Spirits for Christmas - What's the Difference?
[This thread was moved from the Texas board. --The Chowhound Team]
I'd like to get my husband a nice bottle of spirits for Christmas but I'm stymied. He drinks irish whiskey straight (he's a sipper) but likes JD Black and Coke. Can someone (anyone, please?) enlighten me as to what connotates scotch as scotch, whiskey as whiskey, bourbon as bourbon, etc.? I drink primarily wine and if I drink spirits, it is usually Vodka or Southern Comfort. I have little (if any) experience with choosing within the family of scotch/whiskey/bourbon so any help or counsel would be very appreciated.
As a P.S. of sorts - I'm a "bottom feeder" i.e. "catfish" and though I can afford a median level, I actually prefer (for the most part) the lower end of the spectrum with wine and spirits. I have tried the high end spirits, just didn't see what all the the fuss was about ~ didn't find them to be any better than what I usually drink - Southern Comfort and White Gold.
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Whisk(e)y is a broad category which includes Scotch, Irish and Bourbon.
Scotch is made in Scotland, Irish is made in Ireland, Bourbon is one type of whiskey that's made in the USA. These each taste different in different ways. By and large, they appeal to different audiences, though there are people who like all those.
My advice would be to stick with a type of gift you are more familiar with, so that you have a good chance of choosing something your husband will like. Or give him a gift certificate, and let your husband choose something he'll like.
There are some things that are common to whsikeys in each category that set them apart from others. For example, bourbon must be made with so much corn and it must be aged in a freshly charred barrel, so if usually has a lot fo smoky wood in its flavor. Scotch is most often roasted over peat fires, and it gets a different kind of smoky flavor from the peat, and in very differnet amounts depending on the distillery. Irish whiskey uses both malted and unmalted barley in the mash, and this kind of whiskey is referred to as potstill. Certain types of stills are also referred to as potstills, but this is a case of the same word meanign two differnet things.
If you husband really likes Irish whiskey and you want to get him a fine one that is easy to find: Red Breast. It's one of only two in the world that are close to a more traditional style with all potstill whiskey in the mix.
In terms of flavor, bourbon is made primarilly from corn, so it tends to have a sweeter/syrupy flavor. Scotch is known for its smokiness, though there is a large variety among Scotchs. Irish Whiskey is usually triple distilled giving it a smoother taste.
If he likes Irish Whiskey, get him some Redbreast.
Malt refers to the fact the barley, in the case of Scotch, was allowed to "malt" to sprout before drying. You can also have unmalted (grain) whisky.
I've never heard of a "Double Malt," but a Single Malt is an unblended whisky from a single distiller. A Vatted Malt is a blend of different whiskies, all of which are Malt. A Blended Scotch Whisky is a blend of both malt- and unmalted whiskies.