What in the Whiskey?

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whiskey

On any given day I come across at least one meme on any social media platform involving motherhood and copious amounts of wine needed.  I’m getting a little tired of it quite honestly, but not for the reasons you think. Yes, I believe in responsible drinking. Yes, I believe in having a sense of humor.

Yes, I like wine, but I also like whiskey. 

Why are moms relegated to wine jokes? What about beer? Craft Beer? Cider? Spirits? Is wine the alcohol equivalent of the minivan? Not knocking the minivan, but there’s so much more out there! A quick read of my bio and you’ll see that this mama brings home the bacon with a side of bourbon. 

So I figured why not break down the grape-vined barrier by breaking down exactly what makes whiskey and why it’s not just for dads.  

First, To “E” or not to “E” in Whisk(e)Y. You’ll notice the spelling of whiskey either with or without an “e” before the “y.” Why is this? Simple. When speaking about Whiskey made in America, add the E. There’s an “E” in America so it’s easy to remember. When speaking about whisky made in Scotland (i.e. Scotch) drop the “e.” There’s no “e” in Scotland. Simple enough!

Speaking of the Scots; July 27th is National Scotch Day. What is Scotch exactly? Whiskey made in Scotland. See, pretty obvious and nothing to be intimated about.

So, what exactly is whiskey? Cue Wikipedia:

Whisky or whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Various grains (which may be malted) are used for different varieties, including barleycornrye, and wheat. Whisky is typically aged in wooden casks, generally made of charred white oak.  

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. Depending on the predominate grain used (barley, corn, rye, wheat) and the type of oak barrel (new or old) whiskey can be called a multitude of names. Even beyond those names, there are a plethora of designations/classifications that whiskey nerds love to geek out about. For the sake of brevity (faster you read this faster you get to imbibe) let’s just look at what I like to call the core 4: American Whiskey, Bourbon, American Rye & Tennessee Whiskey.

American Whiskey: Distilled in America using choice of grain and aged in oak barrels, usually used oak barrels (meaning it once held whiskey before). A caveat of this is moonshine. Since it’s become so popular lately it’s worth mentioning. Moonshine is the distilled grain bottled before it’s aged in barrels. Moonshine is whiskey without the wood!

Bourbon Whiskey: Distilled in America (not exclusive to KY so that’s why we’re seeing some wonderful distilleries pop up all over our state!) using corn as the predominant grain. Corn has to make up at least 51% of the fermented grain mash (or mash-bill). Bourbon must also be aged in new oak, charred (set on fire) barrels. This is a very drilled down definition, but at it’s core, this is the easiest way to remember Bourbon. There are also proof requirements (how strong the spirit is) but we won’t get into that here.

American Rye Whiskey: Identical to the bourbon definition, except rye must make up at least 51% of the fermented grain mash and be aged in new oak, charred barrels. 

*Side note on Canadian Rye, it actually doesn’t have to contain any rye in the mash and for that reason, I’m not including it in the core 4.  

Tennessee Whiskey: You see where we’re going here…distilled in Tennessee using at least 51% corn and aged in new oak, charred barrels.  So why call out Tennessee? It’s the only state that requires an additional step, a charcoal filtration of the liquid before it’s aged in the barrel, known as the Lincoln County Process.

There you have it. Not that difficult to decipher between the options and really delicious across the board. If you’re not sure which one you’ll like, consider this: corn is sweet. Fermented corn is sweet too. Any whiskey that uses corn as their main ingredient (Bourbon, Tennessee, some American Whiskeys) isn’t going to be as harsh as you would expect. If you’ve been curious, give it a try. Mix it as you prefer with soda, ice, anything really. You don’t have to get all fancy with it, it isn’t wine.

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Angela Bosco is a native of Westchester. She chose Briarcliff Manor as her home after too many hurricanes in Florida and too many people in NYC. She’s mom to her son, Blaise (2016), who’s energy she simultaneously envies and fears. She shares a love of adult beverages with her husband Michael who, like her, is in the spirits industry. A self-proclaimed expert multi-tasker, you can find her on the Hudson Line cramming podcasts, emails and breakfast while penciling in her eyebrows and trying not to spill coffee on her seat mate during her morning commute to the city. On her free time she struggles to choose between doing yoga, reading NY Times best-seller’s or watching all things Real Housewives: the latter usually wins out. In her 20s you could hear her asking when her life would begin- now in her 30s you’ll find her reveling in it-chaos and all.

1 COMMENT

  1. Now that is what I would call, schooled. Thank you for that. You bring to light the difference between drinking and enjoying the drink. Excellent read. Filled with humor and insightfullness. Looking forward to another article of yours.

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