Scotch Whisky- Facts & Trivia
“ Whisky is a Liquid sunshine” -George Bernard Shaw
Scotch Whisky has been around for centuries. But only recently It has a legal definition in UK law which defines Whisky. The Scotch Whisky Act 1988. The legal protection afforded by the Act is important as it protects the reputation of Scotch Whisky worldwide.
They are normally matured in oak cask. Technically the minimum maturity period permitted is 3 years and 1 day to mature and develop its unique taste. Previously Sherry casks were preferred, although bourbon casks were popular. The type of casks used contributes to the overall colour.
Whisky distillation in Scotland can trace its roots back to the early Celts, although it is unlikely we would recognise or enjoy the fiery spirit they produced. The early sprit known was Uisge Beatha, a Gaelic name which means ‘water of life’.
It soon proved popular in Scotland and became a part of social life. However in the 17th century, whisky production was driven under ground due to introduction of taxes on Malt and Whisky. The Scottish Parliament introduced taxes following the Act of Union in 1707. Part of the aim was to try and tame the Scottish clans.
Smuggling and illicit distilling then became a norm for many Scots. By the mid 19th century, more than half the whisky in Scotland was drunk without the payment of excise duty. One of the Scottish nobles then suggested that the government could make money from the whisky production. The Excise Act was passed in 1823 which allowed distillation of whisky for a return fee of 10 pounds.
in 1831 the Patient Still was invented by Aeneas Coffey, allowed a continuous distillation process thus enabled the introduction of grain whisky. Until then only malt whisky in small amounts were produced.
Single Malt Scotch is made from 100% malted barley and produced in a single distillery. Blended Scotch is made from a blend of malt whiskies from different distilleries combined with more neutral grain whiskey which is usually made from wheat, rye, or un malted barley. The term ‘malt whisky’ means the grain was allowed to germinate before being cooked. Allowing the grain to germinate releases the sugar and starches that add flavour to malt whisky.
On a whisky label the term ‘cask strength’ or ‘barrel strength’ mean The Whisky is bottled at its natural strength and not diluted with water. Cask strength whisky can range from about 55% to more than whooping 75% alcohol by volume.
The Scottish island of Islay ( pronounced eye-la) is known for producing ‘smoky tasting whisky’ or ‘smoky scotch’. The smoky flavour comes from peat, a fossil fuel that is used to dry the barley which goes in to the Scotch. There are 8 distilleries on this small island producing legendary smoky whiskys- Ardbeg, Laphroaig & Lagavulin.
The best selling Irish whisky is Jameson. It is a blended whisky made by the Middleton Distillery. Bushmills is the other popular Irish whisky.
5 Ancient Scottish Distilleries and the year it was founded
1. Glenturret: 1775
2. Bowmore: 1779
3. Strathisla: 1786
4. Balblair: 1790
5. Oban: 1794
Most connoisseurs prefer their whisky neat or with a few drops of room temperature water. This is the best way to absorb the aromas and flavours to make the whisky special. Ice, soda or other methods dull the flavours instead of enhancing them.
Of course, it is your Whisky, drink it the way you like it so long as you enjoy it, and of course drink responsibly. Cheers!!