The answer to every whiskey question you were too afraid to ask   

Whether you’re a newcomer exploring the whiskey scene, a connoisseur brushing up on the basics or someone who just wants to fit in with their liquor geek friends, we’ve got you covered.

What is whiskey made from?

Whiskey is a distilled beverage made by fermenting grain. Though it doesn’t have a long list of ingredients, whiskey varies dramatically in character based on the type of grain used, the method of distillation, the type of barrel it is aged in and how long it is aged for. Even a subtle difference in technique can cause a major flavour shift to the trained palette, from sweet and fruity to smoky and spicy.

How strong is whiskey?

Whiskey is generally around 40% ABV (alcohol by volume), with some countries setting this as the legal minimum. Jack Daniels, for example, sells its popular Old No. 7 bottles at 40% ABV. However, it’s possible to find bottles as much as double the strength of a standard whiskey.

Is it spelled whiskey or whisky?

The spelling depends mainly on where it comes from. In short, whiskey originated in Ireland while whisky originated in Scotland. Bottles from the United States use the Irish spelling with an ‘e’, while countries like Canada and Japan use the shorter Scottish spelling. Although they refer to the same beverage, each region tends to have its own character and style and the spelling is strictly regulated.

What’s the difference between whiskey, Scotch and bourbon?

Scotch and bourbon are both types of whiskey with distinct flavour profiles. Scotch refers to whiskey made in Scotland (which technically makes it a whisky!) while bourbon is a sweeter beverage generally made in Kentucky in the United States. Bourbon gets its name from Bourbon county, which in turn was named after French royalty.

What’s the best way to drink whiskey?

Deciding on the best way to drink a good measure of whiskey can be a touchy topic, having caused arguments aplenty over the years. It’s enjoyed in numerous ways all over the world, so it comes down to personal preference. The easiest way to drink whiskey is neat, which means to just pour the whisky into a tumbler without anything else. Ideally, you should cleanse your palate with a sip of water between sips of whiskey, though you can also try adding a few drops of water to the whiskey. Alternatively, enjoy it on the rocks (with a large ice cube or two) or mix it into a cocktail.

How long is whiskey aged for?

Every whiskey is aged for a different length of time, from batches with no age statement to those that have been in the cask for decades. The alcohol is quite bland when it is first casked but picks up flavours and colours from the barrel over time, which is why older whiskies are often held in higher esteem. However, age is just one of many factors – it does not guarantee a bottle will be of higher quality than a younger batch.

Should I keep ageing whisky in a bottle?

Unlike wine and some other alcoholic beverages, whiskey does not continue ageing in the bottle. Everything it gains from ageing comes from the cask, which means that it retains the same quality once bottled and does not change taste over time (assuming it’s properly kept).