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Whisk(e)y is an amber-coloured spirit obtained by the distillation of fermented cereal grain (most often rye, wheat, corn or barley) aged in wooden casks before bottling at a minimum 40% ABV. In Australia, it must be aged for a minimum of two years to be legally deemed whisk(e)y.
There are many types of whisk(e)y (unmalted vs malted, single grain vs blended, unpeated vs peated), and are usually differentiated by their place of origin, grain mash, and blending and maturation process.
While the taste and aroma vary, whisk(e)y is often described as warm and spicy with toast, caramel or vanilla characteristics. Whisk(e)y is the essential ingredient for many classic cocktails, including the Old Fashioned and Manhattan.
Whisk(e)y is distilled from three simple ingredients: water, yeast and grain. It can be made from a variety of cereal grains, the most common being wheat, corn, barley and rye, all producing distinct flavour characteristics. At The Gospel we use 100% Australian grown, unmalted rye grain.
Rye whiskey contains at least 51% rye in its mash bill and aged in newly charred oak barrels if producing to the legal definition in the United States. Rye whiskey is distinguishable by its unique dry spiciness.
Bourbon whiskey is American whiskey, often (though not exclusively) produced in Kentucky. It contains at least 51% corn in its mash bill and aged in newly charred oak barrels if producing to the legal definition in the United States. Bourbon typically has a nutty flavour profile and a mellow, caramelised sweetness.
Tennessee whiskey is a subcategory of bourbon, which is filtered through charcoal before it is aged. This filtering method is known as the Lincoln County Process and is what gives Tennessee whiskey its own unique flavour.
Irish whiskey is spirit produced from malt, cereal grain, and barley which is distilled, aged, and bottled in Ireland. It must be aged in wooden casks for a minimum of three years.
Scotch whisky must be distilled, aged, and bottled in Scotland. Scottish law mandates that scotch be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years. It obtains its smoky character from peat, a dense moss that is lit on fire to dry out the malted barley used in distillation.
Canadian whisky must be produced and aged in Canada, have a minimum of 40% ABV, and be aged for at least three years in wooden barrels no larger than 700 litres. It can contain caramel and other flavourings or additives, leading to diverse tastes between brands.
Japanese whisky is bottled in Japan, but it isn’t necessarily distilled or aged there. Some Japanese whisky draws immediate comparisons to Scotch whisky, while other producers are continually evolving, harnessing the unique qualities of indigenous Japanese oak.
Single-malt whiskey comes from a single distillery and only contains one type of malted grain. A single-malt whiskey may include whiskey from several different casks, unless it’s a ‘single cask whiskey’.
Blended whiskey is a mixture of different whiskeys, potentially produced by different distilleries.
The history of American whiskey is tied closely to the history of US prohibition. Here is a quick snapshot of events:
1700-1800s: Rye is the most prevalent crop in colonial America and early Scotch-Irish settlers in the USA used rye to make whiskey because barley didn’t adapt to the North American climate. Rye whiskey is the main whiskey produced and consumed. Founding Father and First President of the United States George Washington had his own Rye distillery in Mount Vernon.
Early 1900s-Early 2000s: Prohibition begins in 1920 and officially lasts until 1933, during which time the production of whiskey is banned. Unfortunately, a lot of good whiskey is wasted and when prohibition is finally lifted there is little well-aged whiskey left. During the same period, the US government introduces subsidies on corn, making it a far more enticing crop for farmers. Corn became cheaper and more readily available, allowing the production of bourbon to thrive, while making rye harder and more expensive to make. After prohibition, American tastes changed and scotch and blended whiskies became popular and the tradition of drinking rye is lost and falls out of favour. There’s a saying: ‘they spill more bourbon on the floor every year than they make rye whiskey’.
2006 onwards: The cocktail culture rise in the USA encourages bartenders to look back at drinking history and rediscover the joys of rye. Alongside the craft food movement, the craft booze movement starts to focus on quality and flavour. Rye begins its rise from the ashes.
‘Whisky’ derives from the Gaelic term usquebaugh which translates as ‘water of life’ (Uisge meaning water and Beatha meaning life). The difference in spelling reflects the geography of where the spirit is produced and can indicate the type of cereal grain used in the distilling process.
Long story short: the Irish spell whiskey with an e, while the Scottish spell whisky without. The USA, for the most part, uses the Irish spelling: whiskey. Everywhere else, including major whisky producing countries like Canada, India and Japan, drop the e.
At The Gospel we use ‘whiskey’ as we make our rye in the traditional American style.
The distinction offers important insights into the evolution and history of whisk(e)y. Culture, the law, branding and preference have all influenced how the different whisk(e)y producing regions spell the word and don’t necessarily correspond to the liquid in the bottle.
Both the Irish and the Scottish lay claim to being the first to distil whiskey. One theory is missionaries and monks that returned to Ireland from travels across Europe and Northern Africa, brought with them distilling techniques which were first used for medicinal purposes.
When King Henry II’s armies invaded Ireland, they discovered an elixir loved by the locals. They themselves took to liking it as well, but as the Celtic language name usquebaugh (meaning ‘Water of Life’) was too hard for the English to pronounce, over the centuries it evolved into what we call it now - whiskey.
It is widely believed that whisk(e)y arrived in Australia with the Scottish and Irish settlers, who brought their love for spirits with them, but the first legal distillery wasn’t opened until 1822 with Sorell Distillery in Hobart, Tasmania.
Victoria was once the centre of Australian distilling, home to many large distilleries including Warrenheip Distillery (1863) near Ballarat, Federal Distillery (1888) in Port Melbourne, and later, Corio (1928) near Geelong was one of the largest distilleries to operate in Australia.
Nowadays there are close to 330 Australian distilleries – most are making gin, however, a lot are aging whisk(e)y.
Want to discover more? Read our journal article here.
If a whisky bottle is unopened it won’t go bad, but if you are planning to keep it for a while there are a couple of things you should do to keep it safe. You should store it out of the sun and away from direct heat, and you should store it upright. There’s no benefit to keeping whiskey - all of the ageing is done in barrels and it won’t change flavour in glass - but it also doesn’t hurt it.
If you want to keep an opened bottle of whiskey for more than a month or two, the key is to store it with as little oxygen as possible to avoid the flavour changing. So if you have a third or less of the whiskey left in the bottle, one trick is to decant it into a smaller bottle (with a good seal) for storage.
Scotch is a whisky that gets its distinct smoky flavour from the process in which it is made: the grain, primarily barley, is malted and then heated over a peat fire. Laws in the United Kingdom govern the definition of Scotch whisky, dictating production regulations and specifying that whisky cannot be called Scotch unless it is entirely produced and bottled in Scotland.
Bourbon, first produced in Kentucky USA, contains at least 51% mash from corn and uses a sour mash. U.S. regulations specify that in order for a whiskey to be called bourbon, it must be made in the United States. There are also regulations prescribing the ingredients and production methods of the spirit.
Rye whiskey is a whiskey that uses rye grain in the mash bill. In the United States, regulations stipulate that the mash must be at least 51% rye, whereas in Canada, the regulations are more relaxed as they do not specify a minimum percentage of rye.
In terms of the taste, the barley in scotch imparts roasted, nutty, toffee cereal flavours; corn gives bourbon its sweeter, vanilla and maple syrup character; and rye brings spicy, fruity characters with more complexity.
You can also think of the flavour profiles of rye and bourbon a little bit like bread. Cornbread is rich, full and sweet, whereas rye bread is dry, spicy and savoury.
To be legally labelled as ‘Straight’ whiskey must meet the strict distillation and maturation process required typical of American whiskeys. Straight rye whiskey must have 51% or more rye grain in the mash bill and be aged in new, charred oak for at least two years. It can’t include any additives in terms of flavour or caramel colouring.
Want to discover more? Read our journal article here.
Malting is a process that involves soaking grain to kickstart the germination process, and stopping it just before it germinates. Malting makes the grain easier to work with and results in a different flavour and texture of whisk(e)y.
We use 100% unmalted rye as we like its dry, spicy, peppery, earthy characteristics.
In Australia, whisk(e)y must legally be aged for a minimum of 2 years. Our Straight Rye Whiskey is aged for 2-3 years in new American oak barrels with a heavy toast and light char, a unique formula we landed on after years of testing.
Want to discover more? Read our journal article here.
There is no right way to drink whiskey, we believe any way is a good way so long as you are enjoying it. Whisk(e)y is often served neat or on the rocks. In summer, we like to serve ours as a Highball, with either soda water or dry ginger ale and a fresh orange wedge. All year round, you’ll find us adding it to whiskey-forward cocktails such as an Old Fashioned or Boulevardier, where the spice of the rye adds a beautiful complexity to these classic recipes.
Want to discover more? See our cocktail recipes here.
While we can’t legally claim whisk(e)y is gluten free in Australia (due to it being made from a grain containing gluten), Coeliac Australia says whiskey is A-OK! This is due to the distilling process which naturally removes the gluten proteins.
While the risk is low, please note that our whiskey is made in a distillery which uses rye grain, and occasionally wheat, so there may be cross-contamination in the air post distillation.
The Gospel is vegan friendly, as well as dairy- and soy-free.
Should you make an error when ordering online, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. We can change or cancel an order, provided it has not been shipped from our distillery.