Okay, so when you think whiskey, you’re probably thinking good times with good friends, a late night at the bar, karaoke, maybe some dancing, and then — the inevitable morning after. Nevertheless, whiskey isn’t all about the fast and loose lifestyle of outlaw cowboys, or the shots with the bros from that seedy biker bar down the street. It can also have some positive effects on your general health and well-being.
For the most part, whiskey isn’t made of much else but grain mash and water, but as far as alcohol goes, whiskey is an antioxidant powerhouse, seeped in the kinds of benefits you’re used to finding in the produce aisle.
Over the past few decades, there have been numerous studies on alcohol consumption and how it affects the body. Whether that’s been to give the alcoholic beverage industry a boost, or help us collectively feel better about our unabashed love of the sauce, there’s been a considerable amount of evidence that whiskey can actually alleviate some of the problems plaguing the general health of the human race. That’s right, we’re talking benefits that impact everything from multiple cancers and heart disease to cold and flu, and even the ailments of the human psyche like stress.
A Bit About Our Favorite Beverage
There’s not a whole lot of difference between whiskey, scotch and bourbon — they’re all made from grain mash and boast a high alcohol content. It mostly boils down to a question of geography — similar to how champagne can only be called champagne if it’s from that region in France. Scotch, as you may gather, is from Scotland (shocker!), while bourbon is American as apple pie, generally made in Kentucky. Then, there’s a matter of difference in grain — bourbon comes from corn, and Scotch from barley.
In the US, there’s a difference between a whiskey from Kentucky, and one from Tennessee. The difference between these two types is all in the filtering — whiskey from Tennessee is filtered through charcoal.
Nature’s Stress Relief (Ok, Not Exactly…)
It’s amazing how you can come home, pour yourself a stiff one and the stresses just start to melt away — you know, that dumb colleague at work, financial woes or the uncertain nature of your relationship with your significant other. Whiskey — in moderation — calms the nerves and soothes the mind. It works by slowing down brain activity while increasing circulation, providing the body with fresh, oxygenated blood. This process helps achieve that sense of calm that comes when breaking into a good bottle of liquor.
At the risk of seeming like a wet blanket, it’s worth noting that the stress relieving power of alcohol is what often leads people down the fraught path of alcoholism or abuse. If you find that you’re using alcohol as a means to avoid life’s major stresses, that’s where things become dangerous, and you should probably consider another outlet.
It’s Diet Friendly…Well, Sorta
The all too familiar notion that you’ll never lose weight unless you stay far far away from alcohol is bonkers. If you’re really looking for your drink fix without throwing that green juice lifestyle out the window, stick with hard liquor and keep it simple. Neat, or on the rocks, it’s up to you. Though vodka leads the way in the “alcohol for dieters” category, whiskey is a close second. Plus it’s a little tastier, more nuanced and rich, not meant to be gulped. Whiskey is a low-calorie alcohol, and if you’re really worried, fat and cholesterol free.
If you’re on a diet but still want a drink — it’s your best choice. Just remember, adding any kind of mixer that isn’t water or diet (and oh boy, we do not want to open up the contentious can of worms that is artificial sweetener) will pack on the calories.
Just so you know, we will say that whiskey doesn’t have a whole lot going for it in terms of nutritional value. You aren’t going to get a protein fix to power you through your daily exercises, or the calcium you’ll need to prevent osteoarthritis. But hey, it’s much better for your waistline than that six pack of IPA mocking you from the fridge.
Antioxidants! Hard to define, but they are shown to provide some kind of secret power into longevity. Antioxidants, typically found in your usual Whole Foods staples like blueberries, green tea and yes, even red wine, are somewhat surprisingly found in whiskey. Sipping on a barrel-aged bourbon every now and again can help stave off the free radicals roaming around in your body. Free radicals, if left to their own devices, are the primary cause of the visible effects of aging, as well as the beginnings of many diseases and ailments that we’re more likely to develop the longer we live.
Just ask Agnes Fenton, who celebrated her hundredth birthday more than a decade ago. Fenton, who has her own holiday, enjoyed three beers and a scotch every day for seven decades. Though doctors are baffled as to the true secret to her longevity, it’s hard to argue with the mysterious power of antioxidants.
Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Cancer is just about the scariest thing any doctor can bring up during a regular appointment. As young people, we aggressively hope we never get cancer, and scheme to stave it off with superfoods and fitness classes. Not to get all wrapped up in the power of antioxidants once again, but whiskey contains an interesting one called ellagic acid. Ellagic acid essentially stops DNA from interacting with things like nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that can cause cancer. For those in throes of battling against cancer, whiskey can also help protect the body from some of the damage that chemotherapy inflicts on the body.
Whiskey contains more ellagic acid than other alcohols, which provides some cancer fighting benefits. According to a study conducted by Dr. Jim Swan back in 2005, single-malt whiskeys in particular provide even more ellagic acid than red wine, noted star of the “healthy alcohol” scene.
The Ultimate Digestive Aid
Long before we had any notion of food sensitivities, multi-vitamins masquerading as gummy candy or other novel additions to the fabric of our health dialog, we had whiskey. Whiskey was used give the digestive system a boost for centuries — helping things move along smoothly after a hearty feast of turkey legs and potatoes, or whatever else they ate throughout the ages. But hey, there’s something to it. The alcohol content cuts right through the fat, providing relief after overeating. Though you really shouldn’t substitute whiskey for a meal, the drink’s high alcohol content and unique composition also make it a pretty effective appetite suppression.
No carbs, no problem. As a point of reference, a shot of whiskey (1.5-oz) contains only 0.04 g of carbohydrates. Diabetics can kick back and enjoy a rye on the rocks, without having to do any of that pesky math. Whiskey contains almost no carbs, which means it won’t mess with blood sugar levels like other alcoholic drinks. Of course, if you add a mixer, you’ll have to consider those nutritional facts separately.
In addition to simply being an alcoholic beverage that diabetics can safely consume (which is no small thing), there has been some evidence pointing to whiskey’s role in preventing diabetes. If consumed in moderation, drinking whiskey can help regulate your body’s insulin and glucose levels — which are a huge factor in your possibility of developing diabetes. Like anything else, keep in mind you should get the green light from your doctor before sipping that barrel-aged beverage.
Keep on Tickin’
Another problem we face as we get older is the risk of heart disease. Eating box after box of heart-healthy Cheerios will only take you so far. If you’ve been limiting yourself by scanning labels for the presence of FDA-approved whole grain food items and diligently removing the yolks from your usual egg breakfast — there’s something else you can do. Don’t avoid the liquor aisle next time you’re at the grocery store, and when you head home, pour yourself a nice shot on the rocks.
In moderation, whiskey helps keep your heart beating and healthy — kind of like red wine — as it reduces blood clots, which can cause stroke or heart attacks. The antioxidants in the whiskey keep low-density lipoprotein from oxidizing, which is a key factor in determining your risk of heart disease.
Want to be smarter, sharper and quicker on the uptake? Okay, we get it, these claims are essentially the health equivalent of a get rich quick scheme. But before you write us off as snake oil salesmen shilling whiskey, there’s some truth here.
Okay, bold claims to instantly become better by essentially getting drunk aren’t doing anyone any favors, but there are some findings suggesting whiskey’s antioxidant properties have the potential to decrease risks of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, as well as improve cognition.
Antioxidants, hard workers they are, also improve general brain health. The combination of alcohol and antioxidants helps boost blood flow to to the brain, which in turn, helps you remember where you left your keys, as well as avoiding those moments where you’re standing in front of the refrigerator and you’re not sure why. And one last thing, whiskey also contains ethanol, which boosts neuron function — another win for memory.
Helps Treat Cold, Flu & Allergies
Think back to the good old days when grandma just gave you a shot of whiskey with a sugar cube chaser every time you came down with the common cold. Okay sure, we now have modern marvels such as Nyquil and Robitussin available — but sometimes you don’t want to mess with a good thing.
Whiskey is a real contender in the battle against allergy onslaughts and the common cold. If you’ve ever taken certain cough syrups, only to find they don’t work too well, lacking the bite of some of the tougher stuff, we hear you. For a DIY cough syrup, try adding a shot of whiskey to some hot water — a cup or so will do — and squirt in a healthy dose of lemon. The mixture provides a sense of relief for itchy, sore throats — equal parts strong and soothing, with the alcohol killing off any lingering bacteria. And perhaps a case of the sniffles won’t suffice as an excuse to stay home.
Keep Things Neat
Trust us, the healthiest kind of liquor is the kind that stays away from added sugars or fats.
In order to take full advantage of the health benefits of scotch, whiskey or bourbon, it’s best to keep things simple. Avoid the ridiculous mixers and crazy cocktails, and enjoy a shot or two on its own. You’ll savor the flavor, meaning you won’t be gulping down massive quantities of booze at a time, and you’ll feel sophisticated and old-timey.
Not to be a buzzkill, but do remember to drink water — the bread and butter of the beverage world. Alcohol can leave you parched and dehydrated if you don’t drink enough H2O. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least as much water as you do alcohol, which will help you avoid any hangovers.
Now before you get busy filling up that flask, it’s worth mentioning you should always, always, always drink responsibly. That means don’t drink until you blackout. Don’t drive. Don’t decide you want to start a project that requires power tools or a sharp knife. You get it, stay safe and have a drink or two to unwind. Stop after that.
Want to Enjoy the Health Benefits of Whiskey at Home?
At Deep South Barrels, our passion for whiskey runs deep. While the question of what is the healthiest liquor is still up for debate — whiskey is truly something special meant to be savored and enjoyed. If you’re looking for some ways to bring authentic, barrel whiskey into your life, done right, we’ve got you covered. Our mini wooden barrels can help you age your own spirts — from whiskey and scotch to rye, or heck, even vodka — transforming even the cheapest bottle on the bottom shelf into something memorable in just three weeks’ time.
Our American oak barrels are great for storing your favorite whiskey, adding an additional layer of tasting notes with our selection of flavored essences. While our 2-liter oak barrels are perfect for creating a unique twist your favorite beverage in short-order.
If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about the barrel aging process, check out our instructions and FAQ page.