Whiskey Row

Bourbon Glossary

Made from grains like corn, rye, barley, or wheat, whiskey is distilled from a fermented mash of grain and aged in oak barrels.

Whiskey (Or Whisky)

The distillate goes into the barrel as a clear liquid. During aging, it gradually attains its amber color, flavor and aroma. Whiskey is made much the same from country to country but differs in style due to the local grain characteristics, water, distillation techniques and barrels used in aging. The climate also plays a role. Scotland, Ireland, the U.S. and Canada are significant whiskey producers, but other countries, such as Japan, have their own styles as well.

Types Of Whiskey:

  • Blended Whiskey: A blend that contains at least 20% 100-proof straight whiskey. The rest of the blend may include other whiskey and/or grain-neutral spirits. Sold at 80 proof.
  • Bonded Bourbon Whiskey: Straight Bourbon Whiskey that has been aged and bottled according to the requirements of the Bottled and Bond Act of 1897. Bonded whiskey is not blended. It has been stored continuously for at least four years in wooden barrels and is bottled at 100 proof. It must all be the product of a single distillery, by the same distiller, during a single season and year. It is then entitled to be labeled as “bottled in bond.”
  • Bourbon Whiskey:  America’s only native spirit. Made in the US from a fermented mash containing at least 51% corn. It must be produced at no more than 160 proof, stored in new charred oak barrels at no more than 125 degrees, and bottled at no less than 80 proof.
  • Canadian Whiskey: The distinctive national whisky of Canada containing a high percentage of rye and includes barley, corn, and wheat. The Canadian whiskey sold in the U.S. is at least four years old. Lighter than American whiskey, it is sold at 80 proof.
  • Corn Whiskey: A whiskey made from at least 80% corn mash. It may or may not be aged.
  • Irish Whiskey: The distinctive national whiskey of Ireland. Most Irish Whiskey is a blend of several whiskeys of different ages. Malted barley, unmalted barley, and other grains such as rye and corn are used. It is heavier than Scotch and usually 86 proof.
  • Malt Whiskey: Whiskey made purely from malted barley.
  • Moonshine: Distilled spirits produced in an unlicensed, unregulated still and without payment of taxes, and hence, illegal. Seldom aged and made from anything that will ferment, moonshine is often a health hazard.
  • Organic Whiskey: made from grain grown without chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
  • Rye Whiskey: Whiskey made from at least 51 percent rye. Production is similar to that of bourbon.
  • Scotch Whisky: The distinctive national whisky of Scotland. Single Malt Scotches are made entirely from malted barley and are the product of a single distillery. Blended Scotch Whiskies are a mixture of several different malt whiskys, plus grain whisky. The smoky flavor comes from drying malted barley over peat fires. Exported Scotch is at least four years old and is usually 80 to 86 proof.
  • Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey: A bottling of bourbon whiskey from a single barrel.
  • Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey: Bourbon whiskey is married with several specially selected barrels. Because bourbon ages differently at different locations in the rack house, mixing whiskey from selected barrels assures the consistency of their unique flavor and character.
  • Straight Whiskey: A whiskey distilled from grain but not blended with neutral grain spirits or any other whiskey, aged in a charred oak barrel for at least two years.
  • Sour Mash Whiskey: A broad category of whiskey whereby a portion of the old mash is mixed with new to help advance the character & smoothness of the flavor.
  • Tennessee Whiskey: Straight whiskey distilled in Tennessee from a fermented mash containing at least 51% corn, then filtered through maple charcoal before aging. It is not bourbon.
  • Wheated Bourbon: Describes Bourbon made from a mashbill that contains wheat instead of rye grain.

Other Whiskey Terms:

  • Age: Often, this is used as a measure of quality. It is not always dependable, however, because ingredients are a factor.
  • Aging: The process of letting whiskey mature in oak barrels, picking up additional wood flavors. Once it is bottled, no further aging takes place.
  • Angels' Share: A term familiar to whiskey and winemaking. A certain amount of the spirit stored in a barrel evaporates through the wood. Roughly two percent of each barrel is lost this way, most of which is alcohol.
  • Backset: The alcohol-free liquid left at the bottom of the still after distillation is added to the mash tub and fermenter to prevent bacterial contamination.
  • Beer: Also known as wash. The alcoholic liquid that goes into the still.
  • Brewing: Mashing grain in hot water and fermenting the result with yeast to produce wash or beer.
  • Charring: The inside surfaces of new barrels are exposed to flames as part of the barrel-making process. This charring affects the flavor and color of the spirit aged in the barrel. New charred barrels are used only once in the production of bourbon. Other whiskies re-use their barrels or purchase used bourbon barrels.
  • Column Still: Invented in the 19th century to keep up with demand, this was the cheaper and faster alternative to the pot still.
  • Congeners: Chemical compounds produced during fermentation and maturation. Congeners are the natural flavor constituents in spirits. They are traces of oils, esters and acids carried through the distillation process and into the distillate. Spirits distilled at lower proofs have the highest congeneric content. High-proof neutral spirits are practically free of congeners. Their presence in the final spirit must be carefully judged; too many would make it undrinkable.
  • Distillation: The process of separating the components in a liquid by heating it to the point of vaporization, then cooling it so it condenses into a purified form.
  • Distiller's Beer: The fermented mash that is transferred from the fermenter to the beer still for the first distillation
  • Doubler: A large copper still that looks somewhat like a small water tank with an upturned funnel, used to distill high wines or new spirits from low wines.
  • Fermentation: The process by which microorganisms digest and convert carbohydrates to a liquid and a gas
  • Fermenter: The vessel in which the mash is distilled into an alcoholic liquid or washed.
  • Grain:  The seeds of a cereal crop such as corn, rye, wheat, barley, etc.
  • Grain Neutral Spirits: Alcohol distilled from grain at 190 proof. Contains no noticeable aroma, flavor or character.
  • Mash: The liquid mass of fermenting grains from which spirits are distilled.
  • Mash bill: The recipe for the amounts and types of grains used in the mash.
  • Master Distiller: The person who determines the recipe for the distilled spirit and oversees its production.
  • New-Make Spirit: Spirit just off the still, before aging. Also called “white dog”.
  • Pot Still: Stills used for batch distillation. In pot still distillation, the liquid is distilled usually twice, occasionally three times, first in a wash still and then in a spirit still.
  • Prohibition: National Prohibition in the U.S. ran from January 1919 through December 5, 1933. During that period, beverage alcohol could not be legally produced, transported or sold. Limited exceptions were for medical purposes.
  • Proof: A statement of alcohol content. Proof is two times the percentage of alcohol by volume. For example, 100 proof equals 50% alcohol.
  • Rackhouse: The building in which whiskey is aged. Also referred to as the warehouse or rickhouse.
  • Ricks: The wooden structures on which barrels of whiskey rest during aging.
  • Sour Mash: Like sourdough bread that uses a “starter” from the previous day’s dough, this process provides uniformity in bourbon production. A portion of the previous day's mash is added to the new mash to ensure consistent quality and character.
  • Still:  The container where the distiller's beer is purified utilizes heating the liquid to at least 176 degrees Fahrenheit but less than 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Because alcohol boils at a temperature lower than water, the alcohol can be evaporated, collected, and condensed.
  • White Dog: The colorless unaged distillate, just as it comes from the still and before it goes into the barrel for aging. Sometimes called "green whiskey," or "high wine,” or “new-make.”

Drinking Whiskey:

  • Ball of Malt: A glass of whiskey in Ireland.
  • Dram: A glass of whiskey in Scotland.
  • Cordial glass: Fancier version of a shot glass, sometimes stemmed and 1 to 1.5 oz. capacity.
  • Highball: tall version of a rocks or lowball glass. Great for serving bourbon with a large amount of mixer, if you must.
  • Jigger: spirit measure of 1.5 fl. oz.
  • Manhattan: Invented in NYC at the end of the 19th century, the classic American whiskey cocktail contains sweet or dry vermouth, bitters and a cherry.
  • Martini glass: Shaped like an upside-down umbrella on a stem. The ultimate Manhattan glass.
  • Mint Julep: The official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Made with Kentucky bourbon, simple syrup and fresh mint leaves (muddled, crushed or whole).
  • Muddle: To mash or crush ingredients with a spoon or muddler ( a rod with a flattened end).
  • Neat: A term referring to liquor that is drunk undiluted by ice, water or mixers.
  • Nose: The aroma and bouquet of a whiskey.
  • On The Rocks: A beverage served over ice without adding water or other mixers.
  • Rickey:  Drink made with lime, cracked ice, soda or any carbonated beverage and whiskey, gin, rum or brandy. Served with the rind of lime. Similar to a collins or sour.
  • Rocks glass: Blocky, straight-sided glass usually can hold 12 oz. Best for serving bourbon with a splash of water, with or without ice. Also called a lowball glass.
  • Shot: A small amount of alcohol and a term for quickly drinking or ‘shooting”. (Bourbon in not commonly “shot”, but rather sipped and savored).
  • Shot glass: A shot glass is a drinking glass-shaped container in which one serving of spirits is measured or served. Perfect for serving bourbon neat.
  • Simple Syrup: Simple syrup can be made in a saucepan. Gradually stir one pound of granulated sugar into 13 oz. hot water to make 16 oz. simple/sugar syrup. Used as a mixer/sweetener for drinks.
  • Snifter: Perfect for sipping bourbon, a short-stemmed, pear-shaped glass that is larger at the bottom than at the top.
  • Sour: A cocktail combining liquor with lemon juice and a little sugar.
  • Straight Up: This term describes cocktails that are served without ice.
  • Smashes: Small juleps served in old-fashioned glasses. Made with muddled sugar, ice cubes, whiskey, gin, rum or brandy and soda. Garnished with sprigs of mint and fruit.
  • Toddies:  Grandma’s favorite cold remedy! Served hot or cold. A lump or teaspoon of sugar is dissolved in a little hot water, with liquor (preferably bourbon), ice or hot water added, and stirred. Served with nutmeg, clove, cinnamon or lemon peel.

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