“ Type: Whisky „
WHISKY: Scottish for water My favourite indulgence of all time! I can't remember my first experience of whisky, the drink I have now grown to love. I just know I grew up thinking it was the most disgusting thing in the world. It wasn't till I was about twenty, I think before my pallet matured enough for me to appreciate the whole whisky experience. I remember the first time I enjoyed whisky it was at a good old-fashioned Scottish new years party, probably the same sort of party where I would have had my first smell and no doubt a sneaky wee sip of whisky, which I am sure I would have immediately spate out. The drinks were flowing, kilts were flying and the whole neighbourhood was filled with the sound of fiddles. The warm taste, and the sensation of the amber nectar as I swallowed it took me by surprise. Several days later after recovering from the Ne'rday celebrations, I remember going into a pub and ordering my first whisky and lemonade. I was just a little scared that I had made a mistake and opted for the lemonade mixer just in case. No it was no mistake I liked whisky! From that day on I started a life long adventure of discovery. Not only did I discover the joys of the taste, the sensation and the aroma of whisky. I also found a lifetime hobby that has taken me to distilleries all over Scotland where I learned of the magic and the myths about whisky. Even when I have travelled to different countries as soon as people know I am from Scotland someone produces a bottle of Scotch from somewhere, as if we were members of the same exclusive club! Rabbie Burns, Scotland's national bard once said, "Whisky and freedom gang the gether" I doubt if he knew when he said it that Scotch whisky would one day be one of Scotland's major exports to the rest of the world. It is true to say that the Scots have so jealously defended their right to distil whisky that the spirit has become inextricabl
y linked with the nation's history. The Scots took to distilling in the Middle Ages, when missionary monks probably introduced it from Ireland. The drink was referred to as 'uisge beathe', the Gaelic for water of life. The English however were unable to manage the pronunciation and the closest they could say to uisge was whisky. Many highlanders and homesteaders had their own stills and production became so widespread that by 1643 the Scottish Parliament saw whisky as an excellent source of revenue. So began the long battle between the illegal whisky distiller and the excise man. Many Scots were happy enough to aid the "home" distiller as he was a source of cheap whisky and the excise man represented a remote and demanding government, so the smuggler was tacitly acknowledged as a member of the local community. Women would light washing fires to hide the smoke from illegal stills, casks were hidden in churches and smugglers' wives carried containers of whisky under their skirts and deliver door to door. By 1823 the battle had reached the proportions of a national sport and 14,000 illegal stills were confiscated in that year. Eventually a reasonable level of taxation encouraged the growth of a respectable distilling industry, and with the use of the newly invented continuous still, quality whisky could be produced cheaply and in quantity. There are hundreds and hundreds of whiskies that are distilled in Scotland and it would take a lifetime to find and taste them all. I have had the last 25years giving it a try and still I find a new whisky Today the method of distilling whisky hasn't changed much over the years and in my visits to several distilleries I found out what gives each whisky its distinctive aroma and taste. BLENDED OR MALT? So what is the difference? Malt whiskies are distilled in cities, towns and villages all over Scotland. Each whisky is placed in a group ac
cordi ng to the region it is distilled in. The regions are: Speyside, Highland, Islay, Islands, Lowland and Cambeltown. There is also a selection of Vatted or Pure Malts. These are a mixture of malts from different distilleries. The blend balances their characteristics to create a fine dram! One for very special occasions. Malt whisky is made from malted barley, water and yeast. The first stage of production is the malting of the barley. The barley is first steeped in tanks of water for 2 to 3 days before being spread out on the floors of the malting house to germinate. To arrest germination, the malted barley is dried in a kiln, identifiable by the distinct pagoda-shaped chimneys, characteristic of every distillery. Peat, a natural fuel cut from the moors of Scotland, is used to fire kilns in the drying process, along with more modern fuels. Smoke from the fire drifts gently upwards through a wire mesh floor to dry out the barley, and the "peat reek" imparts a distinctive aroma, which contributes to the character of the final spirit. When dried, the malt is as crisp as toast. The malted barley is then ground to a rough-hewn grist and mixed with hot water in a vessel known as a mash tun. This process converts the starch in the barley into a sugary liquid known as wort. The wort is transferred to a fermenting vat, or washback, where yeast is added and the fermentation process converts the sugary wort into crude alcohol, similar in aroma and taste to sour beer. This is known as wash. Now comes the crucial process involving the distinctive swan-necked copper pot stills, where distillation separates the alcohol from the wash. Malt whisky is distilled twice, the first distillation taking place in a larger wash still, and the second in a slightly smaller low-wines or spirit still. The stillman raises the temperature within the wash still and gradually, the fermented liquid is heated and the alcohol in the wash va
porises. T he vapours rise up the swan neck and pass over the head of the still, before being guided through condensers where the y revert to liquid. This liquid is collected in a receiver before being passed into the second low-wines or spirit still where the process is repeated. The stillman exercises much more control in the second distillation as only the heart, or "middle cut", of the spirit flow will be collected as new spirit. This takes place as the spirit flows through a spirit safe, where the stillman can observe, assess and measure it. The first runnings from the still (foreshots) and tails (feints) are returned for redistillation with the next batch of low wines. The "middle cut" is collected by the stillman, only when he is personally satisfied that it has reached a high enough standard. BLENDED WHISKY Grain whisky is made from wheat or maize which is first cooked under pressure in order that the cereal starches can be broken down into fermentable sugars. The cereals can then be combined with a proportion of malted barley in the mash tun and mixed with boiling water to produce the sugary liquid known as wort. The resultant wort is fermented to produce the wash which then passes into the massive, continuously operating, two-columned Coffey or patent still. The skills of the stillman, required to judge the moment at which the malt and the grain spirit is ready to be collected, are crucial to the art of distilling. Once the quality has been approved, the malt and grain new make spirit is ready to be filled into a variety of specially selected oak casks for the long period of maturation in cool, dark warehouses. Now time begins to work its miracle. The quality of the casks is carefully monitored because the new spirit is to gain character and colour from the wood in which it rests. Some casks will previously have been used to mature oloroso, fino or a
montillado sher ries; some will have contained bourbon and some will be oak. The type of cask used for maturation will have been determined by the master blender who is seeking a particular character and continuity of the whisky. Only after a minimum of three years maturation can the new make spirit be legally defined as Scotch whisky. In practice, most Scotch whisky matures for much longer - from five to fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years and sometimes longer. It is this lingering period during which Scotland's cool, clean air steals through the porous oak of the casks and charms their contents, contributing further to the smooth and golden character of each distillery's unique creation. A proportion of the whisky in each cask evaporates annually and is lost to the heavens. This is known as the "angels share". The greatest proportion of whisky produced in Scotland is consumed in blended form. The highly complex task of creating a marriage of single malt and single grain whiskies to make a blended whisky, is the responsibility of the master blender. The art of blending is rather like conducting an orchestra: the individual players may be unique and brilliant in their own right, but someone has to ensure that the individual players harmonise. The blender's aim is to produce a blended Scotch whisky, which is different from others, a little more subtle, a little more complex than the individual whiskies, which have gone into the blend. A blend is a careful and judicious combination of anything from fifteen to fifty single whiskies of varying ages, compiled to a highly secret formula. The master blender will have spent long years mastering and perfecting the art of "nosing". For this most important of tasks, his equipment is simple - a tulip shaped glass, which will best capture the aroma of the whisky, and fresh water, which he adds to the whisky for nosing. His acute
sense of smell enab les him to determine which whiskies will combine successfully with others, and those which will fight. Keeping the incompatible apart is all part of the blender's skill. Once the blender has selected his single whiskies, he will nose them as new spirit fresh from the stills, to ensure they are up the required standard. He will continue to nose them throughout maturation, until he is content that they should be taken forward. Eventually, all of the selected whiskies are brought together, pumped into vats, and then back into casks where they will rest for a further period of up to six to eight months. This is known as the "marriage" - the period during which each component whisky harmonises with the others. When a bottle of Scotch whisky bears an age statement on the label, that is the age of the youngest whisky in the blend. It is not the average. Upon completion of the marriage period, the whisky is ready for bottling. The blender will nose it again, once it is reduced to the alcoholic strength required for bottling, to ensure that the quality of the blend is consistent with all the others he has produced over the years. Once it is finally bottled, Scotch whisky has reached the end of its long journey down the years in perfect condition, ready to be dispatched around the world. So next time you raise a glass of your favourite "uisge beathe", where ever you are, remember its origin and the voyage it has taken through history. Slange!
Whisky or whiskey? Does it really matter how you spell it? Well, yes it does. Whisky (without an E) is Scotch Whisky, the kind the Scots produce. Whiskey (with an E) is Irish whiskey. So it does matter how you spell it! Whiskey/whisky is distilled from barley or rye. The flavour comes from the quality of water used in production. The expert whiskey/whisky tester knows everything about this popular tipple simply by smelling and sipping it. All you need to get started is some samples and a comfy seat. Whiskeys like Irish Mist are made with pure Irish water that has a certain peaty flavour.The malt is also cured over peat fires which adds a more distinctive taste.While Scotch depends on pure Scottish spring water. The difference in these waters is dependant on the minerals in the surrounding landscape. Storing the spirit for several years in wooden casks is what gives it that golden colour. (Freshly distilled whisky/whiskey is clear in colour.) The type of wood also affects the taste. Canadian Whisky is usually made from rye which gives it its distinctive taste. (I find it much more mellow than Scotch.) American Bourbon is a whisky made from maize and tastes very different to the whiskey/whisky describes above. It is also a slightly darker colour. There's an art in knowing your whisky. It takes a lot of practise but it is possible to tell exactly where it was distilled and whether its rye, barley or maize just by smell and colour. The real expert can tell you if it was aged in oak casks or not! It's as much of an art as tasting wine. You need the practise, go on, have one!
I love Whisky it's one of the greatest drinks their are. I don't think I could express my love for the drink anymore than what good old Jim Morrison could so here is a nice song for you all, enjoy! Well, show me the way To the next whiskey bar Oh, don't ask why Oh, don't ask why Show me the way To the next whiskey bar Oh, don't ask why Oh, don't ask why For if we don't find The next whiskey bar I tell you we must die I tell you we must die I tell you, I tell you I tell you we must die Oh, moon of Alabama We now must say goodbye We've lost our good old mama And must have whiskey, oh, you know why Oh, moon of Alabama We now must say goodbye We've lost our good old mama And must have whiskey, oh, you know why Well, show me the way To the next little girl Oh, don't ask why Oh, don't ask why Show me the way To the next little girl Oh, don't ask why Oh, don't ask why For if we don't find The next little girl I tell you we must die I tell you we must die I tell you, I tell you I tell you we must die Oh, moon of Alabama We now must say goodbye We've lost our good old mama And must have whiskey, oh, you know why
Whisky, or whiskey, refers to a broad category of alcoholic beverages that are distilled from fermented grain mash and aged in wooden casks (generally oak). Different grains are used for different varieties, including barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and maize (corn).