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Whisky Categories


Once languishing as an “old man’s drink”, whisky is now vying for pole position in the world of alcoholic beverages and doing just great.  Asia has certainly been a major influence at stimulating the growth of the premium whisky market over the past 20 years or so.  The rage for high age statement and single cask whiskies is more pronounced in Asia than elsewhere.  With the introduction of more delicate and easygoing styles of whiskies, women now make up a significant proportion whisky fans compared to the past, and Asian women are leading the charge.


Main Categories of Whiskies


Malt Whisky

Currently a very popular style, this whisky is distilled from the malt of the barley cereal.  Malting is the process of germinating a whole cereal grain – be it barley, wheat, corn, rye etc.  Unlike the juice of grapes or the molasses of sugar cane, cereals cannot be fermented as a dry grain.  It first has to be gelatinised and then with the help of enzymes, its starches convert to simple sugars.  Malting the grain does just this, making the mash into a sweet wort which can then be fermented.  Although malting is a process of germinating any whole grain, in whisky speak we refer to malt as germinated barley and not of the other grains.  Malt whiskies are distilled in pot stills either twice or three times.

Examples: Ardbeg, Bunnahabhain, Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Glenlivet, Glenrothes, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Macallan, Mortlach, Springbank etc


Grain Whisky

A combination of different grains such as wheat, corn or rye is combined with malted barley as ingredients or mash bill for grain whiskies.  Here the malted barley is used primarily for its enzymes to convert starch to simple fermentable sugars.  Instead of malting the other grains ie wheat, corn or rye, these cereals are cooked to form a gelatinise mash which is then mixed with the malted barley.  The use of malted barley is also important for the rich texture and flavors it brings to grain whiskies.  As malted barley is the most expensive of the grains used, the mash bill of grain whiskies is much cheaper than that of 100% malted barley. Grain whiskies are also distilled in very efficient column stills which contributes to the economics of producing grain whiskies over malt whiskies.

Examples: Cambus, Caledonian 2, Cameronbridge, Carsebridge, Invergordon, Girvan, Loch Lomond, North British, Port Dundas, Strathclyde etc.


Blended Whisky

Having understood the production of both malt and grain whiskies above, this category of whisky is simply the blending of malt with grain whiskies.  There is no maximum to the number of malt or grain whiskies that can be combined to form a blended whisky.

Examples: Ballantine's, Bushmills, Chivas Regal, Jameson, Johnny Walker, King of Scots, Paddy's, Royal Salute, Syndicate 58/6 etc

By Lewis Mitchell

Le Vigne Pte Ltd

originally appeared in AngloInfo

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