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A guide to the lingo and history of whiskey

Whiskey may be Ireland’s national drink, but it is truly a spirit of the world. Travelllers cross the globe, from the islands of Japan to the American south, seeking surprising varieties and sipping old favourites along the way. However, for newcomers to the tipple, it can be hard to get a foot in the door, no matter what country you’re passing through.


To truly become a whiskey expert, you cannot be afraid to ask questions or be intimidated by seasoned whiskey samplers. Ignore the folks who approach whiskey with a pretentious, know-it-all attitude. True whiskey lovers always want to learn more and share their knowledge with others. In this spirit, we'll help you learn about the whiskeys of the world by tackling some of the most frequently asked questions out there.


What is the difference between whiskey, scotch and bourbon?


Even self-proclaimed connoisseurs sometimes provide incorrect answers to this common question. It's a trick question, really, because whiskey is the overarching category of spirits that scotch and bourbon fall under. Both scotch and bourbon get their names from places – scotch from Scotland and bourbon from Bourbon County, Kentucky – but true scotch is made only in Scotland, while bourbon can be made in parts of America outside of Kentucky.


"Whiskey" can refer to any kind of whiskey – Irish, Japanese, Canadian, American, scotch and bourbon being the main types. Aficionados and Irish drinkers may refer to Irish whiskey as simply "whiskey," whereas they might specify location when talking about other types.

“威士忌”可以指代任何一种从属其中的酒品,主要包括爱尔兰威士忌、日本威士忌、加拿大威士忌、美国威士忌、苏格兰威士忌和波本威士忌。 威士忌酒痴与爱尔兰酒豪们可能会把爱尔兰威士忌直接简称为“威士忌”,而只有谈及其他威士忌种类时,他们才会加上地名。

Wait, is it "whiskey" or "whisky"?

等等,威士忌的拼写是 “Whiskey” 还是 “Whisky”?

It's both. "Whiskey" is the Irish spelling (used in Ireland and the US), while "whisky" is the Scotch spelling (used in Scotland, Canada and Japan). The New York Times actually changed its style guide when bombarded with scotch fans calling for the "whisky" spelling in the naming of Scottish varieties, but since this column is running during Ireland Week, we're keeping the "e" in. Whichever spelling, the origin of the word goes back to both Ireland and Scotland. Uisge beatha or usquebaugh is Gaelic for "water of life". It was translated from the Latin aqua vitae, used to describe spirits.

答案是两者都对。 “Whiskey” 是爱尔兰的拼法(用于爱尔兰及美国),而 “Whisky” 则是苏格兰的写法(用于苏格兰、加拿大及日本)。 无论采用哪种拼写,在爱尔兰和苏格兰均能找到源头,即盖尔语中的 “uisge beatha” 或 “usquebaugh”,意指“生命之水”, 最初从拉丁语的 “aqua vitae” 翻译得来,用来形容烈酒。

Where did whiskey originate?


Both Ireland and Scotland claim to have given birth to whiskey. But, as food writer Kate Hopkins notes in her book 99 Drams of Whiskey, neither country has definitive proof. "Ask an academic," she writes, "...and he or she is likely to shrug and mumble, 'Hell if I know. That part of the world wasn't too keen on keeping records of who was doing what.'"

爱尔兰与苏格兰两国均宣称自己是威士忌的发源地。 不过,美食作家凯特·霍普金斯 (Kate Hopkins) 在《99 杯威士忌》 一书中写道,两国均没有确凿的证据。 她写道:“向学者求证……他(她)很可能耸耸肩,然后不置可否地对你说,‘鬼才知道,那地方的人好像不太喜欢纪录历史。’”

The making of liquor dates back to at least 800 AD when Arab chemist Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan was carrying out distillation, the purifying of a beverage made via fermentation (i.e. beer, wine or hard cider). Wine was already being distilled around the world when physicians tried distilling beer in either Ireland or Scotland (or both), according to the late English whiskey writer Michael Jackson. In his book Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide, he explains that a family of physicians, the MacVeys (a.k.a. the Beatons), translated medical texts from the Arab world whose secrets of distillation resulted in the first whiskey creations. As doctors, the MacVeys/Beatons served both Ireland and Scotland, which is why whiskey's exact origins remain murky. Let's just call it a tie.

烈酒的制造至少可以追溯到公元800年,阿拉伯化学家阿布·穆萨·贾博·因·海因 (Arab chemist Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan) 在进行蒸馏时,通过发酵制成了酒品的原液(即啤酒、葡萄酒或苹果酒)。 已故的迈克尔·杰克逊写过一本有关威士忌的书,根据他的观点,当爱尔兰和/或苏格兰的医生们还在尝试蒸馏啤酒的时候,世界范围内已然有了蒸馏而制的酒品。 在杰克逊所著的这本《全球威士忌指南》中,他解释说,麦克维 (MacVey) 一家(也被称为“比顿一家”(the Beatons))全是医生,就在他们翻译阿拉伯医学著作时,发现了蒸馏的秘密,并因此最先酿出了的威士忌。 作为医生,麦克维/比顿一家在爱尔兰和苏格兰都有业务,这也是威士忌源头不明的原因。 姑且算成平局吧。

How are the different kinds of whiskeys made?


Generally, whiskey is made by (1) crushing grains (barley, corn, rye, wheat, etc.) to create the grist, (2) adding water to create the mash (3) boiling this mixture and then allowing it to cool, (4) adding yeast, which carries out fermentation by eating the sugars to create alcohol, (5) draining the resulting liquid, which is now beer, and then distilling using a still and (6) aging the resulting liquor in wooden barrels.

一般说来,威士忌的制作过程包括:(1) 捣碎谷物(大麦、玉米、黑麦、小麦等),制成碎麦芽;(2) 加水制成麦芽糊;(3) 将混合物煮沸并待其冷却;(4) 加入酵母,以便分解糖类、生成酒精进而完成发酵;(5) 滤掉经发酵液体(相当于平时喝的啤酒)中的水分,而后使用蒸馏设备蒸馏;(6) 将生成的酒浆灌入木桶进行陈酿。

Here's how the different varieties are made:


Scotch is made from water and malted barley (ie. barley that's been steeped in water to trigger germination), distilled to less than 94.8% alcohol, aged for at least three years in oak barrels that can hold no more than 700 liters, and bottled at no less than 40% alcohol. No additives are allowed except for water and caramel colouring. By law, it can only be called scotch if it follows this process and is made in Scotland.

苏格兰威士忌是由水和大麦芽(即浸于水中致其发芽的大麦)制成,蒸馏后酒精浓度低于 98.4%,并在容量不超过 700 升的橡木桶中酝酿三年以上,同时保证装瓶时酒精浓度不低于 40%。除水和焦糖上色以外,不得加入任何添加物。按照法律规定,只有遵守上述工艺并在苏格兰酿造的威士忌才能称之为苏格兰威士忌。

"Single malt" scotch is made from malted barley in a single distillery while "single grain" is made from malted barley and other grains in a single distillery. "Blended" scotch is a mix of whiskys/eys from multiple distilleries.

“纯麦芽”苏格兰威士忌由麦芽制成,并酿造于同一酒厂,而“纯谷物”苏格兰威士忌虽亦酿造于同一酒厂,但其原料则包含大麦芽和其他谷物。 “调和型”苏格兰威士忌是一种酿制于多个酒厂的混合威士忌。

Irish whiskey is distilled to less than 94.8% alcohol and aged for at least three years in wooden barrels. By law, whiskey can only be called Irish whiskey if it follows this process and is made in Ireland.

爱尔兰威士忌须蒸馏至酒精浓度低于 94.8%,并于木桶中酝酿三年以上。 按照法律规定,只有遵守上述工艺并在爱尔兰酿造的威士忌才能称之为爱尔兰威士忌。

Bourbon is made from a mash of at least 51% corn, distilled to 80% alcohol, combined with water to get the alcohol content down to 62.5%, entered into an unused charred oak barrel, aged in that barrel and then bottled at no less than 40% alcohol. By law, whiskey can only be called bourbon if it is made by this process and in the United States.

波本原料中有至少 51% 含量的玉米糊,该酒须蒸馏至酒精浓度达到 80%,然后兑水使其酒精含量将至 62.5%,而后装入从未被使用过的炭化橡木桶,在桶内加以酝酿,并确保装瓶酒精浓度不低于 40%。按照法律规定,只有遵守上述工艺并在美国酿造的威士忌才能称之为波本威士忌。

Tennessee whiskey is bourbon made in the state of Tennessee and filtered through sugar-maple charcoal. Other American whiskey includes versions made from rye, corn, barley and other grains. Blended American whiskey is a mix of 20% American whiskey and 80% neutral spirit.

田纳西威士忌是产自田纳西州并经枫木炭过滤的波本威士忌。其他美国威士忌包括由黑麦、玉米、大麦及其他谷物酿制的酒品,调和型美国威士忌则是指由 20% 美国威士忌和 80% 中性酒精混合而成的威士忌。

How do I drink whiskey?


There's a vocabulary associated with spirits sipping that will come in handy when ordering at the bar. Certain words describe how your bartender will serve your liquor. Ask for your whiskey neat if you want it poured in your glass unadorned, at room temperature. On the rocks, conversely, means you want it poured over ice in your glass. Straight up usually means the same as "neat", but its usage can cause confusion, as American mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler has explained, because there's also the term up, which usually means chilled and served in a cocktail glass. You can also order your whiskey with a splash of water or water back, that is, a glass of water on the side. And, of course, there's no shame in simply spelling out in plain language what you'd like when ordering. Whiskey drinking isn't about memorization; it's about enjoying yourself.

一份与烈性酒有关的词汇表迟早可以在酒吧点酒时派上用场。其中包含的词汇描述了吧台服务员为你上酒的方式。如果想要份常温、不加点缀的威士忌,记得要点纯威士忌 (neat)。相反,加冰块 (On the rocks) 就表示你想在倒入威士忌前,在杯内加入冰块。通常情况下,不加冰块 (Straight up) 和“纯威士忌”表示的含义相同,但这样的说法时常会引起混淆,美国调酒师杰弗里·摩根萨拉 (Jeffrey Morgenthaler) 解释说,由于该词中所含的单词 up,多意味着冷却并使用鸡尾酒杯盛酒。 你还可以在点威士忌时要求兑入少量水,也可以要求水伴 (water back),即另外再上一杯水。 当然,在点酒时用其他平白的语言表达自己的喜好也没有什么好害羞的。毕竟喝威士忌又不是记单词,好好享用美酒才是要紧。

We recommend enjoying whiskey with a little bit of water added. (And with a little more water added when it comes to high alcohol content barrel proof, aka cask strength, whiskeys, which are bottled without any water added.) Some amount of dilution helps your nose and tongue smell and taste more of the flavours in your whiskey because it counteracts the alcohol's numbing of your senses. This is what whiskey tasters mean when they say that water helps "open up" the flavours.


When learning how to taste whiskey, keep in mind appearance, aroma (of first the straight whiskey and then the diluted whiskey), mouth-feel and flavour. For a quick tasting tutorial, famed whiskey taster Charles MacLean, author of Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History, demonstrates his approach for Single Malt TV.

在学习如何品鉴威士忌时,要考量其外观、香味(首先是威士忌原酒、其次是稀释后的酒液)、口感和味道。著名威士忌品酒师查尔斯·麦克利恩 (Charles MacLean) 所著《美酒传奇:苏格兰威士忌》提供了品鉴威士忌的速成方案,详细阐释了酿制纯麦芽威士忌的方法。

For a slightly more in-depth explanation of professional tasting, consultant editor Michael Jackson, an expert modest enough to recognize that his word on the subject was far from Gospel, shared his approach in Whisky Magazine.


Which whiskeys should I try?


For a final bit of direction, we've come up with suggestions for delicious varieties to taste. The next time you're at a whiskey bar – in Dublin, Speyside, Kentucky or anywhere else this spirit is dearly loved – see if they have one of these on the menu.

最后,我们将列举一些值得品尝的酒品。 下次造访(都柏林、斯贝塞、肯塔基或是深爱威士忌的任何其他地方的)威士忌酒吧时,请留意他们是否有下列酒单中的种类。

 • Bushmills 12 Year Old: an Irish whiskey with hints of sherry, fruit and nuts

 • 布什米尔(Bushmills) 12 年: 一款爱尔兰威士忌,含有少量雪莉酒、水果和坚果成分

 • Connemara Single Malt: a peaty whiskey, sweet, with hints of vanilla, from Ireland's only independent distillery, Cooley

 • 康纳玛拉(Connemara)纯麦芽: 泥炭威士忌、味甘、含有少量香草成分,产自爱尔兰唯一的独立酒厂:库里。

 • Dalwhinnie: scotch infused with an aroma of heather

 • 达尔维尼(Dalwhinnie): 带有石南花香的苏格兰威士忌

 • Ezra B Single Barrel: aged for 12 years, this bourbon is complex and tastes of spices and honey

 • 以斯拉 B (Ezra B)单桶: 陈酿 12 年,这种波本层次丰富、且带有香料与蜂蜜的口味。

 • Glenfarclas 12 Year Old: a single malt scotch from Speyside that's nutty and peaty with caramel notes

 • 格兰花格(Glenfarclas) 12 年: 一种源自斯贝塞的纯麦芽苏格兰威士忌,多坚果、多泥炭并带有焦糖香味。

 • Talisker: peaty scotch from the Isle of Skye

 • 泰斯卡(Talisker): 源自斯凯岛的多泥炭苏格兰威士忌

 • Willett 8 Year Old: a rare release bourbon from Kentucky, its barrel proof bite gives way to deep, smoky, molasses flavours

 • 威利特(Willett) 8 年: 产自肯塔基州限量发售的波本,其标准酒度释放出醇厚、烟熏味的蜜糖口味。

By now you must be good and thirsty. So go on and raise your glass. Sláinte!

说到这儿你肯定跃跃欲试、口渴难耐了。 那就尽情举杯吧。
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