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All about craft Whiskey
Whiskey and whisky are simply two different spellings of the same thing, whiskey being the American spelling, and whisky being the UK spelling. However, due to there being particular differences between American style and UK style of whiskeys, there can be noted taste differences between the two also. So, whilst there is no real difference between the two, it is possible to draw a line between the two, based off the two styles.
Craft Whiskey is another difficult thing to define, as for all whiskey, whether it be an American whiskey like bourbon, or a Scottish whisky like Scotch, have their specific production process. But, like other craft spirits, what makes them “craft” is how a distillery can creatively work within those bounds to create an innovative, sustainable, small batch, spirit.
For whiskey that could include ageing in different barrels, using new grains, or even creating whiskey in a place where it’s never been made before. Glenmorangie have created a whisky which is aged in American oak bourbon barrels for 14 years, but then finished off in port casks, giving the whisky a bold and velvety feel.
An example of new locations, would be Whipper Snapper in Perth who are a craft distillery who have learnt the process from American whiskey makers, but due to Perth’s unique climate, have had their barrel aging process completely changed.
A craft distiller is constantly looking at what boundaries they can push within the limits of whiskey.
Bourbon and scotch both sit under the umbrella term of whiskey. The difference being that bourbon must be made in America, generally Kentucky, and scotch must be made in Scotland. The regulations around bourbon state that the mash used to create the liquor must contain at least 51% corn. The other 49% is often malted barley, or rye or wheat.
Scotch whisky is made majority with malted barley. These are the most well known, however you also have Irish whiskey, like Jameson, and Tennessee whiskey, like Jack Daniels. On top of these, you also then have rye whiskey or Canadian whiskey, which must be made with at least 51% rye.
A single malt whisky is a one that has been produced by a single distillery using one single malter grain, often barley. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it hasn’t been blended, as most single malt whiskeys are.
The term “single” does not technically mean that it comes from a single barrel, or even a single batch, but it is a variety of aged whiskeys blended together so that a consistent flavour can be held across batches. Holding a whiskey in a single barrel will alter its flavour over time, so for a head distiller to maintain a consistent taste year after year, they will blend the whiskey.
As the whiskey ages, the barrel will expand and compress and it adds an oaky flavour to the spirit. In hotter temperatures, the barrel will expand at a much higher rate, making the ageing process speed up, allowing the whisky to be finished earlier.
Due to the porousness of the barrel, as time goes on a small portion of the whiskey will evaporate and be lost. This is historically known as “the angel’s share” as it disappeared to the heavens. Because of this long process, whiskey must also be aged in new barrels so that it is able to properly be soaked up into the oak.
It’s exciting times for craft whisky, especially in Australia. Why not treat yourself of a loved one to a special small batch bottle! Or try our Australian Whiskey Tasting Set, which features craft whiskeys from around the country.