WSET Level 1 Award in Spirits Study Note – 2

WSET Level 1 Award in Spirits Study Note – 2

Attached my study note for WSET Level 1 Award in Spirits. I have also included a mini Q&A that posted answers to questions that I have raised while studying the course material. The material presented in Q&A might not be relevant to the examination and at times might not be included in the course material.

This section contains comparison of the different spirits type in terms of locations, raw materials, fermentation process, distillation, post-distillation, aromas, flavor, blending, colors, sweetness and other short notes.

TypeCognacVodkaWhiskeyScotch WhiskeyUSA Whiskey
LocationOnly South-West of France, North of BordeauxAnywhere in the worldMade throughout the world with best known region Scotland, USA, Ireland, Canada, JapanMust be distilled in Scotland and aged for a minimum of 3 years.

We can have single malt or blended whiskey
Bourbon can be made anywhere in USA.
Tennessee whiskey can only be made in Tennessee.

Most whiskey are made in Kentucky. Both are the border states divided by their loyalties during the American Civil War.
Raw MaterialGrapesAny raw material, more popular types are grains based :

1. barley
2. wheat
3. rye
4. potatoes
Must be made of grains

Most important one are:
1. barley
2. corn
3. rye
Single Malt :100% malted barley.

Blended Whiskey: blend of malt whiskies and grain whiskies from different distilleries
1. For Bourbon 51% must be corn. Others can be barley and rye.

2. For USA Rye Whiskey, 51% of the grain must be Rye.

Rye from other countries varies in compositions.
FermentationFermenting grape juiceFermenting sugarly liquid from raw materialStarch are converted into sugar before fermentation can start.

1. Malting [add water to start barley grow and than use hot air to stop the growth]

2. Crushed and mixed with water , yeast (enzymes) and maybe others grains
DistillationBy law, double distilled in pot stillNeutral spirit 95% abv (USA) 96% abv (Europe) using column stillEither Column or pot can be used if not limited by lawSingle Malt Whiskey : Pot stills, and for single malt it comes from only single distillery.

Blended Whiskey : Column still for grain base whiskey, malt based whiskey is from pot stills
Typically using column still
Post-DistillationMust be aged in oak barrels for at least 2 yearsUnaged and reduced to bottle strength of 40% abvAged in oak and blended typically, diluted to typically 40% abv for bottling1. For both Rye and Bourbon whiskey in USA, it has to be aged in new charred oak barrel.

2. Tennessee Whiskey needs to pass through acharcoal filter before putting into oak
AromaFruity and Flora. Old cognac develop:
1. fruit cake 2. leather 3. wood polish 
Some hint of raw materials will show on the nose and paleteBarley – Cereal

Corn – Sweetcorn

Rye – Spicy and peppery
Blended :
light aroma intensity and smooth texture
Rye :
It has no flavourCereal
Fruit cake
Sweet spices
Sweet corn

For Tennessee Whiskey, the filtering does not adds flavor.
BlendingNearly all cognac are blendedTypically blendedSingle malt is not blended.

Others can be e.g. Jonnie Walker Blue label
ColorsCaramels are added frequentlyClearCaramels if necessary and permitted
SugarFrequently addedNoNoNoNo
NotesVS 2 : years

VSOP :4 years

XO :10 years
Vodka is a neutral spirit because at 95% abv it has no flavour.

Because of this, it is good for mixed drinks and cocktails
Some pot still distilled Irish Whiskey are made on unmalted barley which has a distinct nutty and oily character.Rye is the signature flavor of the best Canadian Whiskey.

OB: Official Bottle
IB: Independent Bottle

Tabasco uses bourbon cask for fermentation.

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