When it comes to answering the question ‘what is whisky made from’, you can look at any whisky label and be reasonably comfortable determining what ingredients have been used. In Australia, there is no requirement for liquor producers to include an ingredient list. However, the particular style of whisky is required to be stated on the label. Deciphering this label will go a long way in determining the ingredients used.
At the core level, a whisky is defined as any spirit distilled from fermented grains. This spirit will need to be matured in wooden barrels for a certain period of time. In Australia, two years is the minimum amount of time a spirit needs to ferment to be classified and sold as whisky. However, other countries will have different requirements for whisky production. For example, in Scotland, the whisky must be matured for more than three years and in barrels no greater than 700L. In the United States of America, all straight bourbon whisky needs to be matured for a minimum of two years, and it must be in new white oak barrels. The US uses new oak barrels due to the cost involved with returning them when distilleries started operating; the practice eventually became a rule.
A lot of the flavour in whisky comes from the types of grain used, how the grains are treated before distilling, and the barrels in which the spirit matures into whisky. The length of time that whisky spends inside barrels will also impact the flavours.
In an Australian single malt whisky, the primary ingredient used is malted barley. However, other grains can be used, and these include rye, wheat, and corn. In the whisky-making process, it is possible to use any grains available, and some Australian whisky distilleries have experimented with using native grasses in their grain mix.
Other than the grains used in the mix, the wooden barrels are essential for adding flavour (though it may not technically be an ingredient). It is common for the Australian whiskey distilling process to make use of spent wine barrels. The Australian wine industry is quite extensive, and there are a lot of barrel choices available.
Whisky gets a lot of its flavour from breaking down the wood fibres and drawing out the sugars within. The whisky may take on some of the flavours from what was previously stored in the barrel. As the US will only use new barrels, many whisky distilleries worldwide will use spent bourbon barrels.
What are the ingredients in whisky?
Whisky is actually an overarching term, and it covers a lot of different products. As discussed, when a spirit is classed as whisky, it needs to be made from distilling fermented grains. The grains used will be marked on the bottle, but often these are not that apparent. The most common type of whisky is single malt whisky, and these are primarily made from malted barley. If you’re wondering exactly what is whisky made from, we’ve listed popular types with their ingredients below.
- Blended malt whisky will use barley but will come from two or more distilleries.
- Blended whisky can include whisky made from any grains from multiple distilleries.
- Bourbon whisky is made from at least 51% corn. Unaged bourbon is usually sold labelled as corn whisky.
- Rye whisky is made using a minimum of 51% rye and is often mixed with barley and other grains.
- Wheat whisky will use wheat for a large percentage of the grains, with some whiskies using 100% wheat in their mash.
- Other grain whiskies can use all different types of grain, and the dominating grain will be marked on the label. These grains can include oats, millet, and many others.
What are the benefits of drinking whisky?
Whisky is generally consumed purely for enjoyment. However, whisky can be used as a way of meeting new and interesting people. You can go out to dedicated whisky bars – such as the Lark Distillery bar in Tasmania – and sample many whiskies from all over the world.
Many whisky enthusiasts consider tasting whisky as an exciting hobby and do it for the pure desire to uncover the best whisky. All whisky will have a unique flavour, and this actual flavour may differ slightly based on the person drinking it. You may find there is a continual debate on which whisky is crowned the best in the world. A good guide for the best whisky is looking for a distillery that puts out an aged whisky that is consistent in quality and flavour.
Where can I buy the best whisky near me?
The best place to buy whisky is directly from the distillery of your choice. In the Lark Distillery online shop, we have all our currently released whiskies available. If you're looking for the best whisky, then buying a whisky tasting set will provide you with an excellent example of what we offer. In these whisky sets, you'll receive one or more bottles and a set of tasting notes.
If you're buying whisky for someone else, choosing from our whisky gift packs is an excellent place to start. You can read through the whisky tasting notes and find some flavours that appeal to you. A gift of whisky is often considered an invitation to meet up in the future, sit down for a glass, and chat about life (or even have an enlightening conversation regarding the topic: what is whisky made from).
Our staff are on hand if you need any assistance in choosing a premium Australian whisky. In our shop, you'll also find a selection of our Australian gin and other liqueurs.