Picture this: The sun is setting, the city lights glittering over the darkening Singapore skyline. You’re texting your friends, trying to decide where to go. Somebody suggests a whisky bar and having a wee dram and everyone chimes in with their agreement. You’re not too familiar with whiskey as a drink but you type an energetic response anyway—the night is still young, after all.
Enter the single malt whisky bar in Ann Siang, tucked away in a little quaint location. Shelf after shelf brimming with bottles of different shapes and sizes. The menu blurs before your eyes. Single malts? ABV? Blended whisky? Single cask whiskey? Blended malt whisky? Cask strength? Non-Chill Filtered?
What’s the difference? You despair. What are all these words?
Never fear! With this guide, which the MaltmanSG spotted at Tipple and Dram, one of Singapore’s newest whisky bar at Ann Siang Road with a cool and unique single malt whiskey collection from all over the world. Let us decode these deceptively complicated whisky terms for you and reveal a beautiful world of possibility. Or, in other words, a whisky will never intimidate you again and you can then go ahead and confidently order a dram or two!
So, first of all, let’s talk types. After all, you may be wondering what are the different types of whisky and what does one mean by a dram?
Dram is a popular Scottish Gaelic term, which simply means one serving of whisky. The size of a dram can vary from 25 ml to 45 ml depending upon the country, where one is having a drink but a typical standard dram is usually 30 ml of whisky
Now, lets talk about the various kinds of whiskey. There are five main types of whisky: grain, blended whisky, blended malt whisky, single malt and single cask whisky. Grain whisky means the whisky was made with another grain than malted barley (e.g. corn, rye, etc.). Blended whisky refers to a whisky made by blending any quantity of grain and malt whiskies together whereas blended malt whisky, on the other hand, is whisky made by only blending single malts. Lastly, a single malt is a whisky which consists of 100% malted barley and comes from a single distillery.
Single cask whisky are single malts, which come from a single cask from a single distillery
We now know the differences between the types of whisky … but what about the confusing words on the label? ABV? Cask strength? Age statement? Do Whiskeys have a date of birth?
ABV stands for Alcohol By Volume. It’s used to describe the percentage of alcohol in the whisky, which can be useful to remember. A newly produced whisky fresh from the distillation process will usually have an ABV of 68%. As the whisky matures in the cask, the ABV drops each year. Most master distillers prefer to lower the ABV at the time of bottling to 40 to 46%. Usually a lower ABV helps in bringing out the characteristics of the whisky as a higher percentage gets strongly influenced by the skew towards the alcohol content. A lower ABV definitely helps in making drinking the whisky much easier.
An age statement tells you the whisky’s age. A 25 year old whisky would simply imply that whiskies used in the production had ages of 25 years or more. Generally, we use water to dilute the whisky to its desired bottling strength, but if the whisky is not diluted before bottling, it is labelled as cask strength. Sometimes, a label will indicate the type of cask a whisky was finished in, something we will go into more detail later on.
On some whisky bottles, you may see the words “non-chill filtered”. Don’t fret; it just means that the whisky hasn’t been through a process of removing some compounds such as esters, fatty acids and proteins that cause cloudiness or sedimentation in the whiskies, when water or ice gets added. This typically happens in whiskies, which are ABV 46% or below. The process of chill filtering, which is mostly done for aesthetic reasons helps in removing these substances so as to prevent cloudiness and sedimentation. However, the never-ending debate between the purists are that whether a chill filtered whisky impacts and impair the flavor profiles. A fact hotly contested by the protagonists of chill filtration, which strongly make case that there is no impact on the aromas or characteristics of the whisky and it helps instead to improve the consistency of the whisky and the debate continues…
Let’s look past the label and for what we’re really here for: the taste. With so many varieties, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect whisky. Enter: the types of whisky flavors and a crash course on whisky tasting will be discussed in Part II of this article.