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Issue 73 - Relationships

Whisky Magazine Issue 73
July 2008

 

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Relationships

In the latest in our series on whisky terms we reach the letter S.In the first of two parts,we look at American whiskey's use of the letter.

Describing Scottish and American whisk(e)y as the same product is to argue that squash and golf are the same game because they both involve two players and a little ball.

Beyond the fact that both styles of whisk(e)y are made using grain, water and yeast, the two have little in common.And although American whiskey was developed originally from Scottish, Irish and Welsh settlers, it has of course developed its own very recognisable style.

With that comes its own language, too, and sometimes the language is the same as for Scottish whisky but it means something entirely different. So a straight whisky in Scotland means one served with nothing added to it. In America it refers to the fact that the whiskey has been matured for a minimum of two years in new oak barrels,an important measure of quality.

One of the least understood parts of the bourbon-making process is that of sour mash and that's at least in part to the fact that the fermentation process is fundamentally different to that of Scotland.

Where Scottish distillers will take a fresh batch of malted grain, extract all the sugars and enzymes that will be eaten by the yeast to make alcohol and remove the spent grains before fermentation takes place, in American whiskey production the grains are left in the mix, so that a porridge-like mix of cereal,and water enters the fermenter and,once it has been made into beer,goes into the still.

Once distillation is finished there will be a deposit of grains that have been strip...

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