- Single malt whisky is whisky from a single distillery made from a mash that uses only one particular malted grain. Unless the whisky is described as "single-cask", though, it will contain whisky from many casks, and different years, so the blender can achieve a taste recognisable as typical of the distillery. In most cases, the name of a single malt will be that of the distillery (The Glenlivet, Bushmills, Nikka), with an age statement and perhaps some indication of some special treatments such as maturation in a port wine cask.
- Blended malt whisky is a mixture of single malt whiskies from different distilleries. If a whisky is labelled "pure malt" or just "malt" it is almost certain to be a blended malt whisky. This was formerly called a "vatted malt" whisky.
- Blended whiskies are typically made from a mixture of malt and grain whiskies — often along with neutral spirits, caramel, and flavouring. A whisky simply described as a Scotch, Irish, or Canadian whisky is most likely to be a blend. A blend typically contains whisky from many distilleries so that the blender can produce a flavour consistent with the brand, and the brand name (e.g., Chivas Regal, Canadian Club) will usually not therefore contain the name of a distillery. Jameson Irish Whiskey is an example of an exception, as it comes from only one distillery.
- Cask strength (also known as barrel-proof) whiskies are rare, and usually only the very best whiskies are bottled in this way. They are bottled from the cask undiluted or only lightly diluted.
- Single cask (also known as single-barrel) whiskies are usually bottled by specialist independent bottlers, such as Duncan Taylor, Gordon & MacPhail, and Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, amongst others. Each bottle of a single-barrel whisky is from an individual cask, and often the bottles are labelled with specific barrel and bottle numbers. The taste of these whiskies may vary substantially from cask to cask within a brand.
Most whiskies are sold at or near an alcoholic strength of 40% abv, which is the statutory minimum in some countries – although the strength can vary, and cask-strength whisky may have as much as twice that alcohol percentage.
American whiskeysAmerican whiskey is distilled from a fermented mash of cereal grain. It must have the taste, aroma, and other characteristics commonly attributed to whiskey.
Some types of whiskey listed in the United States federal regulations are:
- Bourbon whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% corn (maize).
- Corn whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 80% corn.
- Malt whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% malted barley
- Rye whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% rye.
- Rye malt whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% malted rye.
- Wheat whiskey, which is made from mash that consists of at least 51% wheat.
If the aging for one of these types of whiskey reaches two years or beyond, the whiskey is then additionally designated as "straight" e.g., "straight rye whiskey". A whiskey that fulfils all these above requirements except that it is derived from less than 51% of any one specific type of grain can be called simply a "straight whiskey" without naming a grain.
There are also other some categories of whiskey that are recognized in the U.S. regulations, such as:
- Blended whisky, which is a mixture which contains straight whisky or a blend of straight whiskies and, separately or in combination, whiskey or neutral spirits, and may also contain flavorings and colorings.
- Light whisky, which is produced in the United States at more than 80% alcohol by volume and stored in used or uncharred new oak containers.
- Spirit whisky, which is a mixture of neutral spirits and at least 5% of certain stricter categories of whisky.
Another important labelling in the marketplace is Tennessee whiskey, of which Jack Daniel's, George Dickel, Collier and McKeel, and Benjamin Prichard's are the only brands currently bottled. In practice, it is essentially identical to bourbon whiskey. Whiskey sold as "Tennessee whiskey" is defined as Bourbon under NAFTA and at least one other international trade agreement, and is similarly required to meet the legal definition of Bourbon under Canadian law. However, some makers of Tennessee whiskey do not label their product as Bourbon and insist that it is a different type of whiskey when marketing their product. Three of the four currently produced brands of Tennessee whiskey are filtered through sugar maple charcoal, which is claimed to remove some unpleasant flavors and odors and produce a cleaner spirit.
Australian whiskiesAustralia produces a number of single malt whiskies. The whiskies being produced on the island State of Tasmania in particular are receiving global attention.
Australian whiskies are winning an increasing number of global whisky awards and medals, including for example the World Whiskies Awards and Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 'Liquid Gold Awards'.
Canadian whiskiesCanadian whiskies are usually lighter and smoother than other whisky styles. By Canadian law, Canadian whiskies must be produced and aged in Canada, be distilled from a fermented mash of cereal grain, be aged in wood barrels (of a capacity not larger than 700 L) for not less than three years, and "possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky". The terms "Canadian Whisky" and "Canadian Rye Whisky" are legally indistinguishable in Canada and do not require any use of rye or other specific grain in their production. In fact, the predominant grain used in making "Canadian Rye Whisky" is corn. Canadian whiskies may contain caramel and flavouring in addition to the distilled mash spirits, and there is no maximum limit on the alcohol level of the distillation, so the bulk of the distilled content may be neutral spirits rather than straight whiskies.
Danish whiskiesThe first Danish single malt whisky for sale was Lille Gadegård from Bornholm. Distilled 2005 Lille Gadegård is a winery as well, and uses its own winecasks to mature whisky.
The second Danish distilled single malt whisky for sale was Edition No.1 from the Braunstein microbrewery and distillery. It was distilled in 2007, the water being applied was thawed Greenlandic ice sheet, and it was released for sale in March 2010. The distillery has since released several whiskies.
Other distilleries exist, among them Stauning Whisky which began distillation in 2006, and Fary Lochan which began production in December 2009.
English whiskiesWhisky production in modern England re-started in Norfolk in late 2006, and the first resulting single malt whisky was made available to the public in November 2009. This was the first English single malt in over 100 years. It was produced at St George's Distillery by the English Whisky Company. Previously Bristol and Liverpool were centres of English whisky production.
Finnish whiskiesThere are two working distilleries in Finland and a third one is under construction. Whisky retail sales in Finland are controlled solely by the state alcohol monopoly Alko and advertisement of strong alcoholic beverages is banned.
German whiskiesThe distillation of German-made whisky is a relatively recent phenomenon having only started in the last 30 years. The styles produced resemble those made in Ireland, Scotland and the United States: single malts, blends, and bourbon styles. There is no standard spelling of German whiskies with distilleries using both "whisky" and "whiskey" and one even using "Whesskey", a play on the word whisky and Hesse, the state in which it is produced. There are currently 23 distilleries in Germany producing whisky.
Indian whiskiesThe majority of Indian whiskies are blends with a small amount of grain whisky blended with neutral spirits distilled from fermented molasses, and as such could be considered a sort of rum, although pure grain whiskies are available.
Irish whiskeys Though traditionally distilled using pot stills, column still are now used to produce grain whiskey for blends. By law, Irish whiskey must be produced in Ireland and aged in wooden casks for a period of no less than three years, although in practice it is usually three or four times that period. Unpeated malt is almost always used, the main exception being Connemara Peated Malt whiskey.
There are several types of whiskey common to Ireland: single malt, single grain, blended whiskey and pure pot still whiskey.
Japanese whiskiesThe model for Japanese whiskies is the single malt Scotch, although there are also examples of Japanese blended whiskies. The base is a mash of malted barley, dried in kilns fired with a little peat (although considerably less than in Scotland), and distilled using the pot still method. For some time exports of Japanese whisky suffered from the belief in the West that whisky made in the Scotch style, but not produced in Scotland, was inferior, and until fairly recently, the market for Japanese whiskies was almost entirely domestic. In recent years, Japanese whiskies have won prestigious international awards and now enjoy a reputation as a high quality product.
Scotch whiskies Scotch Whisky Regulations require anything bearing the label "Scotch" to be distilled in Scotland and matured for a minimum of three years in oak casks, among other, more specific criteria. An age statement on the bottle, in the form of a number, must reflect the age of the youngest Scotch whisky used to produce that product. A whisky with an age statement is known as guaranteed age whisky. Scotch whisky without an age statement may, by law, be as young as three years old.
The basic types of Scotch are malt and grain, which are combined to create blends. Many, though not all, Scotch whiskies use peat smoke to treat their malt, giving Scotch its distinctive smoky flavour. Scotch malt whiskies are divided into five main regions: Highland, Lowland, Islay, Speyside and Campbeltown.
Swedish whiskiesSweden has a young, but growing, whisky industry. The Mackmyra distillery started selling its products in 2006. Spirit of Hven started distilling in 2008 with products expected to go on the market circa 2012. The Smögen distillery in Hunnebostrand on the Swedish west coast started distilling in August 2010, and the Grythyttan Whisky distillery near Örebro in middle Sweden started distilling in October 2010. Additionally, another half dozen or so distilleries are in different stages of preparation. Production of whisky has however somewhat older roots in Sweden. Starting in the 1950s a whisky called Skeppets whisky was made. Production was halted in 1966.
Welsh whiskies(Welsh: Wysgi or Wisgi) In 2000, Penderyn Distillery started production of Penderyn single malt whisky, the first Welsh whisky since all production ended in 1894. (Though a distillery operated near Brecon in the 1990s, making and selling "Prince of Wales" malt whisky.) The first bottles went on sale on 1 March 2004, Saint David's Day, and the whisky is now sold throughout the world.
Penderyn Distillery is located in the Brecon Beacons National Park and is considered to be the smallest distillery in the world.
Other whiskiesManx Spirit from the Isle of Man is distilled elsewhere and re-distilled in the country of its nominal "origin". The Manx distillery takes a previously matured Scotch malt whisky and re-distills it.
In 2010 a Czech whisky was released, the 21 year old "Hammer Head".
Recently at least two distilleries in the traditionally brandy-producing Caucasus region announced their plans to enter the Russian domestic market with whiskies. The Stavropol-based Praskoveysky distillery bases its product on Irish technology, while in Kizlyar, Dagestan's "Russian Whisky" announced a Scotch-inspired drink in single malt, blended and wheat varieties.