Hardcore whiskey fans don’t need to be sold on how great of a drink it is, they already know! Given whiskey is distilled in at least 23 countries and enjoyed by millions of people all over the world, it’s safe to say that it’s widely appreciated. But how much do you really know about whiskey? You may be aware of the different types or a general idea for how it’s made but we’re willing to bet there’s a thing or two that may surprise you. Take a look at these 10 whiskey facts you may not know.
World’s Oldest Whiskey
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest whiskey on record is the Baker’s Pure Rye Whiskey distilled in 1847 and believed to have come from Maryland or Pennsylvania. Prior to 2018 which is when this one was verified, there was a second whiskey older than 150 years. It was the Glenavon Special Liqueur Whisky bottled between 1851 and 1858 and sold at an auction for a whopping $16,519.88!
Whiskey is Heavily Taxed
Did you know that whiskey is taxed more than you are? More than 50 percent of the purchase price of a fifth of whiskey in the U.S. goes to taxes (federal, state and local).
Dairy Farmers Love Whiskey
Dairy farmers and whiskey distillers have a symbiotic relationship. If a dairy farm is located near a distillery, the farmers will often pick up the discarded pulp of corn and other grains used to make whiskey. The excess grain waste is a nutrient-rich feed for their livestock and helps cows produce more milk.
It Lasts Forever
Technically, whiskey can last forever. As long as a bottle of whiskey is kept out of direct sunlight, it can be kept indefinitely. The sun doesn’t ruin the whiskey but it can alter its taste. As long as a bottle is properly sealed after it’s opened, it can last for a very long time.
Climate Plays a Role
Weather can affect whiskey. If a distillery is in an area where the climate can vary drastically throughout the year, it can cause a shift in the aging of whiskey. Whatever may happen in the external environment affects what happens inside the barrel. Cold or warm temperature swings results in the barrel expanding and contracting or more air going in and out of the barrel.
Millions of Barrels Around the World
Due to the barrel aging process, whiskey is kept in barrels for several years. This means that there are millions of barrels sitting in warehouses right now getting ready to be put on the shelf to sell. For example, Kentucky has 5.7 million barrels of bourbon in storage (the most they’ve had since 1975). Insurance companies love this fact since distillers have a lot invested in the barrels and have to carry hefty insurance as a result.
Grains, Grains and More Grains
Whiskey can be made from any grain, even quinoa. Traditional whiskey is made with corn, rye and barley but you can use any type of grain. There’s a distillery in Tennessee that uses quinoa, oats, buckwheat, farro and spelt to craft whiskey. The only grain that hasn’t passed the grain test is blue corn.
Same as Beer?
For the first two days of its life, whiskey and beer are virtually the same thing. The mash used to make whiskey, often called “distiller’s beer” is made of malted grain, yeast and water, just like beer. The distillation process is what turns the mash into whiskey just like wine is distilled into brandy.
Whiskey is completely colorless before it goes into the barrel. When whiskey comes off the stills, it’s perfectly clear in color. This is known as the white dog, which some distilleries bottle up. It makes for a good substitute to vodka or rum in cocktails. The dark color comes from the oak in which it’s aged. Which highlights the importance of the barrel-aging process: the barrel provides whiskey with 60 percent of its flavor and 100 percent of its color.
In Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University, you can get a PhD in Brewing and Distilling meaning you’d be a doctor of making whiskey. Very few people pursue this degree and it’s said that there’s only two master whiskey blenders in the entire world.