Whiskey & Spirits For Dummies®


by Perry Luntz




About the Author

Perry Luntz has been involved in one way or another with the beverage alcohol business most of his adult life. For more than 20 years he has been publisher and editor of Beverage Alcohol Market Report, an international e-letter for marketing executives in beer, wine, and spirits. He served as Director of Marketing Communications for Seagram Distillers for a decade, worked on the creative side of several advertising agencies, including a spell as a creative director of a Young & Rubicam division, and for several years headed his own marketing communications agency.

A consultant, lecturer, teacher, and news media source, Perry is frequently interviewed in newspapers, radio, and television, including the BBC. He is chairman emeritus of the Wine Media Guild, proving he knows his way around vineyards and breweries, as well as distilleries.

Like many native New Yorkers, Perry is a political junky. He served several years as president of a highly regarded NYC political club.

For the past decade, Perry has been Senior Editor of the Beverage Media Group, a network of trade magazines read by 140,000 licensed retailers. He also writes a weekly column for the group’s B-to-B Internet site.

He lives with his wife Carol Ann Rinzler in the Center of the Known Universe — Midtown Manhattan — occasionally visiting his home town of Brooklyn, where his son Russell lives with wife Lisa Di Gennaro. In the winter, he and Carol often become “snow birds” to descend on the rest of their family, Ira, Jacky, and grandsons Ari and Eli, who live in Sarasota, Florida.



For Lloyd, whose light is gone but whose spirit is always with us.



It’s impossible to say how much I owe to Carol Ann Rinzler, my wife, confidant, love of my life, and a damned good editor as well as a prolific and terrific author. I’ll settle for saying just this: I couldn’t have done it without you!

For my children, Ira and Jackie, Russell and Lisa, and my grand- children Ari and Eli — my cheering section — most appreciation and love.

On a professional level, my blessings are extended to the many friends and mentors in the spirits business with whom I’ve worked over the years. They are the most generous and forthcoming people in the world, and I love them all.

In particular, I want to thank Bill Slone, whose support made this book possible. Special acknowledgment goes to my oldest and wisest friends in the business, Gerry Slone, Ron Kapon, and Herbert Silverman, as well as the two best mixologists in the world, Dale De Grof and Ray Foley.

Particular thanks to Lisa Hawkins of DISCUS and Chris Morris of Brown-Forman, who helped make sure the chapter on distillation was accurate. In all cases, any errors are mine, not those who helped me.

And of course where would this book have been without the gentle editorial ministrations of Wiley’s Michael Lewis, Tim Gallan, Sarah Faulkner, and my guardian angel agent Phyllis Westberg.

It was a long time coming, but I hope all who contributed to it enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at www.dummies.com/register/.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Senior Project Editor: Tim Gallan

Acquisitions Editor: Michael Lewis

Copy Editor: Sarah Faulkner

Technical Reviewers: William Greenman, Mike Tully

Editorial Program Coordinator: Erin Calligan Mooney

Editorial Managers: Christine Meloy Beck, Michelle Hacker

Editorial Assistants: Joe Niesen, David Lutton, Leeann Harney

Cover Photo: © Dorling Kindersley/ Getty Images

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (www.the5thwave.com)

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Erin Smith

Layout and Graphics: Stephanie D. Jumper, Shelley Norris, Christine Williams

Anniversary Logo Design: Richard Pacifico

Proofreaders: Todd Lothery, Nancy L. Reinhardt

Indexer: Becky Hornyak

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I : Entering the Spirits World

Chapter 1: Discovering Distilled Spirits

A Brief History of Distilled Spirits

Setting Standards for Producing Modern Distilled Spirits

The Types of Spirits

A Word about the Words

Chapter 2: How Distilled Spirits Are Created

The Distillation Process in a Nutshell

The Basic Material for Distilling

Milling and Mashing

Distilling: The Main Event

Aging Gracefully

Blending Science with Art

Bottle, Bottle, Who’s Got the Bottle?

Chapter 3: Enjoying Spirits

Assembling the Accoutrements

Getting to the Good Part

Serving Spirits Day to Day

Part II : Whiskeys from Around the World

Chapter 4: Sipping the Irish Whiskeys

Entering the Emerald Isle

The Uniqueness of Irish Whiskey

The Leading Irish Whiskeys

Tasting Irish Whiskey

Planning a Blended Meal

Touring the Source

Chapter 5: Saluting the Scots

Which Came First: Whiskey or Whisky?

Making Scotch Whisky

The Styles of Scotch Whisky

Tasting Scotch Whisky

Planning a Scotch-Friendly Meal

Traveling through Distillery Land

Chapter 6: American Cousins: Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of . . . Whiskey?

Making Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey

The Types of Bourbon

Tasting Bourbons and Tennessee Whiskeys

Pairing Foods with Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey

Touring the Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey Distilleries

Chapter 7: More Whiskeys from America and Other Parts of the World

The Character of American Blended Whiskey

Building a Blended Whiskey

Tasting American Blended Whiskeys

Planning an American Blended Meal

Traveling the American Whiskey Trail

Off the Beaten Whiskey Trails

Chapter 8: Channeling the Canadians

Starting at the Top (of the World)

What Makes a Whisky Canadian?

How Canadian Whisky Is Made

Tasting the Best of Canada

Pairing Foods with Canadian Whisky

Part III : Surfing the White Waters: A Guide to “Clear” Spirits

Chapter 9: Getting the Goods on Gin

The Origins of Gin

The Brits Take Charge

Making Modern Gin

Touring the World of Gin

Tasting the World’s Gin

Serving Gin

Chapter 10: Vodka: Toasting the Russians

What Is Vodka, Anyway?

The Birth of a “Breathless” Spirit

Vodka Takes a Long Voyage

Distilling Vodka

The Second Vodka Revolution: The Flavor Factor

Tasting Vodkas

The Foods That Match the Drinks

Chapter 11: Tequila: Unearthing the Aztecs

The First North American Spirit

Defining Tequila: New Standards for a New Global Spirit

How Tequila Is Made

The Different Brands of Tequila

Tasting Tequila and Mezcal

Pairing Food with Tequila

Chapter 12: Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum

The History of Rum

How Rum Is Produced

Where That Rum Is From and Why It Matters

Tasting the World’s Rums

Part IV : Enjoying the “After Dinner” Specials

Chapter 13: Cultivating Brandy

The “Champagne” of Distilled Spirits

Where Do Brandies Come From?

Brandy by Type

Distilling Brandies

Tasting Brandy

Serving Brandy: Neat or Mixed? Warm or Cool?

Pairing Brandy and Food

Chapter 14: Collecting Cordials, Lining Up Liqueurs

The Birth of the Liqueur

Cordially Yours: The Making

Cordials by the Ingredients

A Cordial Tasting

Pairing Foods with Cordials and Liqueurs

Part V : The Part of Tens

Chapter 15: Ten (or so) Classic Spirits Cocktails

Oops! Tomato Juice on My Blouse: The Bloody Mary

Alexander! Another Brandy!

War Is Hell, so Pass the Rum — in a Daiquiri, if You Please

A Shipboard Romance: The Gimlet

Uptown, Downtown: The Manhattan

If You Knew Margie Like I Know Margie: The Margarita

The World’s Most Famous Cocktail: The Martini

A Cuban Cup of Cheer: The Mojito

The Highland Fling: Rob Roy

Simple Perfection: The Whiskey Sour

Horses, Grass, and Mint: The Mint Julep

Chapter 16: Ten Spirited Dishes

Chilled Melon Pepper Soup with Glazed Shrimp

Game Pâté Terrine

Marinated Salmon

Penne à la Vodka

Chicken Fajitas

Filet Mignon with Whiskey Sauce

Green Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts

Tennessee Whiskey Candied Apples

AppleJack Pound Cake

Nut Ball Cookies

Chapter 17: Ten Nutrition Profiles of Alcohol Beverages





Coffee Liqueur

Coffee with Cream Liqueur

Whiskey Sour (Cocktail, Made from a Powdered Mix)

Tequila Sunrise (Cocktail, Canned)

Piña Colada (Cocktail, Canned)

Daiquiri (Cocktail, Canned)

Chapter 18: Ten (or so) Health Benefits of Moderate Drinking

Heartening News

Lowering Bad Cholesterol, Raising Good Cholesterol

Busting Blood Clots

Lowering the Pressure

Staving Off Stroke

Deterring Diabetes

Protecting Intelligence

Preserving the Brain

Boosting Bones

Enhancing Appetite

Controlling Weight

Countering the Common Cold

: Further Reading


For thousands of years man and womankind celebrated major events — religious and secular — by having a taste or even two of a fermented beverage that contained alcohol. Things got even tastier around 800 CE — the height of development of the Moorish culture. That’s when a brilliant alchemist in the perpetual search for a way to turn lead into gold attempted to urge the release of the “essence” of various fruits and grains. The result was not only better than anything ever enjoyed before, but it also could be repeated over and over again.

That brilliant alchemist had found distillation. The art of making the most noble of beverages was created by nature and perfected by men and women. This book is dedicated to giving you a full explanation of distillation from the simplest and most popular spirit (vodka) to the most complicated (whiskey and brandy).

No, Whiskey & Spirits For Dummies definitely won’t tell you how to set up your very own still in the basement (or bathtub) so that you can whip up a batch of your very own whiskey, gin, vodka, Tequila, rum, cordial, or Cognac.

Instead, this book aims to increase your appreciation of the qualities in fine distilled spirits, enabling you to make wise choices from the myriad products on the shelves in your local liquor store or in the literally hundreds of cocktails available for serving or drinking on social occasions. Drinking alcohol beverages is indeed a social thing to do. It’s also part of religious services, and its use as a psychic benefit is unquestioned. There are other sides to these noble beverages as well.

This book also presents some ways in which a measured drink or two a day can create a more healthful way to live. I also talk about how to avoid any of the unpleasant results that can come from drinking too much.

For those readers who know absolutely nothing about distilled spirits other than that these beverages enhance a social setting and dining experience, this book is a good place to start to pick up the basics.

More experienced connoisseurs will find this a refresher course that can confirm their own good taste, introduce them to a few new types and brands of distilled spirits, and provide the kind of odds and ends — for example, why whiskey is spelled whiskey in Ireland and whisky in Scotland — that enliven cocktail conversation. And, yes, I give you several classic cocktail recipes in here, too.

Conventions Used in This Book

To make the text consistent and easier to read, Whiskey & Spirits For Dummies follows the usual Dummies style. For example:

bullet All Web addresses are printed in monofont.

bullet When this book was printed, some Web addresses may have needed to break across two lines of text. If that happened, rest assured that I didn’t put in any extra characters (such as hyphens) to indicate the break. So, when using one of these Web addresses, just type in exactly what you see in this book, pretending that the line break doesn’t exist.

bullet New terms appear in italic type and are followed by an easy-to-understand definition.

bullet Bold type is used to highlight the action parts of numbered steps.

What You’re Not to Read

Imagine: An author telling you that you don’t have to read every word that appears in his book. The truth is that some small parts of this book are fun or provide information that you may not find anywhere else, but they aren’t absolutely essential to your understanding of the basic facts about distilled spirits. For example:

bullet The text in sidebars: These shaded boxes are exactly that — sidebars to the main event — a little anecdote here, a special factoid there. Fascinating, but not essential.

bullet The text next to a Technical Stuff icon: Readers who want to know every single fact about how things work will find these paragraphs a delight. Readers who can do without the technical details can surf on by.

bullet The text on the copyright page: Really. This page is for publishers and libraries. If my editor put the dedication there to save space, I think you should read about the people who helped make this book possible, but the publisher’s address? The number of editions? The Library of Congress identification number? Nah.

Foolish Assumptions

If an author clicks the computer, hits typewriter keys, or pushes a quill pen across the page, what’s in front of him or her is an image of the person for whom the book is being written. These are some of the assumptions I made about you:

bullet You know the names of the different types of distilled spirits, but you may not be totally familiar with the characteristics that differentiate a whiskey from a Tequila (you may even know why Tequila is spelled with a capital letter and whiskey is not).

bullet You’ve read conflicting reports about the risks and benefits of spirits (and other kinds of alcohol beverages), and you want to pin down the real facts.

bullet You want the basic information about these products and how they’re made, but you have no intention of opening your own distillery. That’s good, because a few paragraphs back you were told that this book isn’t designed to tell you how to do that.

bullet Most important, you enjoy the flavor, aroma, and panache of distilled spirits — but only and always in moderation.

How This Book Is Organized

The following is a brief summary of each part of Whiskey & Spirits For Dummies. You can use this as a fast guide to check out the stuff you want to go to first, because the best thing about a For Dummies book is that no one expects you to start at Chapter 1 and work your way straight through to the end. Each chapter here is a whole little book of its own, which means that you can start anywhere and still come out with a wealth of new information about distilled spirits.

Part I: Entering the Spirits World

Chapter 1 is (what else?) a general introduction to the universe of distilled spirits. Chapter 2 is more technical: A detailed description of the distillation process in all its traditional glory. Chapter 3 tells you how to serve, evaluate, and enjoy the products produced in Chapter 2.

Part II: Whiskeys from Around the World

Chapter 4 is all about how the Irish introduced the first whiskeys. Chapter 5 explains how the Scots adopted the Irish spirits — and changed the spelling to “whisky,” thus confusing generation after generation of whiskey (or is it whisky?) drinkers.

Chapter 6 salutes two quintessential Americans — Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. Chapter 7 describes the other great American innovation, American blended whiskey, and tells you all about upstarts from India, Japan, and New Zealand. Chapter 8 goes north to talk about a Canadian contribution to New World whisky choices.

Part III: Surfing the White Waters: A Guide to “Clear” Spirits

Chapter 9 focuses on gin, from its birth in the Netherlands, toward its perfection in London, through its Prohibition adolescence, to its present presence. Chapter 10 is about vodka, the clear Russian spirit now often enjoyed in totally unexpected flavors. Chapter 11 is all about Tequila, the Aztec contribution to your drinking pleasure. Chapter 12 focuses on rum, the spirit made from sugar cane first carried to the Western hemisphere by Christopher Columbus. Yes, that Christopher Columbus.

Part IV: Enjoying the “After Dinner” Specials

The subject of Chapter 13 is Winston Churchill’s favorite spirit, brandy. Chapter 14 rewards the sweet tooth with info about the sweet stuff: cordials and liqueurs.

Part V: The Part of Tens

This is the part of the book regular For Dummies readers never skip. Chapter 15 pours recipes for ten classic cocktails (with an extra from the bartender). Chapter 16 dishes out menu choices — entrees, main dishes, veggies, and desserts — whose ingredients include at least one type of spirit. Chapter 17 tells what nutrients (!) are in one serving of each type of distilled spirits. Chapter 18 concludes with the actual health benefits of moderate spirits consumption.

Icons Used in This Book


This icon points out general good ideas, such as serving suggestions, buying advice, and so forth.


I use this icon to highlight important concepts that you shouldn’t forget.


This icon flags nonessential information that may be too technical or detailed for some readers. You can skip it if you want.

Where to Go from Here

Now the question is where to begin reading. The real answer is anywhere your curiosity takes you in the Table of Contents. However, one good starting point is Chapter 2, the one that explains how distilled spirits are made. A second good starting point is Chapter 3, the one that shows you how to enjoy distilled products. Both chapters have information that applies to all types of spirits.

Wherever you start, hopefully it will be a trip you’ll remember for a long time. Good traveling.

Part I

Entering the Spirits World

In this part . . .

Just like that first sip of your favorite spirit, this part is pure pleasure. Here I trace the history of distilled spirits, right from the beginning in the 11th century. I also explain the distillation process, and I offer tips on how to serve and enjoy distilled spirits. I recommend reading the chapters in this part if you’re new to the spirits world; this information is bound to whet your appetite for the various alcohol beverages you can read about in the rest of the book. Pour yourself a glass of whiskey, settle into your most comfortable chair, and start reading.