I have a half-finished bottle of whiskey on my table; it is a succor for nights when I feel really lonely and despondent. I keep it inside its carton; it is so beautiful to look at, I don’t want to discard it. The bottle itself is also uniquely designed, dark green in color (a favorite color in the world of spirits, I believe) and alluring as hell. Today, I took some time to read the fine print on the packaging. Written on it was something along the lines of: vintage grain whiskey, a blend of fine 8-year-old Scotch whiskey and local produce, and reading such trivia made me want to know more.
What is grain whiskey? Malt whiskey?What about spirits like absinthe and brandy and bourbon and corn whisky? And so on and so forth. Guessing that you, too, would like to know more, I dug into it, and here is what I have been able to dig up.
Absinthe: French liquor distilled from leaves and flowers of grand wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) blended with herbs.ABV (alcohol by volume) 45%-74%. Some famous brands: St. George Absinthe Verte, Leopold Brothers Absinthe Verte, Tenneyson Absinthe Royale.
Brandy: distilled from mashed fruits, and after the distillation kept in oak casks for aging. ABV 35-60%. There are different types of brandies:
- Cognac: mostly blended using grapes of various regions. VS (Very Special)—aged for at least two years; VSOP (Very Special Old Pale, a.k.a. Reserve)—minimum age of four years. XO (Extra Old, a.k.a. Napoleon)—aged for at least ten years, Hors d' ge (“beyond age”)—oldest and most expensive..
- Armagnac: hails from a region south of Cognac. VSOP means at least five years’ ageing, and Hors d' gemeans aged for more than ten years.
- Fruit brandy: made from fruit other than grapes.
- Grappa: strong, pungent Italian brandy made by distilling grape skins and seeds.
- Brandy de Jerez: produced in Spain, three categories. Solera—average age of one year; Solera Reserva—average age of three years, and Solera Gran Reserva—average age of 10 years.
Gin: dry spirit produced by distilling grains and flavoring with juniper berries. ABV 40-50%.
There are five types of gin:
- London Dry: very dry, light bodied, pungent.
- Plymouth:clean and bracing like London Dry.
- Old Tom: sweet, full-bodied.
- Genever: less botanical than English gin.
- International Style:subtle and intriguing.
Rum: made from the distillation of molasses or sugar juice. ABV 37.5-80%. The different types of rum are:
- White rum: clear with mild flavor and light body.
- Gold or pale rum: more flavorful profile.
- Dark rum:many aged rums are referred to as dark only to distinguish them from light.
- Black rum: bold tropical essence.
- Navy rum:dark, full-bodied.
- Premium aged rum: aged in oak barrels to achieve superior flavor profile.
- Vintage rum: bottled from specific vintage years of production
- Overproof rum: higher concentrations of alcohol.
- RhumAgricole: distilled from pure, fresh cane juice.
- Cachaça:Brazilian sugar cane rum.
- Aquardiente: distilled from fruit, most often sugar cane.
- Spiced and flavored rum: offers unique flavors to cocktails.
Tequila: produced from the Blue Agave plant found in Mexico. Different kinds of tequila are:
- Tequila Silver, Blanco, Plata, White,Platinum: pure spirit distilled from Blue Agave.
- Gold tequila: colorants and flavorings added.
- Reposadotequila:first stage of rested and aged spirit.
- Tequila Añejo (extra aged): aged for at least one year.
- Tequila Extra Añejo (ultra-aged): aged more than 3 years.
Vodka: odorless, tasteless, and clear pure spirit from distillation of potatoes, grains, and sometimes molasses. ABV 40%. Some famous brands: Grey Goose, Absolut, Stolichnaya, Smirnoff, Finlandia.
Whiskey: distilled from grains (corn, rye, and barley). ABV 40-68%. Types of whiskies:
- Malt whiskey: produced in Scotland from malted barley and matured in oak casks for at least three years.
- Single Malt whisky: all the casks for bottling from samedistillery, not blended with whiskies from other distilleries. Some famous brands are Lagavulin 16 Year Old, Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, Ardbeg 10 Year Old Ten, Talisker 10 Year Old, Laphroaig 10 Year Old, Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old, Highland Park 12 Year Old, Chivas Regal 12 Year Old.
- Grain whisky: can contain any type of grain, also a mixture, and matured for short period of time. Some famous brands are Invergordon SMWS G5.7, Strathclyde SMWS G10.4, Port Dundas 1978 (Douglas Laing XOP), Garnheath 1974 (CarnMor), Ichiro's Choice - Kawasaki 1982.
- Blended whisky: mixture of different whiskies (malt, grain), higher the malt whisky ratio, the better the blend. Some famous brands are Royal Salute 38 Year Old, CuttySark Tam o’Shanter, CuttySark 25 Year Old, Ballantine's 30 Year Old, Buchanan's 18 Year Old, Famous Grouse 21 Year Old.
- Single Pot Still Whiskey: special type of whisky from Ireland,may contain grain, also un-malted barley, exclusively distilled in pot stills.
- Bourbon: whiskey:produced in Kentucky, U.S.A., contains at least 51% corn and aged for at least 4 years in charred white oak casks. Some famous brands are Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon, Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year, Elijah Craig Small Batch, FEW American Bourbon, Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea Bourbon.
- Tennessee whiskey: made in Tennessee, U.S.A., additionally charcoal-filtered. Some famous brands are Jack Daniel's, George Dickel, Benjamin Prichard's, Nelson's Green Brier Distillery, Collier and McKeel.
- Rye whiskey: produced mainly in U.S.A. and Canada, contains at least 51% rye and matured in oak casks for at least 2 years, very spicy taste. Some famous brands are Willett 24 Year Old Single Barrel Rye, Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, Sazerac 18 Year Old, Old Potrero Hotaling's Whiskey 18 Year Old.
- Corn whiskey: made in U.S.A.from 100% corn. Some famous brands are Platte Valley 3 Year Old, Ole Smoky White Lightnin' Moonshine, Stillhouse Original Moonshine, Franklin White Label Corn Whiskey, George Dickel No.1 White Corn Whisky