Big time whiskey drinkers tend to boast about their whiskey knowledge. Some “facts” you’ll overhear at a whiskey bar include: “The only way to drink whiskey is neat,” or “The only real bourbon is Kentucky bourbon.” But most of that is just your garden variety hearsay. If you want to counter their misinformation with actual facts—which may lead to a glass of whiskey being thrown in your face—here is the truth behind five of the biggest myths about whiskey (and whisky).
Not All Bourbon Is From Kentucky
Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. Currently, there are distilleries in almost every state making bourbon. In upstate New York, Tuthilltown Spirits produces their Baby Bourbon, while in Chicago there’s Few Spirits, and in Colorado there’s Breckenridge Distillery. As long as the laws defining a bourbon are met, it can legally be defined as bourbon.
Older Whiskey Is Better Whiskey
Jimmy Russell, the master distiller for over 58 years at Wild Turkey said in an interview that he thinks the perfect age for bourbon is around “7 or 8 years,” and anything beyond 13 or 14 years in a barrel “is like chewing on oak.” Whiskey gets its amber hue and color from barrel aging. The longer the spirit stays in the barrel, the more liquid gets absorbed into the wood (or evaporates), concentrating the liquid and infusing it with more and more charred oak flavor. While there’s no golden rule for how long a whiskey should stay in the barrel, the distiller decides based on his or her palate (or experience) and the style of whiskey they are trying to produce. It’s not just a test of patience.
You Should Only Drink Whiskey Neat
We get it, you like to taste your whiskey undiluted, raw and pure. What you don’t realize is that adding a touch of water to the spirit opens it up more, making it more enjoyable—it’s been scientifically proven. There are also hundreds of whiskey cocktails—from stirred and strong slow-sippers, to light, refreshing summer drinks—that highlight and enhance the inherent flavors of the spirit.
All Scotch Is Smoky
If you’re intimidated by smoky, peat-heavy scotch, we have good news: That’s not the only expression of the Scottish spirit. Despite its small size, Scotland is divided into six different distillation regions for scotch production, and each region produces its own, unique style of scotch. The smoky beasts that strike fear in the hearts of many drinkers primarily come from Islay (pronounced eye-la). Other regions, like Speyside, are known for whiskies that are low in smoke, with an almost nutty, fruit-forward flavor.
Jameson Irish Whiskey Is Catholic and Bushmills Is Protestant
This myth is pure hogwash. The story stems from the fact that Bushmills is distilled in Northern Ireland, which is predominantly Protestant, while Jameson is distilled in Dublin and Cork—aka Catholic country. But neither distillery pledges any sort of religious allegiance. Ironically, though, Bushmills’ current master distiller, Colum Egan, is Catholic, and John Jameson, the distillery’s founder, was Scottish and most likely Protestant.
Whiskey is the Same Thing As Whisky
Whether or not you spell whiskey with an "E" is not just semantics—the spelling tells you about where the spirit was made. Whiskeys with an “E” are only from America or Ireland. Spirits labeled “whisky” are from just about everywhere else in the world (and a couple of exceptions in America). One theory is that Irish immigrants who came to the United States brought their spelling of whiskey with them. Another theory is that both American and Irish whiskey is spelled with an “E” because the countries have an “E” in their names. Our theory is all whisk(e)y is good whiskey, no matter where it’s from or how it’s spelled.