A Centuries-Long Bond
The word Whiskey derives from the Gaelic and means “water of life“. Whiskey is made from three basic ingredients which are none other than barley (which can be substituted for other grains such as rye, wheat or corn), water and yeast.
The whiskey distillation process can be divided into two major stages: alcohol processing and barrel aging. The first phase begins with the maceration of the cereal, proceeds with the fermentation and ends with the distillation of an alcoholic liquid of the right degree to be considered whiskey. To obtain this result, the liquid is distilled twice in copper stills.
The second phase, much longer, is limited to the maturation of the drink inside the barrels.
To be able to define it as whiskey, the drink obtained with this process must have an alcohol content equal to 40% of the total volume. And to be a full-fledged Scotch whiskey it must be aged for at least three years. Unlike wine, whiskey only ages in cask, not in bottles. So once bottled the “age” of the whiskey does not change.
The Whiskey Regions
There are three main regions where whiskey is made in Scotland: The Highlands and Islands; the Lowlands and Speyside Each region gives its whiskey unique properties that differentiate it from that of other regions. The flavor of the drink, however, is mainly due to the aging process to which it is subjected in each of them. In fact, it is in the barrels that whiskey spends most of its time and it is from them that it acquires most of its flavor.
Highland and Island whiskey is distinguished by the smoky taste that is obtained by smoking the grain before grinding it. The one from the Lowlands, on the other hand, has a drier and softer taste, while that of Speyside stands out from the other two because it is lighter and sweeter.
There are just over 100 active distilleries in Scotland today. Each produces approximately 1.2 to 2 million liters of whiskey every year This means that about 450 million liters are obtained per year to which the content of the barrels must be added, which is aged for more than 10 years.
Whiskey and the Scots
Whiskey and Scotland have always been linked historically, socially and economically. There are many Scottish writers who have mentioned this drink in their works. First of all Walter Scott who said:
“whiskey is the only liqueur that suits a gentleman, both in the morning and in the evening”.
Even the quintessential Scottish poet, Robert Burns often mentioned the national drink. He once said, “Whiskey and freedom go hand in hand”. Whiskey for the Scots is the drink of important occasions or holidays. In everyday life they are not used to drinking whiskey due to its not very affordable price. For the Scots, whiskey is a drink that must be drunk in small sips, slowly. Above all, it must be tasted alone, never mixed with other drinks. Also be careful to drink it with ice! For the Scots, two or three drops of distilled water are enough to sweeten the taste of the whiskey.
Finally, from an economic point of view, whiskey is undoubtedly the most important export commodity for Scotland. And we must not forget the tourist dimension that whiskey distillation has acquired in recent years. Like castles, golf or other tourist attractions, whiskey and distilleries are now one more reason to visit Scotland.