Agriculture is a major staple in the world. Thanks to agriculture, we have food on our tables, clothes on our backs, roofs over our heads, and whiskey in our hands. Okay, well, whiskey isn’t necessarily essential, but without agriculture, we wouldn’t have it to enjoy (when you’re 21). Read 15 whiskey facts below:
- Whiskey, or whisky as the Scottish spell it, is essentially beer that has been distilled 2 or 3 times.
- There are 5 well-known regions where whiskey is distilled. Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey, Kentucky Bourbon, Canadian Whiskey, and Tennessee Whiskey. There is also Japanese Whiskey and New Zealand Whiskey.
- It’s believed whiskey was first created in Ireland by Irish monks. However, it’s still a debate today, because the Scots also say they invented Whisky.
- In Gaelic, whiskey translates to uisce beatha or "water of life."
- Not all whiskey is bourbon, but all bourbon is whiskey. It’s all in how it’s made.
- For a whiskey to be considered Bourbon it must contain at least 51% corn. It is also aged in charred new oak barrels, stored at no more than 125 proof, and bottled no less than 80 proof.
- Kentucky, the birthplace of Bourbon, produces 95% of the world’s supply of Bourbon.
- Bourbon is considered America’s only native spirit, as declared by Congress in 1964.
- In 2019, Kentucky’s well-known Bourbon distilleries filled over 2.1 million barrels of whiskey. That gives Kentucky a total inventory of almost 10 million barrels of Bourbon and other spirits, which is a new modern record.
- More than a third of all distilling jobs in the United States are in Kentucky.
- Bourbon generates about 20,100 jobs each year in Kentucky.
- Kentucky distillers source grains from family farmers, like Peterson Farms, who is part of a select group of farmers that produce grains for distilleries like Maker’s Mark and others.
- According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA), in 2017, their distillers bought over 9 million bushels of corn and other grains from local Kentucky farmers. That’s over half of all distillery corn purchases.
- To put it into perspective, 9 bushels of corn, plus 3 bushels of other grains, equals 1 barrel of Bourbon.
- Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey are essentially identical. They both have the same corn percentage and are aged in new charred oak barrels. The biggest difference is Tennessee Whiskey must go through a charcoal filtering process, which mellows the whiskey’s flavor. Also, Tennessee Whiskey is only be made in Tennessee.
Whiskey production differs depending on the style of whiskey being made, where the whiskey is being produced, and some other reasons, but the general process is about the same.
- It all starts with raw grain. Again, depending on the style of whiskey being made, the grains are treated differently.
- Sugars in the grain are extracted using a mashing process. The grains are ground up, put in a large tank with hot water, and agitated.
- The grains are then fermented. Fermentation happens when the mash is mixed with yeast, turning the sugars into liquid, and transforming them into alcohol.
- Then we move onto distillation, which increases the alcohol content and strips the liquid of unwanted flavors and aroma.
- Then comes the waiting. Almost all types of whiskies are aged in wood barrels. Barrels are stored in warehouses to mature. Some of the alcohol evaporates and creates a distinct scent in the warehouse.
- After the whiskey has matured, it’s bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV. Whiskey could be chill-filtered, or filtered a different way, to prevent it from turning cloudy when ice or cold water is added.
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