Do you know a dram from dunnage? Do you even care what a Glencairn is? Maybe you’re curious about whisky but don’t know a lot about it and have no idea where to start. Start here, with Whisky Journey’s Whisky 101.

What is Whisky?

Whisky is a spirit distilled from a fermented cereal grain mash and aged in wooden casks. Put a little more simply, if you have a spirit that is made from grains like barley or corn and it is not clear in colour, there’s a very good chance it is whisky. Put yet another way, we take beer without hops, we distil it to increase the alcohol percentage, then we age it in casks.

Whisky or Whiskey?

You’ve probably seen both spellings before and may have wondered why. Different countries use different spellings for what is essentially the same thing. Ireland and The US use the spelling ‘whiskey’ (with exceptions) and pretty much everyone else, including Japan and Scotland use the spelling ‘whisky’. It doesn’t tell you anything about what is actually in your glass, but some people get touchy when you use the wrong spelling for a particular type.

Who Makes Whisky?

Whisky does not belong to any country. It was likely invented in Ireland and arguably made famous by Scotland, but today it is made in scores of countries around the world. There are differences in how each country makes it, but they are all essentially the same thing – a spirit distilled from a fermented cereal grain mash and aged in wooden casks. Look out for whisky from India, Wales and other far flung places at Whisky Journey.

What is Bourbon?

The name Bourbon belongs to The US. A bourbon is a type of whisky (or whiskey!) that is made in The US with at least 51% corn and aged in new oak casks. If you made a Bourbon style whiskey in Scotland, you would not be able to call it Bourbon because it has to be made in The US. That’s anywhere in the US, it’s a myth that it must be from Kentucky.

What is Single Malt?

Single malt can be made anywhere, but Scotch single malt (single malt from Scotland) is the best known. ‘Single’ means it is from only one distillery and ‘Malt’ means it is made from 100% malted barley with no other grains. In Scotland, single malt must also be distilled in traditional pot stills, not the more modern column stills that are often used to make other whiskies.

How Should I Drink Whisky?

Such a common question with such a simple answer – however you please! Some people will tell you whisky must or must not be consumed in certain ways, but it’s your whisky and it’s your choice. If you want to add mixers, water, ice or lumps of cold granite then you go right ahead. However, the more you get into whisky, the more likely you will be to drink it neat or with just a dash of water.

So What is a Dram or Dunnage?

‘Dram’ is a term frequently used by whisky drinkers to describe a pour or measure of whisky. It has no defined size, you can have a small dram or a big dram so long as you are having a dram. Preferably with friends.

‘Dunnage’ refers to a traditional dunnage warehouse used to age whiskies. They typically have stone walls, slate rooves, earthen floors and casks are stacked three high on their sides. Modern ‘racked’ and ‘palletised’ warehouses are very different.

What about Glencairn Glass?

‘Glencairn’ is a brand of whisky glass and one of the favourite whisky glasses around the world. If you come to Whisky Journey, you’ll be given one to use at the show and to keep. Glencairns are great for drams

How can I learn more?

This can be tough as there are a lot of whisky myths perpetuated online and even by bartenders. Your best sources to learn more are the staff at a specialist whisky bar and Whisky Journey. We believe in the whisky journey itself and will be making it very easy to learn more at the show. Booths staffed by whisky professionals, information stands and whisky 101 classes at Whisky Journey will all help you find out whatever you want to know about whisky.