Bourbon, rye, and scotch are the reading, writing and arithmetic of the whiskey world. They’re your basics, your building blocks on which all other whiskey knowledge rests. Bourbon is distilled from a mash bill of at least 51% corn, which gives it a comparatively mild, sweet flavor; it’s a great intro to whiskey. Rye was the whiskey of choice in the States from colonial times into the 20th century. It fell out of fashion for decades after Prohibition, but it’s now the hipster whiskey of choice. Made with at least 51% rye, it’s bigger and spicier than most bourbons, and thus more of an acquired taste, but it’s a taste worth acquiring. And Scotch whisky (they lose the “e” in Scotland for no apparent reason) is made from malted (roasted) barley. Scotch whiskies vary wildly in style from region to region, from delicate and honey-sweet to enormous and smoky and peaty. There’s lots more to learn about (Canadian, Irish, Japanese, and Tennessee sipping whiskeys, to name just a few), but they’re all variations on the Big Three.