The Trini guide to Whiskey drinking

As much as I love travelling, drinking whiskey is the perfect accoutrement to the road. The funny thing is that as a Trinidadian, drinking whisky isn’t in our blood, nor is it in our minds. The general Trini has no f’n clue about what the difference between Scotch and Whiskey is (hint : there is none) or what constitutes a single malt Scotch … I think I had a rant two years ago on this. So I got a response this morning that made me think … why not actually outline the differences for your readers. Before anyone starts … there are many men over the world, that aren’t aware of what whiskey actually is. My disclaimer here is that if you prefer your whiskey with coconut water, then there is really no helping your cause – so here is the Trini guide to Whiskey drinking …

So what is Whiskey?

Simply put, any true whiskey is booze distilled from some sort of fermented grain mash including malted barley, corn, rye or a combination of these grains. A true whiskey must also be distilled at a minimum of 40% ABV (alcohol by volume). I won’t bore you with a million technical details, but as a budding Whiskey drinker, you should actually know what the hell you’re drinking … so to start there are five sub-genres of whiskey

  1. Scotch
  2. Irish
  3. Rye
  4. Bourbon
  5. Tennessee.

Fantastic … so is Black and White or Dewars … SCOTCH?

Scotch is made from malted barley. (You can Google “Malted Barley” for the definition, son) and most Scotches are made from just barley, water and yeast. It’s a very simple drink to make. The drink must also endure a vigorous aging process. Scotch has to be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years with an ABV of less than 94.8%. The last defining character of a true Scotch is it’s origin. If it wasn’t made in Scotland, it’s not a true Scotch – it’s just another type of whiskey. If the last sentence is the only sentence you remember from this write up, then I’ve done my work. You’re also going to get the option of either single malt or blended Scotches. A single malt scotch is made from a single batch of whiskey while a blended Scotch is made from a mixture of batches. Trinis … Johnnie Walker Red and Black are blended … and they’re rather shitty, cheap blends to boot – which is why we have to cut that shit with Coconut Water. I prefer the following Scotches
Not Johnnie Walker Black and Coconut Water

Is Jameson, the only Irish Whiskey … if not, what’s Irish Whiskey then?

Irish Whiskey and Scotch have the same manufacturing requirements in that it has to be made with an ABV of less than 94.8% and aged for at least three years in wooden casks, although the type of wood doesn’t matter with Irish whiskey. The Irish never have a preference for any kind of wood (insert double entendre there) Fortunately, the rules pertaining to the making of Irish whiskey are less rigid, allowing for a larger variety of Irish whiskies. Just like Scotch, Irish whiskey can only be considered Irish Whiskey if it was distilled in Ireland. OBVIOUSLY!!!

Good, so I know about Johnnie Walker and Jameson, so how about Rye?

Yet another great thing about Canada is that there is Rye here. Canada has been distilling rye for roughly 150 years, hence Canadian whisky. However in Canada, because they’re so flexible, they’ve allowed rye content rather the Rye majority hence Canadian rye is sometimes distilled with 9x more corn mash than rye mash. Which makes for a different substance. In the US, however, rye must be made with no less than 51% rye mash. It must also be aged in brand new, charred oak barrels and distilled to an ABV less than 80%. To be considered Straight Rye, it must also be aged for a minimum of two years. Americans don’t mess around!

Rye sounds like farts, how about about Bourbon?

Bourbon is similar to rye in that it must be distilled to an ABV less than 80% and also must be aged in brand new, charred oak barrels. Also, whereas bourbon has no minimum aging restriction, it can also only be considered Straight Bourbon if it was aged for no less than two years. It also cannot include any coloring or flavoring. The only real difference between rye and bourbon is that instead of 51% rye, bourbon must be distilled with at least 51% corn – hence Canadian Rye is more Bourbon than Rye … but that’s another discussion. Finally, Bourbon can only be considered Bourbon if it’s made in the United States, primarily Kentucky.

Is Jack Daniels Bourbon? Nope … it’s Tennessee Whiskey!

You have to love branding. Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon are the same thing except, that they’re the only type of whiskey that filters their product through thick maple charcoal before aging it in charred oak barrels. Like everything else … Tennessee whiskey can only be considered Tennessee whiskey if it was made in Tennessee … and the main Tennessee Whiskey is Jack Daniels.

Fantastic … but as a Trini … I don’t know shit about drinking the liquid? Can you tell me how?

For sure my plebeian friend. There are many ways to drink whiskey but drinking Whiskey Shot is not the way to do it – whiskey is not meant for chugging. Whiskey is intended to be leisurely sipped. “Yuh ent drinking Scotch in the rum shop”. The goal is to enjoy the varying flavor profiles of the whiskey, not blacking out and shitting yourself. Drinking with Coconut Water doesn’t help the flavour profile either, you’re trying to be all posh and shit. Here’s a couple pointers

  1. Don’t pour yourself a full glass – you’re going to waste it or get so drunk, that you won’t know your name.
  2. Whiskey is often measured in “fingers”.
    • Hold your finger next to the glass and pour yourself a finger’s width. For instance, if you were to order two fingers of whiskey, you’d end up with roughly two adult-sized finger widths of whiskey in your glass. Simple enough?
    • Don’t go to a fete and ask for “Two fingers” of Scotch unless you want some idiot literally putting two fingers in your Scotch
  3. Whiskey is intended for sipping and enjoying, not chugging and puking.
  4. You can always get more!!!

Here’s how not to pour Scotch :

Here’s how not to serve people Scotch and what you should do with it

Here some more terminology

  • Some people drink their whiskey “on the rocks” which means with ice.
  • Whiskey “neat” means plain, without ice.
  • Other people will water their whiskey down … so ask for “Water on the side”
  • Poshy looking people will want a whiskey cocktail like the classic Manhattan, which can be enjoyed “up” in a martini glass or on the rocks.
  • If you really are a WORLD BOSS in Scotch – then buy some Whiskey Stones … I have a set of them, and they’re awesome as they are perfect for freezing and putting in your drink because they keep your drink somewhat cool without melting or watering down your whiskey.

There is no right way to drink whiskey – but there are some less right way … in the end, it is all a matter of preference, unless you’re drinking a good single malt Scotch with Coconut Water – then just ignore everything I said and throw yourself into the Caroni Swamp – so concludes the Trini guide to Whiskey drinking. As for where to drink fine scotch in Trinidad … well this is yet another post I’ll have to write.

BTW : Much kudos to the original form of this article – it was so well written that it inspired this post …

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at

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