Whiskey 101


Many times we get asked, “what kind of whiskey is this?” People are familiar with terms like Bourbon, Scotch, Single Malt, Canadian, and blended whiskies among others. But what are RoughStock Montana Whiskeys?

To answer that, we must first understand what certain terminology means. Just because “whiskey” or “whisky” is in the name does not make all whiskies the same. I’ll start alphabetically with a brief description of the major world/geographical styles and the laws (yes, there are international laws) governing what can be called what. I’ll also break down some of the more popular sub-styles afterwards. I am going to leave the extensive details out to make this readable and not an encyclopedia reference.

This is an American whiskey made from 51% corn or more, the rest being comprised of wheat or rye and a small portion of malted barley (although any grain can be used as long as the corn content is at 51% or greater). It has to be aged in brand-new charred American white oak barrels for any amount of time. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, not just Kentucky (a popular misconception). This is one of the most famous American whiskies. Popular brands: Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Basil Haden’s, Van Winkle, Woodford Reserve, etc.

Just as the name implies, this whiskey has to be a product of Canada. Generally Canadian whiskey is a blend of various types of whiskey, but mostly it is a grain whiskey made from corn, wheat, rye, and barley and aged in used oak barrels for no less than 3 years. Brands: Crown Royal, Pendleton, Canadian Mist.

You’re not going to believe it but, yes, Irish Whiskey must be made in Ireland. We owe the Irish for their Gaelic term “uisce beatha” which translates to “water of life”. The word uisce became whiskey. We can also thank them for the extra “e” in whiskey. Traditionally Irish Whiskey is made from barley and triple distilled in copper pot stills. Brands: Bushmills, Jameson, Tullamore Dew.


The definition of rye whisk(e)y will differ from Canada to the US, but I’ll concentrate solely on the US definition as the Canadian term can be a bit more involved. Just as Bourbon must be 51% corn, Rye Whiskey must be at least 51% rye. Most major brands only employ 60-80% rye content in their whiskeys, the rest being mostly corn. Popular brands: Templeton, Sazerac.

Again, made ONLY in Scotland. Scotch Whisky (notice the missing “e”) is one of the largest and most popular styles in the world. Scotch can be a blend, grain, single malt, etc. but must primarily be vatted with barley and aged for no less than 3 years and 1 day in used oak barrels. Scotch is typically known for its double distillation in copper pot stills. Brands: Glenfiddich, Bowmore, Ardbeg, etc., etc.

Now some whiskey terminology (again, briefly):

Blended whiskey: Can contain both malt whiskey and grain whiskey.

Grain whiskey: May contain unmalted barley or other malted and unmalted grains.

Single Malt: Made entirely from a single malted grain stock, traditionally barley,
and made in one distillery.

Single barrel: the entire bottling is coming from one barrel instead of a blend of many barrels.

Straight whiskey: An American whiskey aged no less than 2 years in new charred American white oak barrels.

Tennessee whiskey: Basically a bourbon that has been distilled in Tennessee. Most in Tennessee char filter the spirit through maple char after distillation. i.e. Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel.

WHEW! That was more than most people need to know. However, it’s a good base of knowledge to understand what exactly RoughStock Montana Whiskeys actually are. We are simply whiskey that is made in Montana. Our Malt, Rye, and Bourbon Whiskeys can be called such because they are made in the United States and aged in brand-new charred American white oak barrels, unfiltered, distilled under 160 Proof, and barreled at no less than 125 Proof. Our Spring Wheat Whiskey is aged in our USED malt casks and finished with French Oak. Our Corn Whiskey is entirely un-aged. All of our whiskeys, excluding our Bourbon, are made with 100% single grain and made entirely at RoughStock Distillery. Our Bourbon is a blend of corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley in the mash and made entirely at RoughStock Distillery. Generally American whiskies are bourbon-style and mostly made from corn and typically single malts are best known in Scotch and Irish whisk(e)y circles and are touted as their premium brands. We’ve combined many processes from different regions and made them our own guideline for making RoughStock Montana Whiskeys.

If you are still reading that means you aren’t bored to death over this whole terminology bit. Why didn’t we just put “American Single Malt” on the bottle for our Pure Malt Whiskey? Good question. The answer is that we want people to enjoy it for what it is and not what its’ classification may be. We get a lot of questions as to what it tastes like. RoughStock Montana Whiskeys do not taste like anything out there. With our process, we highlight the grain flavor for each whiskey. We also get the fuller finish by using the brand-new barrels that impart all of those good caramel/vanilla/fruit notes you find in premium Bourbons but without an overbearing oak tone. The best of both worlds!

If this has you all confused you then I ask that you just sit back, relax, and enjoy RoughStock Montana Whiskeys at face value. It’s a labor of love and I love what I make!

Bryan Schultz