Types of Whiskey
Although all whiskey is produced using fermented grain, different types use different base products and differ in quality and alcoholic content. There are three primary types of whiskey. Malt whiskey is produced from malted barley. Grain whiskey is produced from any fermented grain. Finally, some whiskey is a combination of malt and grain.
One of the important things to remember about all types of whiskey is that the product never ages in the bottle, only in the cask. The cask is of the utmost importance in whiskey production. Chemically, the whiskey is changed by the oak cask. Thus, the age of whiskey is defined as the time between distillation and bottling.
Whiskey that has been in the bottle for many years is rare but, since aging does not continue in the bottle, an older bottle of whiskey that was aged the same as a newer bottle is of no better quality. Additionally, ten years is the maximum aging time that makes a difference for whiskey. Any time spent in the barrel beyond a decade makes little difference in the taste of the whiskey.
Malts and grains can be distilled individually or combined to make a variety of whiskey types that fall into several groups:
Single Malt Whiskey malt whiskey produced from the whiskey of a single distiller. It is important to remember that unless the whiskey is labeled “single-cask”, it is most likely whiskeys from multiple casks blended to get the taste associated with that distiller’s product.
Vatted Malt Whiskey malt whiskey produced from a blend of whiskeys from multiple distilleries. Typically, when a whiskey is labeled as “malt” or “pure malt”, the consumer can assume that he or she is purchasing a vatted malt whiskey.
Blended Whiskey whiskey produced by mixing both malt and grain whiskies. In addition to both malt and grain whiskies, blended whiskey typically includes caramel, natural spirits and flavoring that are also blended to create the final whiskey product.
Single Barrel Whiskey specialty whiskey in which every bottle is from a unique cask. Each bottle of single barrel whiskey can have a distinct flavor. Often the individual bottles are labeled with the specific cask number.
Cask Strength whiskey that is bottled from the cask without dilution. This type of whiskey is also known as barrel proof. Cask strength whiskey is exceedingly rare in the present day and only found when dealing with highest quality product.