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Whiskey 101

American Whiskey

American whiskey is traditionally bold and rich with sweet, spicy notes from being  in new charred oak barrels. Look for aromas of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, black currant, hazelnut, leather, tobacco, mint, hay, orange, violet, and walnut.

Recommended cocktails:

Old Fashioned      Manhattan
Whiskey Smash      Boulevardier

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskies can be quite varied, from fuller bodied, rich, pot stilled single malts to light, green, crisp blends. They often possess a complex, mossy, fruity quality. Look for aromas of honey, herbs, apples, citrus, moss, stone fruit and spices.

Scotch Whisky

Scotch whiskies are very diverse and can range from light, fruity and floral, to rich, malty, smoky and briny with endless combinations along the way. Tasting whiskies from each of the five traditional regions will give you an idea of the vast differences this category encompasses. Whiskies with an inland influence are often grainy and floral, while maritime whiskies have a salty or briny undertone. Look for aromas of honey, cereal, heather, violets, baking spices, smoke, iodine, brine, and chocolate.

Recommended cocktails:

Rob Roy      Bobby Burns
Scotch & Soda

Canadian Whisky

Canadian whiskies are often made mostly with corn, giving them a sweet, smooth flavor. Because they are mostly blended, many of them are light and subtle, making them both easy to drink on their own and adaptable to cocktails. Look for aromas of dry grains, toffee, citrus, maple syrup, baking spices, cedar wood, pepper, dark fruits, and chocolate.

Recommended cocktails:

Scofflaw Cocktail     Toronto
Canadian Punch

Bartender's Guide To Buying Whiskey

A bottle of whisk(e)y is always a welcome gift, whether your recipient just turned 21 or 91. Using two-ounce shots, a standard 750 ml whisk(e)y bottle yields around 13 drinks, which means your giftee will remember your thoughtfulness many times over with friends.

Here are our favorite whiskies for giving to those closest to you:

We all know even the toughest dads can get sentimental about their kids, and the story of Russell’s Reserve® is a great one: It’s made by legendary master distiller Jimmy Russell and his son Eddie, who have 100+ years of distilling experience between them. Crafted in small batches and aged in hand-selected barrels, the Russells’ bourbon and rye are worthy of a great dad.

Looking to make a big impression on a Bourbon fan? Look no further than Wild Turkey® Rare Breed. It’s a barrel-proof bourbon (112.8 proof ), meaning it has no added water to lower the proof or dilute the flavor after it’s been distilled. This bourbon is a unique marriage of Wild Turkey 6-, 8-, and 12-year-old stocks, giving it a remarkably smooth flavor considering its high alcohol content.

If you’re trying to induct a fellow lady into the cult of whisk(e)y, a blended Canadian whisky is a great place to start. Forty Creek® Double Barrel has delicious vanilla notes and a smooth, soft palate that’s enjoyable neat or in a stirred cocktail.

Your favorite guy may already be a whisk(e)y fan, but does he mostly just sip it straight? Help him think outside the box with a bottle of Wild Turkey® 101, which is specifically designed to be enjoyed in cocktails. Throw in a couple of recipes and extra ingredients like cherries or sweet vermouth, and he’ll be on his way to mastering mixology without leaving the house.

Glen Grant® is a great single-malt whisky for everyday drinking, and comes in several different levels of aging and corresponding price points, from a thinking-of-you bottle of classic single-malt to a celebratory bottle of extra-special 16-year or Five Decades.


American barrels

Barrels made of American oak, with a typical capacity of 53 gallons/200 liters.

American oak

Quercus alba has a fine grain, and is therefore less porous than other oak. American oak is best known for imparting notes of sweet vanilla, caramel and butterscotch.

American whiskey

Commonly divided into multiple categories, the most popular American whiskies are Bourbon, Tennessee and rye. American whiskey often has a sweeter flavor profile than its Celtic counterparts.


The age listed on a bottle (for example, 12 years) is the age of the youngest whisk(e)y in the bottle. Many bottles can and do contain some older whisk(e)y.


American whiskey distilled from a mash of fermented grains that must contain a minimum of 51% corn and is aged only in new, charred oak barrels.

Canadian Whisky

Whisky distilled from a mash of fermented grains and aged 3 years minimum in Canada.


The art of barrel-making. To achieve the highest standards of quality, the time-intensive work must still be performed by hand, with skilled coopers making the barrels.


Barrels can be charred to light, medium, or alligator (the last one is named for the blackened, scaly patterns formed by the charred wood). The darker the char, the more intense the flavor.

European oak

Quercus robur has a fine grain, but is not quite as fine as American oak. European oak can impart flavors like chocolate, dried fruit, and/or resin.

First fill casks

A cask that has previously held either sherry or bourbon, and is subsequently filled with new make spirit for maturation.


A valley with a river running through it. It’s a commonly used term in names and descriptions of Scotch.

Irish Whiskey

Whiskey distilled on the island of Ireland and aged for a minimum of 3 years in wooden casks.

Grain whisk(e)y

Whisk(e)y produced from corn, wheat, rye or barley. Typically light-bodied and lightly flavored.


A Scottish island, best known for producing peated single malt whiskies. The use of the island’s peat produces whiskies with aromas rich in iodine and brine. As a result, Islay Scotches are often (but not always) more smoky and/or medicinal in flavor.

Malt whisky

Whisk(e)y made from 100% malted barley.


Malted barley that has been crushed and soaked with water to extract fermentable sugars. This takes place in a vessel called a mash-tun.

New make spirit

The spirit that comes off the stills before it is put into oak casks for maturation. In Scotland and Ireland, new make spirit must age for a minimum of 3 years in oak in order to be labeled as whisk(e)y. Bourbon must age for a minimum of 2 years.


A semi-carbonic fuel comprised of accumulated and partially decayed vegetation. The smoke produced by peat is highly aromatic, and if malt is dried over it, these aromas, called phenols, stick to the grains and flavor the resulting whisky.

Pot still

An onion-shaped copper kettle for boiling and distilling fermented alcohol. In the process of malt whisky production, the spirit is usually distilled twice.

Seasoned casks

Irish, Scottish, Canadian and Japanese whisk(e)y are usually aged in casks that have previously aged sherry or bourbon, thus “seasoning” the oak and softening the natural tannins in the wood.

Scotch whisky

Whisky made in Scotland and matured for a minimum of 3 years. Scotland has close to 100 malt distilleries, more than any other country.

Single cask

A bottling of whisk(e)y from only 1 cask; typically, around 500 bottles.

Single malt whisky

Whisky that is made from a mash of exclusively malted barley and is distilled at a single distillery via a copper pot still.


Part of the Highland region of Scotland, located around the valley of the River Spey. Home to approximately 50% of Scotland’s distilleries.


A spirit distilled from a mash of fermented grain and matured in oak barrels to create flavor and aroma. With origins in Scotland and Ireland, whisk(e)y is now also made in the U.S., Japan, Canada, and other regions.