Whiskey has grown in popularity over the past few decades, leading to an emergence of big name and smaller artisan whiskey distilleries. Providing a unique taste that cannot be found in other distilled alcohols, whiskey is unique in terms of the variety that can exist. Much of the difference in terms of taste has to do with what mash is used and what conditions exist during the distillation process. To show you just how many individual things go into taste, we will compare Scottish and Kentucky whiskey to see how each gets the process done.
The first major difference between the two is the type of grain mash used to produce the alcohol. Scottish whiskey is derived from malted barley. In contrast, Kentucky whiskey comes primarily from corn mash, or bourbon.
Tradition & Science
For many established Scottish whiskey distillers, the process of creating whiskey is timeless. With a relatively mild climate, a lot of whiskey that is produced in the area is not heavily climate controlled or monitored. Techniques (some of which date back hundreds of years) are used again and again to produce outstanding quality whiskey. Compared to that, whiskey produced in the largest Kentucky distilleries is broken down into an exact science. From the position of the building compared to the sun to the materials used for the building, the exact temperature controlled climate inside, and even the lighting levels, Kentucky whiskey micromanages many different aspects of the process.
Weather & Temperatures
The climate has a lot to do with how quickly whiskey will age. The more variability in the climate, the quicker the whiskey will age. In Scotland for example, there is a relatively constant temperature that makes for slow aging. In Kentucky, there is changing temperatures and highly variable seasons that lead to the small whiskey barrels being able to ‘breathe’ and age quicker. The type of barrel is another factor where the wood and construction are carefully examined.
Warehouse Type & Location
To give a good understanding of how carefully the location of whiskey storage is, be aware that the overall flavor of the whiskey will change dramatically depending on whether you store the whiskey in an attic verses a basement. Different floors of the building will have different heat and humidity conditions. While Scottish whiskey uses this information to transport and store whiskey, Kentucky whiskey carefully control the interior climate, making it the same condition regardless of where it is.