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Impress Your Friends & Family With Whiskey Knowledge

Whiskey is having a moment, and whether you are a novice or a more experienced drinker, this article can help you impress your friends and family over the holidays when it comes to bourbon or scotch whiskey.

Whiskey VS Bourbon VS Scotch

All bourbon and scotch are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbon or scotch. Huh?

Let’s break it down.

Whiskey is defined as a spirit distilled from malted grain. Since bourbon and scotch fit that description, they are both considered whiskeys. However, for a whiskey to be a bourbon or a scotch, it is legally required to meet certain specifications.

Bourbon whiskey:

  • must be made from 51% corn
  • must be aged in new American charred white oak barrels
  • can’t include additives or colorings
  • must be distilled no higher than 160 proof (80% ABV)
  • has to be distilled in America

Scotch whiskey:

  • must be aged for at least 3 years
  • must be made from water and malted barley (other grains are optional)
  • can be distilled at no more than 189.6 proof (94.8% ABV)
  • must be made in Scotland

These are seemingly subtle differences, but ask anyone who drinks both types, and they’ll tell you those minor differences make for a wide variety in taste profiles.

Complex Flavors in Bourbon and Scotch

Bourbon and scotch whiskeys offer different levels of complexity and flavors.

Typical scotch profiles include smoke, seaweed, brine, and apple. Because malt is the prominent grain, most also carry a rich malty taste. Peat, which is decomposed organic plant matter found in Scotland, is used to dry the malted barley and causes the smokey flavor that some love and others hate.

Bourbon’s standard tasting profile includes caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, and nuts. These come from the choice of grains (at least 51% corn) used in the mash bill and from extracting flavor out of the charred oak barrels. Over time, the liquid in the barrel evaporates (called the angel’s share), condensing the complexity even further. As the bourbon sits in a barrel, temperature, location, and time are the most significant flavor determinants in the final product. The wood from the barrel also plays a significant role by adding color, flavors, and aroma.

Neat, On the Rocks, or Add Water

There seems to be a consensus among experienced drinkers that whiskey neat (nothing added to the liquid) is the only way to enjoy it. But we believe there is no wrong way to enjoy whiskey. In fact, drinking your whiskey with ice or even just one drop of water can literally open up a new experience for you.

Having Whiskey Neat

Whiskey neat means you’re tasting the spirit as it was meant to be tasted, straight from the bottle. The proof is what’s on the label, and the tasting notes hit as the distiller intended them to. However, drinking this way can turn some people off, especially if they aren’t used to high-proofed spirits. They may never try whiskey again if they can’t get past the burn or require a smoother introduction into the strong whiskey flavor.

And that would be a shame.

Whiskey on the Rocks

Ice helps cool the whiskey, making the proof more palatable and dull the more robust flavors. As the ice melts, the flavor profile can change again and bring out new flavors that weren’t present earlier.

Ice is a great way to introduce newer drinkers or drinkers of other spirits to bourbon or scotch.

Adding Water to Whiskey

Adding just one drop of water to whiskey changes the spirit’s molecules and helps it open up the flavors. New flavors can come out, and other flavors can be enhanced or dulled. Sometimes, that one drop of water might be what makes you like a previously undesired whiskey more.

Try It Yourself

Next time you’re sitting around enjoying some whiskey, try it all three ways and see if you can spot the differences. You might just surprise yourself.

How to Gift Whiskey

At Lux Row Distillers, we have many whiskey options. But, the world of whiskey is vast and full of myths and lore.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re looking to buy whiskey for yourself or as a gift for someone else.

Know Your Palate

If you know what type of flavors the person likes, you can use that information to help in selecting the proper whiskey. What are common foods they eat? Do they enjoy spicy flavors? How are they with cinnamon or smoky foods? Get a sense of their preferences.

Read Online Reviews

Do you need to know which whiskeys match their tastes but don’t want to buy every bottle on the shelf? There are online reviews of just about every bourbon out there. Visit the whiskey page on Reddit or check out Breaking Bourbon to start.

Pick a Price Point

Not all $40 bottles of bourbon are created equal. And, be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that expensive automatically means good.

Decide on a price point before you walk into a store. Look at the different options available at that price point. Most distillers offer many options. Once you have a price point, use online reviews and what you know about the person’s tastes to point you in the right direction.

We hope you’ll give one of our products a try. If you’d like to find some Lux Row Distillers bourbons near you, check here.

Otherwise, we wish you happy hunting, and we hope your friends will appreciate your love of whiskey as much as we do.


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