy sugary ones, as well as fully dry table wines.
Nebbiolo – This red wine grape produces strong, long-aging wines with depth and character.
Pinot Grigio/Gris – This white wine grape the mutant clone of Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir/Nero – This red wine grape is the premier grape of the Burgundy region of France, producing a red wine that is lighter in color than the Bordeaux reds, such as the Cabernet or Merlot.
Riesling – This white wine grape produces wines known for their floral perfume.
Sangiovese – This red wine grape is best known as the grape behind the Italian red wine, Chianti.
Sauvignon Blanc – This white wine grape imparts a grassy, herbaceous flavor to wine often referred to as "gooseberry" by professional tasters.
Semillon – This white wine grape is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc and sometimes with Chardonnay to cut some of the strong "gooseberry" flavor of the latter grape and create better balance.
Shiraz – This red wine grape is the clone of the French Syrah grape. Grown in Australia and responsible for very big red wines that are not quite as intense in flavor as the French Rhone versions.
Tempranillo – This red wine grape leans on the light side, and tends to be higher in acid and lower in alcohol.
Viognier – This white grape is somewhat difficult to grow. Fans of this variety enjoy its peachy, apricot and sometimes spicy flavors.
Zinfandel – This red wine grape is used to produce robust red wine as well as very popular "blush wines" called "white Zinfandel". It is known for its fruit-laden, berry-like aroma and prickly taste characteristics in its red version and pleasant strawberry reminders when made into a "blush" wine.
Aperitifs – or appetizer wines, are generally served before meals. Champagne and Sherries are traditional aperitifs. Light white wine may also fall into this category.
Dessert Wines – Dessert wines are usually served with or in place of dessert, and can be sweet or dry. Dessert wines are officially classified as having an alcohol content of between 17 and 21 percent. Sherry, Tokay and Port are well known types of dessert wines.
Rosés (Blush Wines) – Rosés, or blush wines, are light pink in color and made from several types of red wine grapes. Their color is the result of a very short period of contact with the grape skins during the wine making process. Rosés are light and usually have some sweetness.
Table Wines – Table wines can be red, white, or blush wines. They contain 7 to 14 percent alcohol and are still, rather than effervescent. They can come from any grape or any combination of grapes and in any style. Table wines may carry varietal names, names describing the color (for example, blush) or region (such as Chablis) or a name coined by the winery.
Explanation of Liquor/Wine Bottle Sizes
Shot (Airplane-bottle): 50 Milliliters
Double-Shot: 100 Milliliters
Half Pint: 200 Milliliters
Pint (Half-bottle): 375 Milliliters
Fifth (Bottle): 750 Milliliters
Liter (1.0 L) : 1000 Milliliters
Magnum: 1.5 Liters
Handle (Half Gallon): 1.75 Liters
Double-magnum: 3 Liters
Jeroboam: 5 Liters, except when used to designate Burgundy or Sparkling Wine, in which case the contents are 3 Liters.
Rehoboam: 5 liters as in jeroboam, but in a bottle of different shape.
Imperial: 6 Liters
Methuselah: 6 liters as an Imperial, but in a bottle of different shape.
Salmanazar: 9 Liters, 12 standard bottles, 1 case.
Balthazar: 12 Liters, 15 bottles of wine; usually for sparkling wines.
Nebuchadnezzar: 15 Liters, 20 standard bottles of wine, used mostly for sparkling wine.
Sizes over 1.75 L are mostly used for wines.
Fun Alcohol Facts
- Anyone under the age of 21 should be careful of taking out trash bags in Missouri. If you are under 21 and the garbage contains an empty bottle of alcohol, you can be charged with illegal possession of alcohol.
- Most people think that drinking alcohol raises the body temperature. Alcohol actually lowers the body temperature.
- Surprise : The national anthem of United States “The Star Spangled Banner,” was written to the tune of a drinking song.
- Although “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is considered to be the shortest sentence that includes all the letters of the alphabet, alcohol lovers came up with one of their own “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.”
- The pressure in a champagne bottle is 90 pounds per square inch, that is three times the pressure in automobile tires. When you pop one next time, make sure you don't take someone's eye out.
- The world’s oldest known recipe is for beer.
- Human body produces its own supply of alcohol naturally, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
- In some European countries McDonald’s serves alcohol. Some parents like to drink alcohol while kids munch on fries and chicken nuggets. McDonald’s decided they needed all the customers they can get.
- Distilled spirits such as brandy, gin, rum, tequila, etc. contain no carbohydrates, no fats and no cholesterol of any kind.
- Abraham Lincoln held a liquor license and operated several taverns.