I stopped by the Flatiron Room with an impressive collection of over 1,000 varieties in his whiskey library, it was a no-brainer chat with Tommy Tardie to pick his brain on a little “Whiskey 101”.
What’s the difference between a bourbon, whiskey, scotch, single-malt?
These all fall under the umbrella term of “whiskey,” but the main difference lies with the “mash,” or the grain used in each whiskey. Here’s the three major categories:
Bourbon- sweeter, with flavors of vanilla, caramel, and even candy corn. The main component is corn, has to be at least 51% and aged in brand new White Oak American barrels.
Rye- slight spicy and fruity, is made with rye, at least 51%, and often mixed with corn or barley and aged in brand new American White Oak barrels.
Single-Malt- which can be made anywhere in the world (Scotch is made exclusively in Scotland) and can have a range of flavor profiles from fruity, floral, rich and smoky. The only three ingredients: 100% malted barley, small amount of yeast, and water.
If whiskey is only made with these main components, where does the flavor come from?
The wood plays a predominant role in developing flavors. In the summer months, the porous wood opens up and draws in the whiskey and in the winter, the wood contracts and pushes the whiskey out. This interaction really adds the flavors, aromatics and coloring to the whiskey.
Another agent used to give the smoky flavor in single malt scotch is peat, decomposed vegetation which is used as a heat source during the malting process. When it burns it releases smoke that clings to the barley during the distillation process.
How should you drink (my favorite) bourbon?
Eye It- appreciate it. Be mindful that it went into the cask clear and just appreciate the color, the bottle, the glass, in its purest form.
Nose It- waft in nose, smell the subtle aromatics. But don’t swirl it like wine, which would aerate the whiskey and release the ethanalcohol, which creates that burn in your nose.
Taste It- Coat and roll around your tongue, swallow, and open your mouth a bit afterwards and you can almost feel it vapor up, rather than just keeping your mouth closed (often can get a little heat in your chest).
Finish- enjoy the layers of complexity on your tongue after you’ve taken a sip. Appreciate it!