What’s the Difference Between Scotch, Whiskey and Bourbon?

George Konig/Keystone Features/Getty Images
George Konig/Keystone Features/Getty Images

This might be common knowledge for some, but it's worth a refresher. Let's start with a burning question we answered back in 2008: what makes a whiskey bourbon?

The law. While knocking back a dram of bourbon is a decidedly carefree exercise, making it is exceedingly technical and requires that the whiskey meet a rigid set of criteria. The Federal Standards of Identity for Bourbon stipulate what is and what isn’t bourbon. For a whiskey to call itself bourbon, its mash, the mixture of grains from which the product is distilled, must contain at least 51% corn. (The rest of the mash is usually filled out with malted barley and either rye or wheat.) The mash must be distilled at 160 proof or less, put into the barrel at 125 proof or less, and it must not contain any additives. The distillate must be aged in a new charred oak barrel. (Most often these barrels are white oak, but they can be any variety of oak.) If you distill a whiskey in your kitchen that meets all of these standards, congrats, you’ve made bourbon. Also, you’ve broken the law; the ATF is probably outside your house right now.

The main difference between scotch and whisky is geographic, but also ingredients and spellings. Scotch is whisky made in Scotland, while bourbon is whiskey made in the U.S.A, generally Kentucky. Scotch is made mostly from malted barley, while bourbon is distilled from corn. If you’re in England and ask for a whisky, you’ll get Scotch. But in Ireland, you’ll get Irish whiskey (yep, they spell it differently for a little colour).

On this side of the pond, we have our own local color, too. The difference between Tennessee Whiskey, like Jack Daniel’s, for example, and Bourbon is that after the spirit is distilled, Tennessee Whiskey is filtered through sugar-maple charcoal. This filtering, known as the Lincoln County Process, is what distinguishes Tennessee Whiskey from your average Bourbon, like Jim Beam. The name, Bourbon, comes from an area known as Old Bourbon, around what is now Bourbon County, Kentucky.

On top of these types of whiskey, we also have Rye, which can refer either to American rye whiskey, which must be distilled from at least 51 percent rye or Canadian whisky, which may or may not actually include any rye in its production process. Confusing! Right?

Okay whiskey drinkers, did I miss anything crucial? Obviously there are tons of other, smaller differences depending on location and recipe, but that should cover you for when you need to impress the opposite sex at a bar some day.

Blue Point Brewing Company's New Bubble Gum Beer Has a Garbage Pail Kids Twist

Blue Point Brewing Company
Blue Point Brewing Company

Craving the taste of 1980s nostalgia? Long Island-based Blue Point Brewing Company's new bubble gum-flavored IPA, Bubble Brain, smells like Bazooka Joe but tastes more like a less-sweet fruity brew, with a tart and bitter finish. Even those who aren’t keen on IPAs might like it, as the deep rose-hued drink looks like wine and doesn’t taste as hoppy as some IPAs and pale ales.

To give the beer an added throwback vibe, Blue Point (an Anheuser-Busch InBev company) tapped Garbage Pail Kids illustrator Brent Engstrom to design the label, which features a rendering of Blue Point’s brewmaster Mike "Stoney" Stoneburg, who came up with the beer.

"It’s a small batch, bubble gum beer, driven by fruit, spices, and yeast,” Barry McLaughlin, Blue Point Brewing’s marketing director, told Forbes. “It’s all inspired by a visit to a dusty novelty store on the west side of town and finding a bit of lost nostalgia of our ‘80s youth.”

“The juicy New England and milkshake IPA styles have become extremely popular, as well as fruited, kettle sours," McLaughin said of the beer's IPA-meets-sour flavor. "As brewers, we wanted to highlight the things we love about all of these styles but also take some risks and push the drinker’s experience further in a new, sub-style of IPA."

According to the beer review site Untapped, some drinkers have described the 6.5 percent ABV Bubble Brain as “weird,” “wild,” and “tastes just like bubble gum.”

You can find the beer—and a sip of yesterday—in pastel-colored tall boy four-packs at select retail outlets in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and at Blue Point’s brewpub in Patchogue, New York.

You Can Now Enjoy a Vodka Made in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone … If You Dare

igorr1/iStock via Getty Images
igorr1/iStock via Getty Images

The HBO limited series Chernobyl has brought renewed attention to the 1986 nuclear accident that occurred in what was then the Soviet Union, which ranks among the worst man-made disasters in world history. The accidental explosion of the nuclear core irradiated a huge swath of land 1000 square miles in size and is believed to have killed thousands.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is now apparently safe enough for tourists, who flock to the site to get a glimpse of what amounts to a ghost town. But would you drink a vodka made from grains and water found there?

Scientists and researchers who have worked in the zone believe some people will. They’ve founded the Chernobyl Spirit Company and are now marketing Atomik, an artisan vodka made with rye grains and water from the area. Jim Smith, an environmental scientist at England's University of Portsmouth, led the exploration of land near the Opachichi settlement, which is believed to be one of the zone's least contaminated areas.

Rye grain grown on the site demonstrated levels of radioactivity that were slightly above safe thresholds. After being distilled, the spirit was submitted to experts at Southampton University for additional testing. The distillation seemed to virtually eliminate all but the naturally occurring levels of carbon-14 found in most any spirit. The water, which comes from an aquifer six miles south of the reactor, was found to be safe. The company also says that the soil poses no health issues for workers.

Researchers say the vodka accomplishes two goals: First, it makes use of land that would otherwise be abandoned. Second, proceeds from sales of the vodka will be put back into communities near the Exclusion Zone, which have struggled to improve their economic conditions in the years since the accident.

For now, the Chernobyl Spirit Company has only produced one bottle of Atomik. The goal is to make 500 bottles this year and sell them primarily to tourists to the site. If nothing else, having some Chernobyl moonshine will make for a conversation piece.

[h/t BBC]

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