los angeles | Drink + Dine

Whiskey 101: Your Spirit Guide

October 16, 2014
Written by: Yasha Wallin

Not all whiskeys are created equal. That’s why we turned to Travis Tidwell, World Whiskey Specialist, to help us determine the nuances of the distinctive, dark drink. Here, Tidwell breaks down everything you need to know about enjoying this distilled spirit in style. After learning from a master, test out your knowledge at The Library’s Cocktail Study tomorrow night at The Redbury. Winners will take home a custom Jim Beam surfboard—one of the few times you’ll get rewarded for boozing!

What is the different between whiskey and bourbon? And what makes one a bourbon or a scotch?

All bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons—whiskey is just the major category.

Bourbon is a minimum 51% corn mash and must be aged in a charred white oak container for at least two years to be straight bourbon, and distilled at no more than 160 proof.

Single malt scotch is 100% malted barley and has to be aged a minimum of years in oak, must come from Scotland, and has to be distilled from label’s distillery, using a water source on-site.

What flavors/notes are you looking for when tasting whiskey?

Depends on preference, but we look for subtle notes of the grain or malt, the oak influence, the subtleties of the environment. Whiskey has so many different flavor profiles like caramel, vanilla, oak, etc.

What is the best glassware to taste/drink whiskey in?

For scotch: Glencairn glasses; for Bourbon: rocks, bucket or Glencairn glasses.

What food pairings go better with certain types of whiskeys?

Smoky whiskeys go well with chocolate, lighter whiskeys like Irish whiskey go well with cured meats, some bourbons pair well with cheese (like sharp cheddar).

Any specific whiskey lingo we should know?

“Nosing” means lightly smelling the whiskey with your mouth open so the harsh notes don’t burn your nostrils.

“Kentucky Chew” means “chewing” on the whiskey – moving it around in your mouth to taste different flavors and swallowing after 5-7 seconds.

What is the best whiskey out there?

I’m a mood drinker: I have over 250 bottles of whiskey at my house. There’s a perfect whiskey for every occasion!

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