What makes the best quality whiskey?
by Whiskey.com on 04/04/2012 - 02:47 pm
Some claim that a good whiskey is nectar from the gods, and indeed, the best whiskey goes down clean and smoothly. The drinker experiences the nuances of the drink with nary a bite to the mouth and throat. Those who possess sensitive or trained palates gladly expound upon the flavor notes they detect such as fruits or caramel, notes that science proves the existence of. Whiskey obtains these flavors and more through the distilling process which plays a large role in imparting flavor and texture to the finished product.
Whiskey has been made in the same manner for an untold number of years, with its creation stemming with the distillation process. Spring or filtered water and fermented mash are poured into a big copper tub that has a cone with a spout on the top of it. A heating element under the tub is turned onto a specific temperature to boil the mash. Some makers use peat to heat the tub to add a smoky flavor to the whiskey. Steam rises off this mixture into the cone, then cools off as it reaches the spout. The resulting liquid rises its way through the spout and drains out into a vessel. If the description of the distillery sounds familiar, that is because it probably is. Popular imagery of a moonshiner always shows him next to his still where he makes his illegal alcohol. The process of distilling mash into whiskey is the same no matter where or when it is done.
The liqueur that has been drawn off the mash is fermented with yeast, then transferred into a wooden barrel for aging. American oak is the traditionally preferred wood for the barrel, but other varieties are used for different flavors. A barrel is charred on the inside which allows the liqueur to freely interact with the wood. Apply a period of aging to the barrel of whiskey and the result is a fine, distinguished refreshment. Before bottling, some whiskeys are blended to create the final taste whereas single and straight malts are taken directly from the barrel.
The only thing that an average whiskey and the best whiskey have in common is their method of manufacture. Many steps go into the creation of the best whiskey that lesser varieties tend to not go through. This is not to say that the average brands cut corners; instead, they choose to get the product to acceptable levels for consumption without going through the extra steps.
Grain selection is important for the best whiskey. Using lesser quality grains in the creation process makes for a less refined end product. Low quality materials have an impact no matter if the end product is a single malt or a multiple grain whiskey. The best whiskeys use the best possible materials.
Filtration is another area that plays a role in the quality of whiskey. The best whiskey has gone through multiple filtration cycles in order to remove unwanted distillates. Unwanted distillates such as fusel oil are a part of the distilling process, and require filtering out. Filtration is a necessary step in order to produce a pure liqueur that is free of contaminates. A lesser quality whiskey is filtered enough to reduce the contaminates to an acceptable level. The consumer can easily taste the difference as the best whiskey makes for a smoother swallow than average brands.
It is a combination of quality ingredients, preparation and labor that goes into the creation of the best quality whiskey. All of the effort turns the best whiskey into a bottle that is worth having on the shelf.