Whiskey (sometimes spelled "whisky" depending on its place of origin) is a type of distilled alcoholic drink made from fermented grain mash. Different grains, including barley, rye, corn, and wheat, are used during fermentation to create the different types of whiskey.
Bourbon is an American whiskey and strongly associated with the south. Kentucky, specifically, is the home to bourbon. The first bourbon distilleries can be traced to 18th century Kentucky and today, the state produces 95 percent of the world's bourbon supply.
Irish whiskey is made in Ireland, which is thought to be home to the first distillers in the British Isles. The drink dates back to the 12th century and Irish monks are thought to have introduced it to the island after returning from travels in the Mediterranean.
Now that you've got an encyclopedic knowledge of the various kinds of whiskey, you can begin trying out new flavors and styles of this drink! But your knowledge of whiskey doesn't have to stop here -- some cool facts about whiskey include:
All whiskey goes through a process of distillation and aging before it is packaged and exported for public consumption. After the mash of yeast, sugar and malts are fermented, it is placed in copper stills where sulfur-containing compounds are removed from the mixture. The different types of whiskey use different types of stills to create flavor.
Then it's time for the aging process, which is vital to achieving the desired flavor of whiskey. The whiskey is put into wooden barrels that are charred on the inside. The ethanol reacts with the barrel and brings out the whiskey's flavors. The whiskey is aged to the distiller's liking, sometimes up to 20 years.
However, whiskeys that are aged longer do not necessarily taste "better. After about two decades, additional aging does not have an effect on the drink.
Is it "whiskey" or "whisky?" As it turns out, both are correct. The spelling doesn't depend on a particular whiskey type or how it's made, but rather where it is made. Scotland spells it "whisky," while the Irish add the extra "e." The spelling varies in other countries as well -- Japan and Canada spell it "whisky," while "whiskey" is used in the U.S.