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Types of Whiskey: Exploring Their Differences and Popularity

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Vodka is the most popular spirit in the United States but in recent years, whiskey is gaining similar popularity. Nowadays, different types of whiskey have a strong representation in the media. From movie characters who love the drink to pop stars and other celebrities, we see and hear about whiskey a lot more often.

Once you get into the realm of whiskey, however, you realize that there is not just one type to choose from. There are so many different types of whiskey, some of which have their own name and category, like bourbon and scotch. As we are seeing the rise of craft vodka, we expect the rise of craft types of whiskey, too. 

Whiskey is a gentlemen’s drink and it's often sipped on in business settings. It’s a luxurious drink that’s a great gift for a special someone, too. But like with any other type of alcohol, the various types of whiskey can be appropriate for different occasions and come with different qualities and characteristics. 

Because of the latter, we want to explore the most popular types of whiskey and see what the differences are. If you are a restaurant owner looking to expand your beverage menu and want to select the best whiskeys, this article will be helpful. Let’s dive right into it!

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5 Most Common Types of Whiskey and Their Characteristics

When talking about different types of whiskey is important to acknowledge the fact that “whiskey” is a broad category of distilled spirits. In this category, there are several distinct styles. The primary difference between the styles of whiskey is the ingredients they are made of. The production method and the aging process also vary. 

In the following paragraphs, we have outlined the five most common types of whiskey. We have explained their defining characteristics, which will help you figure out the differences between the types of whiskey. 

Key Takeaway: There are 5 most common types of whiskey that are loved by people from all over the globe. It’s important to know their differences and build a good beverage inventory so you can create delicious whiskey pairings and satisfy your customers, regardless of what whiskey they prefer.

1. Scotch Whiskey

The Scotch whiskey or simply “scotch” originates from Scotland. This is one of the most popular types of whiskey in the world and it’s getting even more popular with the help of popular TV programs and movies. 

Scotch whiskey is made primarily from malted barley, but some can include other grains, too. This type of whiskey is distilled twice in pot stills to achieve the desired profile. These whiskeys are typically aged for at least three years after that in oak barrels. These barrels are often first used for aging sherry or different varieties of wine

The flavor profile of scotch whiskey includes notes of peat smoke, heather, honey, and dried fruit. An interesting fact about this whiskey is that the countries that consume the most of it are the United States and France.

2. Bourbon 

Although scotch whiskey is surely popular in the United States, it can’t beat bourbon. In fact, bourbon is made on US grounds, primarily in Kentucky. This whiskey is made of at least 51% corn and the remainder is usually a mix of barley and rye or wheat. 

Bourbon is distilled in the United States and it’s aged in new charred oak barrels. It doesn’t have a minimum aging requirement to be called bourbon. However, the bottles labeled “straight bourbon” need to be aged for at least two years. 

A bottle of bourbon should have a sweet and full-bodied feel, with flavors of vanilla, oak, caramel, and some spicy or fruity undertones. There are some great bourbon cocktails you can make with it.

You can also read our article on the differences between bourbon and whiskey to get even more useful information. 

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3. Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey, as you can tell by the name, comes from Ireland. It’s a whiskey typically made from a mix of malted and unmalted barley. Some Irish whiskeys can contain other grains, too. It’s typically triple-distilled for smoothness, however, some are distilled only two times. Irish whiskey can be made in pot stills or continuous column stills. 

This type of whiskey ages for at least three years in wooden casks, but there is no actual aging requirement. It’s a generally smooth and approachable whiskey, with flavors that range from light and floral to rich and fruity with some hints of spice and honey. 

4. Canadian Whisky

Well, you guessed it - this whiskey comes from Canada. It’s typically made from a blend of grains and it includes corn, rye, wheat, and barley. Canadian whiskey is often distilled multiple times and it’s aged in a variety of barrels, including both used and new oak barrels. 

There is no specific aging requirement for Canadian whiskey. However, Canadian law mandates a minimum of three years for any whiskey labeled as Canadian. It’s a light and smooth whiskey, with a versatile profile ranging from spice and oaky to sweet and fruity. 

5. Japanese Whiskey

The Japanese types of whiskey are made from malted barley, but some may contain other grains too. These could be corn or wheat. It’s often modeled after Scotch whiskey production methods. This included using pot stills and imported oak barrels. 

The aging for Japanese whiskey varies. However, most of them are aged for a long time, which results in complex and refined flavors. The flavor profile of Japanese whiskey is known for balance and elegance, as well as intricate flavors. It can include notes of oak, smoke, fruit, and spices. 

Which Is the Best Whiskey?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. People have different preferences and that’s why there are so many different types of whiskey. There isn’t a single best type or brand of whiskey. 

So if you want to build a good beverage inventory and satisfy as many customers as possible with the amazing whiskey pairings you offer, stock on a few types. Track the quantities, order new bottles, and stay on top of the inventory with the help of BinWise!

With out platform you will be able to do everything we mentioned so far and even more. Just book a demo with us today and we will tell you all about the incredible features that will save you time and resources! 

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Different Types of Whiskey

If you are curious to know more about the different types of whiskey, read the questions we have answered in this section. The answers will give you valuable information!

How Does Aging Affect the Flavor of Whiskey?

Over time, whiskey absorbs compounds from the wood, resulting in characteristics such as vanilla, caramel, and oakiness. Longer aging periods can lead to more complex and nuanced flavors. Aging in oak barrels is essential for whiskey as it imparts flavors, colors, and aromas to the spirit. 

What Is the Difference Between Single Malt and Blended Whiskey?

Single malt whiskey is made from 100% malted barley and produced at a single distillery, while blended whiskey combines malt whiskey with grain whiskey from multiple distilleries. Single malts often showcase the unique characteristics of a particular distillery, while blends aim for consistency and balance.

Do All Whiskies Have to Be Aged?

No. Not all whiskies have to be aged. While aging is a crucial aspect of whiskey production for developing flavor, some whiskies, particularly younger expressions or white whiskies, may not undergo extensive aging or may be aged for shorter periods.

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