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American whiskey reflects the country as a bit of a melting pot — albeit a well-regulated melting pot. It's no surprise that a government that outlawed alcohol for a decade decided to legislate its distribution after prohibition.
There are several American whiskeys, each featuring its own unique nuances. Whiskey must be distilled from a fermented mash of cereal grain and water, aged in charred-oak barrels and contain no more than 80 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
Types of American Whiskey:
If you want to get a feel for the different types of whiskey available, it's time to sample as many as you can find — though probably not all at the same time unless you don't mind a killer hangover. Many different varieties exist, each with its own flavors and qualities.
- Bourbon: If you have a sweet tooth, the corn mash in bourbon will satisfy it. The charred oak adds a smoky aftertaste.
- Rye: Go with rye if you prefer your liquor with a spicy note and a stronger presence.
- Malt: Go single malt if you want the good stuff. Malt whiskey has a bit of a bite, like scotch, sometimes with a floral note.
- Rye malt: Think malt whiskey, but with a nutty flavor that leaves you feeling satisfied.
- Wheat: This type of whiskey must contain at least 51 percent wheat. Expect to taste honey and whole grains.
- Corn: Another sugary option with a few notes of syrup and honey.
- Tennessee Whiskey: If you like bourbon with a Tennessee flair, check out Jack Daniel's and whiskey from other Tennessee distilleries.
Straight as an Arrow:
To be considered straight, the whiskey must be aged for a minimum of two years and remain unblended. However, if you over-indulge, these facts will not help you walk any straighter.
How to Drink It:
How you should enjoy your whiskey depends on the variety. Most taste delicious on their own, once you get past the bite, but you might try a cocktail if you feel like shaking things up (pun intended). Try mixing rye whiskey with vermouth and bitters to create a Manhattan, for instance, even if you live in South Dakota. Leave out the vermouth if you want to ditch the sweetness, and you'll get an Old Fashioned.
Otherwise, splash in some soda water or flavored soda for a carbonated flair. There's a reason the phrase "Jack and Coke" has become synonymous with whiskey aficionados.