Whiskey 101

Up your whiskey game with this spirited primer on the booze that has St. Louis talking.

Whiskey is at once simple and complex: It’s essentially grain, water, yeast and some time spent hanging out in a barrel, but this trending spirit encompasses a wide variety of styles and expressions. Whether your tastes tend toward bourbon, scotch, rye or Irish, every good whiskey drinker should be in the know about what they’re drinking and what it is that draws them to the style. To help out, here’s a guide to the five most popular types.

SINGLE MALT SCOTCH Single malts have lots of high-class cache, but sometimes their innate peatiness keeps would-be imbibers at bay. Lismore is a Speyside single malt that’s not only ridiculously affordable but also has plenty of heather and honey to mitigate the peat. It makes for a tasty wee dram in its own right and mixes well to boot. Blood & Sand Downtown uses it to fine effect in its eponymous cocktail.

RYE WHISKEY Often confused with bourbon, ryes must be distilled from 51 percent or more of their namesake grain. As a result, ryes generally tend to be spicier and a bit drier than their corn-based cousins. A primo version to keep handy is Rittenhouse Rye. At 100 proof, it’s a bit boozier and stands up well in cocktails. Gamlin Whiskey House in the Central West End incorporates it in The Knot, along with grapefruit, sage and honey.

BOURBON This American spirit has a corn base but can be finished off with other grains (rye, wheat, etc.) to produce a wide spectrum of flavors. A quality version to keep on the bar is Buffalo Trace, a solid go-to for everything from your standard whiskey and cola to more esoteric concoctions, like the No Apologies at Layla in The Grove, where it’s blended with light rum, Strega, Fernet Branca, Cynar and Peychaud’s bitters.
 
IRISH WHISKEY Arguably the oldest type of whiskey, Irish is generally lighter and more floral than its peatier Scottish cousins. Part of the Jim Beam portfolio, 2 Gingers is a good choice for mixing classics like the manhattan-esque emerald. Out on the town, try it via the Nighean Donn at The Scottish Arms in the Central West End, where it’s augmented with sweet vermouth, triple sec, lime and sour mix.
 
BLENDED SCOTCH Blending scotch is a true art: The ability to roll off some of the harsher elements of multiple malts while still retaining the defining characteristics of the spirit is no easy feat. But Monkey Shoulder’s distillers are pros and use only single malts in its blend. It’s the perfect base for the Planter’s House take on the classic Rob Roy: Monkey Shoulder, house vermouth, Benedictine and Peychaud’s bitters.
 
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