Scotch Whisky – the world’s leading spirit drink! Over the last century it has become popular in just about every country in the world.
Its basic roots are probably not in Scotland , but in the middle east where Arab alchemists in the 10th Century discovered how to distil alcohol while making cosmetics and perfume by distilling flowers. As Muslims, they had no use for alcohol as a drink but the Moors brought the technique to Spain from whence it spread throughout Europe .
By the 12th Century people were distilling spirit from grape, grain, fruit or vegetables, whatever they had available locally.
At this time there was a lot of movement between Ireland and Scotland so it is likely that distilling soon spread over here.
Back then distilled spirit was used more as a medicine or tonic. This is why it became know as Aqua vitae or “Water of Life” (in Gaelic: Uisge Beatha).
Single malt whisky
Single malt whisky is a whisky which is distilled at a single distillery, and which is made completely from a single type of malted grain, traditionally barley, (although there are also single malt rye whiskies). Most single malt whiskies are distilled using a pot still.
Scotch whisky is whisky made in Scotland. In the English-speaking world it is often referred to as “Scotch”. In the UK, the term whisky is usually taken to mean Scotch unless otherwise specified.
To be called Scotch whisky the spirit must conform to the standards of the Scotch Whisky Order of 1990 (UK), which clarified the Scotch Whisky Act of 1988 and mandates that the spirit:
Must be distilled at a Scottish distillery from water and malted barley, to which only other whole grains may be added, have been processed at that distillery into a mash, converted to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems, and fermented only by the addition of yeast.
Must be distilled to an alcoholic strength of less than 94.8% by volume so that it retains the flavour of the raw materials used in its production,
Must be matured in Scotland in oak casks for no less than three years,
Must not contain any added substance other than water and caramel colouring, and
May not be bottled at less than 40% alcohol by volume.
Although similar to scotch in many ways, one way Irish Whiskey differs is that peat is almost never used in the malting process, so the smoky, earthy overtones of Scotch are absent. A notable exception to this is Connemara Peated Malt whiskey.
There are far fewer distilleries of Irish whiskey than there are distillers of Scotch. Economic difficulties in the last couple of centuries have led to great number of mergers and closures.
Bourbon is an American form of whiskey named for Bourbon County, Kentucky. By United States law, it consists of at least 51% corn — typically about 70% — with the remainder being wheat and/or rye, and malted barley. It is distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof, and aged in new charred oak barrels for at least two years. The two years maturation process is not a legal requirement for a whiskey to be called “bourbon,” but it is a legal requirement for “straight bourbon.” However, in practice, most bourbon whiskeys are aged for at least four years.
Bourbon must be put into the barrels at no more than 125 U.S. proof. After aging it is diluted with water and bottled. Bottling proof for whiskey must be at least 80 proof (40% abv) and most whiskey is sold at 80 proof. Other common proofs are 86, 90, 94, 100 and 107, and whiskeys of up to 142 proof have been sold. Some higher proof bottlings are “barrel proof.”
Bourbon can legally be made anywhere in the United States where it is legal to distill spirits. Legitimate production is not restricted to Kentucky, although currently all but a few brands are made there, and the drink is associated strongly with that commonwealth. Illinois once produced nearly as much bourbon whiskey as Kentucky, and bourbon continues to be made in Virginia.
Vatted malt whisky
A Vatted Malt will contain a number of malt whiskies that have been blended together, to create a consistent whisky with its own distinct, identifiable character. Such a malt can also consist entirely of malt whiskies of various ages from the same distillery. However, vatted malts will never contain any grain whisky.
Grain whisky is any whisky made from at least some grains other than barley, such as wheat and maize (corn). Some grain whisky also contain malted barley. (Whisky made from only barley is called malt whisky. This can be confusing: both malt whisky and grain whisky are made from grain malt.) The term is especially used in reference to Scotch whisky.
Grain whisky is typically distilled in a continuous column still, also known as a patent or Coffey still, the latter after Aeneas Coffey, who refined the column still in 1831.
Due to the higher alcohol yield from a patent still, grain whisky is generally accepted to have a lighter and less complex flavour than malt whisky, which is produced in a pot still. It nonetheless plays a very important role in the production of Scotch whisky as it is used to create blended whiskies.
A blended whiskey (or whisky) is the product of blending different types of whiskies. It is generally the product of mixing one or more single malt whiskies (made from 100 percent malted grain (such as barley or rye) together with other grain whiskies or neutral grain spirits. Scotland, Ireland, and Canada are the most common countries of origin for blends.
Most blended whiskies do not list an age. When a blended whisky does so, each individual malt and grain whisky must be at least as old as the age listed. One of the most widely known examples of blended whisky is the Johnnie Walker brand, but there are many others such as Jameson, Pigs Nose, Old St Andrews and Isle of Skye
A blended whisky is much less expensive to produce than the other types of whisky. Most cocktails and mixed drinks that call for whisky use blended whisky. This is primarily for cost reasons, and secondarily because the complex flavours of single malt whiskies would be overshadowed by the mixer(s). Scotch purists generally consider blended whisky to be an inferior drink to the single malt Scotch varieties. Others might argue that blending allows for the creation of top scotch brands or more desirable flavors, and many experts agree that top-quality blends can rival certain single-malts in overall flavor and drinking enjoyment.