Different kinds of Whisky

Taste

There are so incredibly many kinds of whisky that it’s pretty much impossible to write about all of them in one blogpost. But we’ll try anyway. We’ll broadly explain the different categories of whisky are and which characteristics belong to them.

Different kinds of whisky

Of course it is all up to your personal taste if you think a whisky is tasty, semi-tasty or just not tasty at all. Disgusting whisky does not exist, as we assume that all distilleries take their duties seriously and put pride and love in the creating of their product. Of course there are exceptions, but we’ll take this as the general assumption for this article.

We also believe in the perfect whisky. Whenever we organise a tasting we always ask our guests to rate their whiskies between 2 and 9. We never rate a 10, as you will always run into a whisky that’s even more tasty and amazing. Neither do we believe in the most disgusting whisky. We never rate a 1, as you will always run into a whisky that will be even less favourable to you.

In Scotland they define five kinds of whisky:

  • Grain whisky
  • Blended whisky
  • Blended malt whisky
  • Single malt whisky
  • Single cask whisky

Grain whisky

For the production of grain whisky one uses the Coffey Still. By using this distillation still you can create whisky pretty much continuously. This is productive and will give you large amounts of whisky, but the quality of your product will be lower than when you use the famous Spirit Stills (about which we wrote in our previous blog on making whisky).The grains in grain whisky can be among others barley, wheat, rye or corn. It is also very possible to mix all of these. Most grain whiskies are used in blended whiskies.

Blended whisky

This kind of whisky is made of grain whisky and malt whisky. These two are mixed to create a complex, but accessible flavour. Blended is not per definition of less quality than malt whisky. We always say: distillation is a profession and blending is a form of art. Fact is that most blended whiskies are more popular than malt whiskies. The main reason for this is that grain whisky is faster and cheaper in production. About 95% of the total whisky consumption exists of blended whisky.

Blended malt whisky

This whisky is exclusively made of malted barley and comes from various distilleries. In the past the blended malt whisky was called vatted whisky or pure malt. The Scotch Whisky Association revised the rules earlier this year and now vatted and pure malt are only to be called blended malts. A good (and popular) example of a blended malt is Monkey Shoulder. This beautiful blend is made of a nice mixture of The Glenfiddich, the Balvenie and the Kininvie distillery.

Single malt whisky

This whisky is exclusively made of malted barley in one single distillery. It is however allowed to mix different barrels of this distillery, unlike single cask whisky. The distillation process takes place in red copper kettles, known as Pot Stills. After the distillation the baby whisky (or white spirit) needs to age in oak barrels for at least 3 years and a day. These whiskies generally have more aroma and flavour than blended whiskies. The aftertaste is also stronger.

Single cask whisky

This whisky type is produced in the exact same way as a single malt whisky, however it is not allowed to mix different barrels together. All the whisky in a bottle needs to be aged in the same, high quality, barrel. Single malt whisky is usually a mixture of different barrels to create a more consistent quality of product. Every barrel produces slightly different whisky, of a slightly different quality. This is because the wood of the barrels is different and one barrel will give more colour, flavour and aroma than the other. Before a barrel of whisky disappears in a batch of single malt, the brewer inspects the barrel. As soon as (s)he discovers a special barrel, it is bottled as single cask whisky. These whiskies are rarer and therefore often slightly more expensive. The result will surprise you though. They are usually way richer in aroma and flavour. Especially their aftertaste is mostly impressive.