Mo chairdean choir! My dear friends!
Ceud mìle fàilte! • [key’-udt mee’-luh fal’-tchuh] One hundred thousand welcomes!
This blog is about enjoying single malt Scotch Whisky and all things Scottish, more or less.
Anyone who visits this site is assumed to be, (at least) an honorary Scot, if not an actual Scot.
It is my mission to educate you, my dear readers, to all of the joys of tasting single malt Scotch Whisky, what it is exactly, how to taste it properly, and other fun things.
We use Scottish sayings and toasts in this blog to ensure a good time is had by all. At least I will have a good time. Scots Gaelic will be used for sayings and blessings as it is appropriate to the subject at hand.
First a little history of Scotch or “the water of life”
We see the first documentation in Scotland in1494 to Barley shipped to a Friar John Cor for use in making aqua vitea, or the “water of life”, in Scottish Gaelic usque beatha. Also sometimes pronounced as whisque baha or usky bagh.
Now King James IV of Scotland was partial to the water of life, and to ensure his supply in 1505 gave the Barbers Guild of Edinburgh a monopoly on the manufacture of aqua vitae. Note this was given to barbers who were the dispensers of medicine at the time, so obviously whisky was considered for medicinal purposes.
Distillation of whisky grew in popularity until the political union of Britain and Scotland in 1707, at which time the bloody sasenaques (or brits) set out to tame the Scottish clans and get some of the profits from whisky through taxing distillation. This drove distillation underground except for a few distilleries.
Taxmen of the Crown were called “Excise Men”. They were always on the lookout for illicit distillers to tax and whisky smuggling became a national sport for 150 years with even the churchmen helping to hide the whisky from them. Sound familiar? During prohibition America had our own revenuers chasing bootleggers.
Our hero, Duke of Gordon on whose estate some of the finest illicit whisky in Scotland was being produced, persuaded the English Parliament in 1823 to legalize the production of Whisky, with a reasonable fee attached of course. Priorly over half of the whisky being produced was illegal and no benefit whatever to the government. In ten years time most illicit distillation died out.
By 1831, Aeneas Coffey invented the patent still, a very important invention, which enabled continuous production of whisky. This led to the production of grain alcohol, from wheat and/or corn which is blended with single malts to make blended whisky, The Scots sold blended whisky to the world keeping single malts for themselves, because blended was cheaper to make than single malt and was more profitable worldwide.
After World War II the British were so broke and needed exports to obtain dollars. Therefore bread was rationed until 1948 to provide more grain to the whisky industry and other English Spirits and beers. To this day whisky is a major English and Scottish Export.
Although single malt has always been available in Scotland, its popularity began to increase when the Macallan Distillery began to offer it internationally. Single malt whisky is like fine wine to aficionados.
So let’s define Scotch Whisky today per British law:
Scotch Whisky according to the Scotch Whisky Regulations of the British Government is a whisky only produced in Scotland from water and malted barley, fermented only by the addition of yeast distilled to an alcoholic strength of less than 94.8% and wholly matured in an official government excise warehouse in Scotland, in Oak Casks not exceeding 700 liters in volume for at least three years. Has no added substances other than water and plain Caramel coloring. Has an alcoholic strength of at least 40% .
Single Malt Scotch whisky means a Scotch Whisky produced from barley and water only from a single distillery.
Blended Scotch whisky means a blend of single malt Scotch whisky with one or more whiskys made from wheat or corn. Like Johnnie Walker or Chivas Regal