Your Guide to Drinking Whisky

We shared a wee dram with Brand Manager for Whisky at Southtrade International Andrew Milne, who told us everything you need to know about this delicious golden drop. 

What makes whisky, well, whisky? According to Milne, it varies country to country slightly, but essentially it’s a spirit made from fermented grains (typically malted barley, rye, corn or wheat) that’s been distilled, then aged in oak casks for a minimum of two to three years, but often much longer. It’s then bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV. “There are many caveats here, but essentially that’s the general rule,” Milne says. “Basically, make a beer without hops, chuck it in a kettle and capture the steam. That’s your whisky.” 

“Make a beer without hops, chuck it in a kettle and capture the steam. That’s your whisky.”

Brand Manager for Whisky at Southtrade International Andrew Milne

Whisky is made around the world, however the most famous whisky makers would be Scotland, Ireland and North America. These countries have official bodies that strictly govern whisky production. “Some say Ireland created whisky, and Scotland perfected it… but you have to be careful who you say that to!” Milne says. 

“Scotland has a skill and tradition to its whisky production that’s been passed down over many years. The skill set and knowledge of these distillers is incredible, as most have worked their way through the distillery from an early age and know every aspect of production. That knowledge inevitably makes great whisky. 

“There’s some incredible innovation across the world, but I feel that Scotland is very much the whisky knowledge pool that all other countries learn from.” 

How Whisky’s Made: From Malt to Bottle

Whisky around the world… and at home 

The world of whisky is ever expanding, with many  countries you wouldn’t
usually associate with whisky now getting some serious attention.  “India has been showing some incredible quality in their single malt whisky from distilleries such as Paul John and Amrut,” Milne says. 

You’d be amazed just where whisky is being made these days. Scandinavia
is making some really good-quality whisky and an Israeli distillery also recently released a whisky.  “India, Taiwan and Japan are definitely some of the most developed in terms of experience,” Milne says. 

Japan has recently taken the whisky world by storm and – given the limited supply – prices have now shot up to reflect that.  But what about Australia? Well, we recently won a few world awards for our whiskies, so we’re certainly not a country to sniff (snifter?) at. 

“It used to be believed that all Australian whisky was made in Tasmania,” Milne says. “But we have distilleries in almost every state now, and the overall quality is superb. 

“There’s plenty of variety out there. Starward Whisky in Melbourne is a particular favourite of mine and great value for those just getting into whisky. But there’s so much to explore in just Australia alone. You can also expect to see more and more from all across the world in the coming years.” 

Around The World With Whisky 

Gotta love a company built on passion… and good alcohol. The Whisky Company is
a promising start-up aiming to be Australia’s number one dedicated online whisky store. The founders, originally from Scotland, have a shared love of whisky and want to introduce Aussies to the joy of whiskies from around the world. They are happy to help you
find a rare whisky or introduce you to their lifelong passion. True connoisseurs, TWC
will take you on a global whisky adventure. Check out their site below. Cheers! 

Whiskey Cocktail?

Forget the G & T – whisky and tonic
is a great drink.  “Especially
with a lighter style like Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic Water,” Milne says. 
“I’m also a big fan of the classics – so things like a Manhattan (whisky, sweet vermouth and bitters), Boulevardier (whisky, sweet vermouth and Campari) or Sazerac (rye whisky, absinthe, bitters and sugar). 
But you can also use whisky to replace other spirits to create a great cocktail. Starward Two-Fold Pina Coladas are life-changing.” 

FAQ: Spirits

Super-expensive whiskies: Are they
really worth the extra dosh? 

“Does an Omega tell the time better than a Casio?” Milne asks. “Super-expensive whiskies are generally highly priced due to rarity and age. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth the price, it just means that to most, they’re either unaffordable or not worth the perceived value.
The quality of these whiskies is usually really high, but for most of us it’s unlikely to become your everyday drop.” 

Beginner’s buying guide

“I’d recommend starting with a grain-led whisky or bourbon as these tend to be softer, with less of a ‘burn’ factor that people might find off-putting,” Milne explains. “Something soft, sweet and fruity like Buffalo Trace Bourbon is a
good option. More locally, Starward Two-Fold is a great introduction to whisky. They mix grain and malted barley and mature in red wine casks, giving you a soft, fruity whisky that’s great neat or with a mixer like tonic water.” 

Storing your whisky

“Always store your whisky upright and away from direct sunlight, as these are the easiest ways to damage your whisky,” Milne advises. Storing your whisky lying down will lead to the cork disintegrating , allowing oxygen to leak into the bottle and affecting the taste. “Ideally, you want a consistent climate where you don’t have strong temperature fluctuations, but only if you’re storing for extended periods of time, such as two years or more.” 

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