These days, you don’t have to go far to find a bar that serves exactly what you’re looking for, especially when it comes to whiskey—scotch, bourbon, rye, Canadian, whiskey from Japan or Australia or California. Whiskey is distilled today in at least 23  countries,. Needless to say, this spirit is a huge deal, enjoyed by millions worldwide.

Although whiskey is widely appreciated, there is much to understand about it. It exists in countless varieties (even some that are flavored with spices and other additives, though serious whiskey-drinkers turn up their noses at those), and depending on the kind, and on the drinker's taste, can be enjoyed straight or in a cocktail either classic or new.

The next time you taste Johnny Walker or Jameson or (if you're lucky) Pappy Van Winkle, rattle off a few of these little-known whiskey facts for a spirited conversation with friends.

1. 150 years and counting...



The oldest existing whiskey is believed to be a 400-milliliter bottle of Glenavon Special Liqueur Whisky. Bottled between 1851 and 1858,it currently holds the Guinness World Record for ‘World’s Oldest Whisky,’ and was auctioned off for an extraordinary $16,519.88.

2. Angels like to imbibe too.


rack of barrels of alcohol (iStock)

Whiskey is aged in barrels, which are porous, and gradually loses volume through evaporation at a rate of two to four percent a year. This is jokingly known as the "angel’s share" or "angel’s tax." You can see the results of this process if you look at the ceiling in an aging cellar: it will have been turned black by the rising alcohol vapor.

3. It's actually clear.


Moonshine jug and mason jar (iStock)

Whiskey is completely clear in its natural, unaged form. The color and flavor is acquired from the oak casks during the aging process as well as from additives like treated caramel, which influences color, not taste. Less expensive whiskies tend to contain caramel.

4. Whiskey or whisky? How do you spell it?



The spelling of this spirit can be a confusing. Rule of thumb: When referring to bottles hailing from Canada, Japan, or Scotland, it’s whisky. American, Irish, and English whiskies are called whiskey. According to legend, Scots spell it without the "e" because they believe more vowels waste good drinking time. Seems like maybe the Canadians and Japanese agree.

5. Scotch is scarce.


Bottle and tube of a single malt whisky from the highlands: distilled by the distillery Balvenie in Scotland, United kingdom. The whisky is a single barrel filling from an sherry cask and is 15 years old (iStock)

Interest in single malt scotch has significantly increased. Sales have more than doubled since 2004. The problem with that single malts are usually bottled with at least 10 years of age, so as demand exponentially increases, the actual product is becoming less and less available. One option some distillers have chosen is releasing single malts without an age stamp. This gives blenders leeway to adjust to gaps in inventory but there’s a chance younger single malts may be sold.

Check out more whisky-- and whiskey-- facts.

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