Whisky Means “Water Of Life”

I would drink it for the color.

There are more than one kind of whisky, but then there isn’t.  Scotch Whisky is Whisky.  There is Irish Whiskey if one cannot get one’s hands on Scotch Whisky.   Scotch Whisky is made, or given to us by the Gods, I dunno, from malted barley.  Irish Whiskey is a blend, made from malted and unmalted barley.  I know you won’t raise your hands, but there are a lot of you in the room who use the term malted and unmalted (the autocorrect of unmalted is unmated which is funny) without knowing what they mean.  I don’t expect you to admit it but I know it is true.  Malted barley is barley one pours water over and then dries with hot air.  Which does something one can taste.  Now you can put your hands down.  If you are a lover of Irish Whiskey though, there is a pragmatic reason why unmalted barley was used.  Tax avoidance. Malt tax in particular, which has caused justifiable riots.

There is an INORDINATE amount of time and effort spent on my writing style so I get it – every word is scrutinized (and there have to be enough of them in a sentence and so forth), but I am not misspelling Whisky.  Scotch Whisky doesn’t use the “e”.  Neither does the Japanese.  Or the English, or the Welsh.  Or the rest of the world.  The Irish and the Americans use an “e” and I was going to figure out why but then I thought about taste testing and didn’t.

Scotch Whisky brings smoke to the nose and tongue, Irish Whiskey is vanilla.  At least every one I’ve tasted is.  The smoke in Scotch Whisky comes from the fire that causes the aforementioned heat.  There are other contributing factors to taste – the most usual suspect being the cask.   Scotch Whisky must be aged three years in a cask but oftentimes three years is just the starting point.  Scotch Whisky is like relationships that way.  Here’s what they don’t tell you.  About Scotch Whisky.  What they don’t tell you about relationships is a library, and this is a website.  What they don’t tell you about Scotch Whisky is that it is often finished.  Finishing means that the Whisky is taken from the first cask and poured into another cask which maybe held wine or something else before.  Finishing accounts for a lot of those “hints of” tasting notes.  Because again like relationships, there are residual effects in creation.

Here’s something I never understood.  The practice of cutting Scotch Whisky with water.  Or anything else for that matter.  A matter of personal preference for sure but for my taste, I want to taste what the distiller meant for me to taste.  I don’t look at paintings with sunglasses on, I certainly do not dip cigars in anything and will probably leave the room if you do, and I don’t cut whisky or whiskey with anything.

Decanting is hilarious if you know a little bit about whisky.  There are arguments for and against decanting wine and either side has some merit.  There is no argument for decanting whisky unless it is a visual one.  Whisky does not have tannins.  Wine does.  So wine changes when air hits it and whisky does not.  As they used to say in a liquor store in Greenwich I may or may not have hung out in:  What do you call an 100 year old bottle of 12 year old Scotch Whisky?  A bottle of 12 year old Scotch Whisky.   Nothing happens in the bottle.  Which is not to say don’t decant if you have a library and you have a cart and you have friends who would appreciate that sort of thing.  But it is to say that there is no taste advantage to decanting.

Another way whisky is like relationships – most do not respond well after time to direct sunlight.  Keep that in mind, bottle or decanter.

More than 2%.

Scotch Whisky constitutes (brace yourself) more than 20% of the UK’s food and beverage exports.  You can get in on that action, if you want, by investing in a cask.  I was approached.  When you are doing the math keep in mind that an average of 2% of a whisky cask’s contents are lost to evaporation every year.  That number gets important as you age things.   Probably a better investment is copper because whether it be Scotch or Irish, whisky or whiskey is distilled in copper.  Pots in Scotland, stills in Ireland, copper in both.  I met a guy who stole wire for copper once.  Better to invest than steal, his story did not end well.

Speaking of the law, by law Scotch and Irish Whiskies must be 40% alcohol content by volume.  Having been that same percentage myself for a few years once, I can tell you it is an admirable standard whilst also nothing to jerk around with.

Scotch Whisky is gluten free and vegan.  So what?  That matters to some people.  Not to me, but to some people.

Either way have a wonderful weekend and a glass on me. – JB




24 Comments on "Whisky Means “Water Of Life”"

  1. The smokier and peatier the better. Cheers.

  2. There once was beloved clothier which started promoting a variety of items, in a variety of fits, in order to attract a wider variety of patrons. The intentions were pure, and likely successful, but the result was that the clothier became unrecognizable other than in name. The clothier would go on and likely be widely accepted but the core constituency in favor of traditional clothing were left to search elsewhere for the original offerings. Only an opinion, but wondering if there are others who agree.

    Don’t worry J. Next week I profile the first white OCBD review, the staff at J Press retail outside Grand Central, and the coolest Madras CEO under 30 you ever knew. We aren’t getting off brand. – JB

  3. Charlottesville | October 1, 2021 at 12:57 pm |

    While I too come mainly for the clothes (and seeing what those whom my wife refers to as my “internet pen-pals” have to say in the comments), I must acknowledge that this is hardly the first time Ivy Style has run a post on whisk[e]y. For example: http://www.ivy-style.com/whisked-away.html. Cigars, pipes, fragrances, books, and wristwatches have also had their posts. So, while I look forward to more on oxford cloth, madras, J. Press (and, especially at this time of year, tweed, flannel, Irish Poplin and ancient maddder), I can take the occasional side jaunt away from tailoring and haberdashery in stride as long as the tail doesn’t wag the dog.

    I also note in passing that, after a recent post on Clarks dessert boots, I have purchased my first pair since college and am very pleased. These were an internet find, new-in-box and made of Charles F. Stead suede from Leeds. They are quite comfortable and I am pleased to say that they are not stamped “Clarks” on the outside, as are some versions. Perfect for this early autumn day with khakis and a silk/linen tweed 3/2 sack coat from Brooks Brothers of fragrant memory, rest its soul.

  4. Not even a footnote about bourbon or rye? Oh well. I’m gonna go make myself a sazerac.


  5. whiskeydent | October 1, 2021 at 2:16 pm |

    Given my nom de net, I suppose I am compelled to comment.

    1. Good scotch is the perfect accompaniment to tweed, shetlands etc. In fact, the word tweed comes from the same place — Scotland. Hell, there are probably scotch distilleries on the River Tweed, but I’m too lazy to confirm it.
    2. The price of single malts (unblended scotch for the uneducated) has gotten silly. However, I’ve found Monkey Shoulder, a blend of three obscure single malts, has that authentic bite and is affordable. Does Mr. J&B concur?
    3. My inaccurate spelling of whisky is a sure sign of poor breeding. I suspect that a bit of French has soiled my otherwise perfect gene pool made up largely of Scots.
    4. Fumius!

  6. The Famous Grouse is a nice blended whisky and a strong favorite of Princess Margaret. They have a peated version called Black Grouse which might be termed a poor man’s single malt.

  7. I will raise a Blanton’s in a couple of hours. Double neat.

    Charlottesville, sounds like a cool combination. I have the same Clark’s dessert boots. My young daughter thinks they look like Uggs.

    Doing Ragnar Bourbon Chase in a couple of weeks. Times tend to suffer in Kentucky but I’m not from Kenya so who cares.


  8. Some of us, with otherwise unimpeachable Ivy credentials, dislike Scotch.
    Despite the fact that my Dad drank Teacher’s Highland Cream- a brand I
    was later told was an”old-Fashioned” Scotch. I prefer Canadian Rye and/or

  9. Arguing the merits of scotch whisky over Bushmills, or as compared to Makers Mark, is a ridiculous and petty level snicker fest only pursued by those who would argue the pros and cons of Madras after the daily average temp drops below 80, or of tassels truly belonging on cordovan loafers. The comparisons are filled with claims of tradition, pomp, circumstances, and disdain for those who delve from the proclaimed purists view of correctness.

    Oh thank god for Ivy Style providing the coliseum for the competition to occur!

    Bottoms up with your favorite brown liquor.

  10. I could care less about whisky, whiskey, cigars, or modern life. There are innumerable & fantastic resources for the previously mentioned topics (Cigar Aficionado for one does them very well). There very few resources dedicated to real-time sourcing of traditional clothing….

    Then you are gonna LOVE our Marketplace. Hang in there. – JB

  11. Charlottesville | October 1, 2021 at 9:53 pm |

    Dear Sacksuit – Thank you for your kind words. Isn’t the Ragnar Bourbon Chase something like 100 miles long? You must be in awfully good shape, and have certainly earned your Blanton’s. Very best wishes.

    Jim K – I no longer drink much Whisky (or Whiskey), but when I did, I had a soft spot in my heart for The Famous Grouse, and often sipped a wee dram after dinner. When visiting a pub in the northern part of Yorkshire roughly 30 years ago with a couple of old acquaintances and several new ones, I learned that this was the preferred tipple of that particular district (along with Guinness for some reason), which seemed as good a recommendation as I was likely to find south of Berwick-on-Tweed. A 2-to-1 martini is now my usual pre-prandial tipple, and a bit of red wine generally carries me through dinner, but I still keep a bottle of Scotch on hand for friends, particularly a dear Catholic priest who visits all too rarely. I still like Guinness too, but find it awfully filling these days.

    Foghorn – Your disdain for “modern life” reminds me of a former professor of mine who said, “I am only reluctantly in this century.” I feel that way much of the time, but have found that there is very little I can do about it. Dressing in Ivy style, reading good books, listening to what I consider to be good music, and avoiding most popular entertainment of the day seems to help a bit, though.

  12. Charlottesville,

    Bourbon Chase is two hundred miles with eleven other teammates. (Not quite as impressive) Maker’s Mark is the most charming distillery on the route. Horse country just past Wild Turkey is some of the most beautiful and well worth a visit. I’m looking forward to returning to Charlottesville for the Colonial 200. Charlottesville to Williamsburg. Are you a runner by chance?



  13. Charlottesville | October 2, 2021 at 11:05 am |

    Will — I am not really a runner. However, I have always wanted to try the Boerne, Texas .5k race, a one half kilometre mosey for charity with beer tents at each end, a smoking section, and donuts and coffee at the halfway point. For an extra $25 VIP fee, one doesn’t even have to walk the half K to earn a participation prize. I am in vigorous training for it pretty much all the time, and hope to enter one day, if only in the virtual division, which is done from one’s couch after paying the entry fee. More here: https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/boerne-05k-charity-race.

  14. Thanks, Foghorn and Cville. I suppose I should have saved my concern about the site having lost its way in search of the masses for a non Ivy clad subject less popular than alcohol. But quite sure there are plenty of sites out there devoted to imbibing, and far less to the subjects which were the genesis of this once Ivy style’d site.

  15. JDV, I’m certainly here for the clothes, too, so I hear where you’re coming from. I also appreciate a little more expansiveness into more areas of an ivy lifestyle than Aldens and OCBDs. Is ivy just a sartorial aesthetic, or does it go beyond what we wear on a given day? There are a lot of wayward people out there who are looking for a sense of how to live. There are a lot of blogs out there selling such people fast fashion at best and snake oil at worst. Hopefully Ivy Style, if they find it, can point them in a more sensible direction on all fronts.

  16. Charlottesville … Jefferson Davis Futch III?

  17. Charlottesville,

    The Krispy Kreme Challenge may be a good way to ease into the running lifestyle.



  18. Scott Crawford | October 3, 2021 at 10:06 pm |

    Uisge Beatha (Water of Life) in Scots Gaelic or Gaidhlig.

  19. Henry Contestwinner | October 4, 2021 at 12:24 am |

    I like the diversion from the clothes—on occasion.

    My Scotch of choice is Laphroaig, but I just bought a bottle of Speyside Scotch to mix with the Drambuie I also just picked up. I had a sudden hankering for a Rusty Nail, but didn’t want to use my Laphroaig that way.

    I, too, enjoy Scotch neat, but I find that I can enjoy a greater range of flavors, in both Laphroaig and Japanese whiskies, by gradually adding a little water. Eventually, it becomes sweet, which is an amazing transformation, when you consider how peaty Laphroaig is.

    P.S. to Charlottesville: “Internet pen-pals” is a wonderful creation!

  20. Aqua vitae, aquavit, eau de vie, akvavit, agua de vida…

  21. Another guy | October 4, 2021 at 9:42 am |

    I don’t drink but I do live in Scotland. Glad you enjoy the whisky because the government here seems to think that that 20 percent of UK exports can translate into 100 percent of a Scottiah economy.

  22. Charlottesville | October 4, 2021 at 11:35 am |

    Roast – Not the late Dr. Futch, but a professor at the law school known as “Lash” LaRue.

    Henry – So good to hear from you. I hope all is well with you and your family out in the decidedly non-Ivy Bay area. I have not had a Rusty Nail in many, many years. I must try to remedy that soon.

  23. Henry Contestwinner | October 6, 2021 at 1:25 am |

    Thank you, dear Charlottesville—all is well with us, as I trust it is with you and yours.

    Kasual Kalifornia is about as non-Ivy as you can get. At least the climate cooperates so I can dress decently and be comfortable doing so year-round.

    At present, I am having Ivy-Style fun by wearing a different Argyll & Sutherland tie every day. Today was Day 12 of what will be at least 16 days (three full working weeks plus). The dearly departed Robert Talbott company produced all kinds of variations on the theme: different shades, unusual textures, alternative width stripes, yet all still recognizable as Argyll & Sutherland. In my collection, I have only one true duplicate; all the others differ, even if only subtly so.

  24. Charlottesville | October 8, 2021 at 1:06 pm |

    Dear Henry – Sorry to take so long to respond. Coincidentally, I was wearing an A&S tie when I wrote my comment above. I have only 3, one of which is in semi-retirement in a drawer, and one of which is a bow. I wish you a delightful weekend.

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