Over the years, popular products tend to attract a lot of myths, legends, and plain mistruths. Whiskey is one of those products with quite a few tall tales. How come? Well first, the sheer number of whiskey myths out there can easily be attributed to the fact that true connoisseurs of whiskey tend to keep their passions to themselves. Meaning people keep their whiskey drinking secrets, well, secret. It’s also partly due to the fact that the finer end of the quality whiskey scale is something of an acquired taste. It’s not the most accessible of drinks. It requires some real effort, time, and sophistication to really get into.
Most myths are harmless, and they often add a sense of mystique to the world of whiskey. There are, however, some problems with whiskey myths. If you’re not the most high-class drinker, you might not even know where to start! Even seasoned whiskey drinkers run into these myths and can get turned around.
We are here to guide you through six of the most common whiskey myths. Here at Brumate, we believe that whiskey appreciation should always be an open door, accessible to all, and without unhelpful mistruths. Let’s raise a glass to honesty, openness, and great taste in all things!
Whiskey Myth #1: There’s No Difference Between ‘Whisky’ and ‘Whiskey’
It’s a pretty common assumption that the only difference between ‘whiskey’ with an ‘e’ and ‘whisky’ is spelling. After all, in the United States, we say ‘flavor’ while in Britain they say ‘flavour’. So it makes perfect sense that you might assume the same rule applies to whiskey. And you’re not entirely wrong.
When it comes to cheap whiskey, 'whiskey' vs 'whisky' doesn’t make a huge difference probably. But once you really get into the nice stuff, it does. That ‘e’ (like the word ‘flavour’) can tell you where the spirit was produced. But more than that, it can clue you into some key stylistic differences.
Whiskey vs. Whisky Spelling
Whiskey (with the ‘e’ intact) comes from Ireland or the USA and is the result of a marketing plan back in the 19th century to clearly identify the difference between spirits made in the ‘New World’ and Scotch. Whiskey without the ‘e’ originally meant that the product was Scottish, but it now can be found on Japanese, Canadian, and British whiskies, as well as spirits made in other countries worldwide.
Whiskey vs. Whisky Ingredients
Whisky and Scotch use malted barley as their main ingredient and is often dried over a peat fire. Irish whiskey is similar, but not peat fire. Now American whiskeys are commonly made out of corn if they’re bourbon (like Jim Beam), or filtered through sugar-maple charcoal, like Tennessee Whiskey (Jack Daniels), or might be made out of rye (like Crown Royal).
Whiskey Myth #2: Whiskey Blends Are Worse Than Single Malt Whiskeys
What is a Blended Whiskey
Colloquially, whiskey blends are exactly what they sound like. They are made by combining different single malt whiskeys together, and sometimes adding different colors, flavors, and spices. Formally, they actually have to contain both a barrel-aged malt whiskey and a gain whiksey. Blended whiskeys have developed a fairly poor reputation over the centuries, being associated with mass-produced and affordable whiskies aimed for mass appeal.
What is a Single Malt Whiskey
Single malt just means that the whiskey must be the product of a single distillery. That does not mean a single batch nor a single barrel. This means that a lot of single malt whiskeys could fall under the colloquial definition for a blend because they might mix whiskeys from multiple batches.
So there’s not a real reason that blended whiskey is ‘worse’ than single malt. Indeed, lots of high-end blended whiskeys are blends of single malts, with the producers going to great lengths to seek out the finest whiskies to combine for the most awe-inspiring flavor and finish. Blended whiskey is its own product, and it can be utterly delicious; don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
Whiskey Myth #3: Older Whiskey is Better
This is one of those myths which hangs around the entire fine food and drinks industry. It’s as pervasive in the world of fine wine as it is in whiskey. It basically stems from the fact that older whiskies are rarer, and as such, more expensive. However, ask yourself: is price always indicative of quality? To quote millennial YouTube icon Brian Jordan Alvarez’s masterpiece, ‘The Gay & Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo’, “Sometimes things that are expensive are worse”.
The bottom line is that not all whiskies age as well as others, and at the end of the day, taste is entirely subjective and dependent on the individual. Love the zip, zest, and vibrancy of a younger spirit? There’s nothing wrong with this… and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
Whiskey Myth #4: Whiskey is an Old Man’s Drink
There is a slight chance that your dad might be the only person you know who drinks whiskey. But why?! That’s so silly. Head down to a trendy modern whiskey bar, like the Canon in Seattle, or the Untitled Supper Club in Chicago, and you’ll see that this myth definitely needs updating and reassessing.
Right now, the world of whiskey is undergoing a major renaissance, and new craft distilleries run by a new generation of movers and shakers are popping up all over the world. They’re driven by a youthful, dynamic, and enthusiastic audience. AKA not old men, or even by men in general. It’s true: whiskey is growing in popularity among people of all genders, and it’s high time the stereotype of the grey-haired dour Scotsman, nursing his dram at a musty old bar, was well and truly put to bed.
Whiskey Myth #5: A Darker Whiskey Color Means Better Flavor
This is one of those myths which has risen from our own psychology. The brain associates darker, richer colors with stronger flavors, and as such, when we see a more deeply colored whiskey, we are prompted to believe that it will contain a stronger punch of flavor.
Many people maintain that the darker caramel color we associate with whiskey is the ‘correct’ color for this spirit and that the darker the whiskey, the better tasting it will be. In fact, this myth is so popular, that a surprising amount of whiskey producers will add caramel colors to their whiskey in order to make it look like it has more depth and taste. This myth can easily be debunked by considering the color of some of the finest Single Malts the world has ever seen. A lot of them are a pale yellow, and they definitely provide all the flavor you need!
Whiskey Myth #6: There’s a Finite Amount of Time for Bottle Aging
In today’s world of sell-by-dates, it’s only understandable that most people would assume that whiskies will go bad after a certain amount of time. This is only true for bottles that aren’t cellared. Direct sunlight can and will wreck a bottle of whiskey, and whiskey is negatively impacted by oxidation. But carefully stored bottles can last for decades - if not centuries. Indeed, a bottle from the 1850s was auctioned just a couple of years ago… and rumor has it, it was delicious. (And that’s one rumor we’re gonna just choose to believe.)
There you have it - six common whiskey myths, debunked and disproven for your knowledge and appreciation! One whiskey fact which is absolutely true is that when whiskey gets warm, the flavor is negatively impacted. But guess what? A BrüMate glass will keep your favorite spirit at the perfect temperature for ultimate enjoyment… and what’s more, they look cute, too!