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American & Japanese Whiskies

Demand in whisky has gone through many cycles and currently we are seeing tremendous interest in this noble beverage.


Popularised and commercialised by the Scots, whisky’s other main producers are the US, Ireland and making a very strong name for itself, Japan.


Scotland for many is synonymous with whisky, with approximately 130 active distilleries spanning The Highlands, the Lowlands, Speyside, Campbeltown & Islay.  Each area having a distinct style and yet again each distillery having their own character and personality.


American whiskeys are loosely categorised as Bourbons even though they may not need to come from Bourbon County in Kentucky, however they need to follows some strict rules of production including aging for a minimum of 2 years and the use of new white oak barrels.  Malt, Rye and Blended whiskies are also produced in the US but regulations on these classifications are somewhat different from those of Scotland.


The Japanese are by no means new to whisky making.  In 1919 a very promising apprentice Taketsuru was sent to Scotland to learn the skills of the trade and on his return help set up Japan’s first distillery in 1923.


Over the last four to five years, interest in Japanese whiskies has seen record growth and well deserved international recognition.  Japanese whiskies have been very successful at attracting a very important segment of the market that once used to shy away from this flavoursome beverage ie women.  The lighter and fruitier style of Japanese whiskies that display a delicate softness appealed more to women than the tradition richer and robust whiskies.  It is not just women who have taken to Japanese whiskies.  For many, especially here in Asia it is seen as a modern and trendy drink.


Today we will explore four styles of whiskies namely  Single Malts, Blended or Vatted Malts, Grain whiskies and Blended whiskies.


Let’s start with Single Malts.  Single here means the whisky come from one distillery.  Made entirely from germinated barley otherwise known as Malt, this whisky has backbone and structure.  Opulent, rich and full of flavour.


What happens when you marry two or more Single Malts?  We get a Blended Malt also termed as Vatted Malts, Pure Malts, All Malts and 100% Malts. Combining the qualities of different distilleries often produces a balanced whisky that is better than the sum of its parts. 


Malt whiskies are produced in Pot Stills and distilled twice or in some cases three times.


Grain Whiskies can be complicated as it involves any combination of whole grains such as wheat, rye, corn or barley with a little malt to help the process as well as add some backbone to the mix.  Grain whiskies are produced in column stills which can produce far great volumes of spirit than pot stills.


These Grain whiskies tend to have a mellow and fruity entry, just what I would recommend to start of an evening or as an accompaniment to seafood.  And  Yes, whisky does match very well with food.


Now for some Alchemy.  When you marry or mix Malt whiskies with Grain whiskies you get a Blended Whisky, not to be mistaken with a Blended Malt.  When done in the correct proportions, Blended whiskies can be very complexed and refined.


There are many ways to drink whisky, but I find that the most rewarding for me is to just add a little water.  The water agitates the molecules in the whisky and helps to release its aromas.   From personal experience, I find that ice does not have the same effect.  However in the tropics, it helps cool the whisky down.


There are many whisky glasses you can use, but I like smaller glasses that are tapered on top.  This helps to concentrate and channel the aromas to your nose.  These are a few examples.


Tasting a whisky is very similar to that of tasting wine.

1. You use your eyes – Colour, viscosity, bits of things that should not be there!!!!

2. You nose it, that’s why you need a good glass

3. You taste it by getting it into all the corners of your mouth and tongue.  Now that only Tasting # 1.

4. For Tasting #2, you swallow and identify the “Finish”

By Lewis Mitchell

Le Vigne Pte Ltd

originally appeared in AngloInfo

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