When bartenders turn into cocktails creation and they are looking for spirits base, they have many possibilities. Whiskies can be one of those. If some whiskies are single, others can really be plural. If whisky is not the most used based spirit, it can surely bring a full aromatic palette. Depending on where the chosen whisk(e)y is coming from, on how it has been produced, how-long it has been aged… all these criteria bring different flavors into drinks.
For many years, American whiskeys were the ones mostly used into classical cocktails such as Old fashioned, Sour, Mint Julep, God father, Manhattan and Sazerac and Horse’s neck. For these last two, Bourbon is the other alternative to Cognac.
However, for another geographic alternative, customers can also drink Irish coffee based on Irish whiskey and Rob Roy made with Scotch whisky. These Scotch whiskies, usually consumed “straight” or on the rocks, can also be part of cocktails such as the new modern Classique Penicillin cocktail combining classic Scotch and Islay Malt.
Today, many other countries also produce whiskies on their own: India, Corsica, Australia, Sweden! But let’s focus on the 5 majors countries producing whisky: Scotland, Ireland, Japan, Canada and the USA.
Speaking about tasting Scotch whiskies would be the hardest to summarize, especially because it depends on if it’s a single malt or a blend. Other criteria have to be taken into consideration such as the raw materials used and the elaboration of the whisky: barley, malted barley, wheat, peaty, smoky…. You can also compare how long the whisky has been aged into the cask, what kind of liquid the cask has contained before, and where the cask has been placed. We know there is an exchange between the inside and outside air of the cask. That’s why if the cask is placed close to the see, the whisky can even be flavored with the sea spray!
Starting up with Scottish whiskies, especially those coming from Islay, will bring smoky and peaty flavors with the strong character of Scotch whiskies, barley cereals, butter, toasted, oaky, sherry notes. Scotch whiskies might taste “drier” than the others, like a finger snap.
When moving to Ireland, you will get more gentle whiskies. Irish whiskies in general will bring citrusy, cereals, honey and peach notes to a drink, with a smooth spicy end. Easy to mix, they are perfect for highballs or hot cocktails like the iconic Irish coffee.
If you wish something in between you can take the option of Japanese whiskies, since, depending on some Scottish ghosts, some of them are blend with a part of scotch whisky. Tasting notes of aged Japanese whiskies can be woody, fruity, floral, honey, and with an aftertaste of orange peel and smooth white chocolate.
Canadian whiskies, most of the time based on rye are easy to use. They are well balanced with of course rye notes, toasted grains, bread, a butterscotch touch and a gentle charred woody taste.
Now let’s finish with the most used whiskey in cocktail: the American whiskey. Smooth, intense and well balanced with its clear wood, toasted cereals, dried raisins, vanilla, pine and pecan notes coming from virgin flamed cask. According to Stéphane Moeslé, Bourbon, Tennessee or American whiskies cocktails are the easiest to create and to drink.