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Whisky (or whiskey) (from Irish "uisce beatha", "water of life") is an

alcoholic beverage distilled from grain, often including malt, which has then
been aged in wooden barrels.

The spelling whisky (plural whiskies) is generally used for those distilled in
Scotland, Canada, and Japan, while whiskey (with an e; plural whiskeys) is
used for the spirits distilled in Ireland and the United States; however, there
are exceptions. Kentucky, for example, usually spells its product "whisky".
A mnemonic used to remember which spelling is used is that "Ireland" and
"United States" have at least one "e" in their names, while "Scotland,"
"Canada" and "Japan" do not.

International law reserves the term "Scotch whisky" to those whiskies

produced in Scotland; whiskies produced in other countries in the Scotch
style must use another name. Similar conventions exist for "Irish whiskey,"
"Canadian whisky," and "Bourbon Whiskey." In North America, the
abbreviated term "Scotch" is usually used for "Scotch Whisky." In England,
Scotland, and Wales, the term "Whisky" almost always refers to "Scotch
Whisky", and the term "Scotch" is used by itself.

The Welsh version is wysgi. The name is derived from Gaelic uisge beatha
(water of life). (Other countries also have their own "water of life": also the
Scandinavian Akvavit, whose name derives from the Latin aqua vitae, or the
Italian Grappa)

Irish whiskey is typically distilled three times from a mash of several grains.
Scotch whisky is typically distilled twice, either from barley malt alone (see
single malt whisky), or from barley malts and other grain malts which are
then mixed together. Kentucky whisky, called Bourbon, is normally only
distilled once, as are most other American and Canadian whiskeys.

Whisky production began in grain-growing regions (the same regions where
beer was being produced) whereas the distillation of brandy developed in
regions producing wine. The first traces of distilled barley go back to the
13th century. In those times, whisky was not considered as a pleasure like
nowadays, but people thought it was a marvelous medicine, helping to heal
all kinds of diseases. It was used as an ointment as well as a drink.

Before bearing the name of "whisky" (or whiskey if it is produced in Ireland

or in the United States), the drink was called "Uisge Beata", which means
"Water of Life" in Gaelic. The name evolved to become Usquebaugh, then
Uisge and finally Whisky.

The famous historian and chronicler Raphal Holinshed wrote the following
about the results of distillation of malted barley in his "Chronicles of
England, Scotland and Ireland" in the 16th century:

"Being moderately taken, it slows the age, it cuts phlegm, it lightens the
mind, it quickens the spirit, it cures the dropsy, it heals the strangulation, it
pounces the stone, its repels gravel, it pulls away ventositie, it keeps and
preserves the head from whirling, the eyes from dazzling, the tongue from
lisping, the mouth from snuffling, the teeth from chattering, the throat from
rattling, the weasan from stiffing, the stomach from womblying, the heart
from swelling, the belly from wincing, the guts from rumbling, the hands
from shivering, the sinews from shrinking, the veins from crumpling, the
bones from aching, the marrow from soaking, and truly it is a sovereign
liquor if it be orderly taken."

The first whisky distillery to gain a licence to produce was the Old
Bushmills distillery, granted by James I in 1608.

Malt whisky consists of whisky made from 100 percent malted barley; malt
whisky from one distillery is called single malt to distinguish it from
blended varieties. The grains used to make whisky include barley in Ireland,
Scotland, Canada, and the United States, rye in Canada and the United
States, and corn in the United States. Pure pot still whiskey is made in
Ireland from a combination of malted and unmalted barley. Various types of
straight whiskey, such as Rye whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, and Bourbon
whiskey which are produced in the U.S. are aged in charred, oak barrels.
Blended whisky is made from a combination of any of the above whiskies
with the similar grain whisky or neutral grain spirits, which are much less
expensive to produce than the other types of whisky. Blends will almost
always identify the type of base whisky used, ie. blended Scotch, blended
Canadian, or blended Bourbon. Light whiskey is a style of American
whiskey made up almost entirely of neutral grain spirits, with small amounts
(typically less than 5 - 10 percent total volume) of straight whiskey and
sherry added for flavor and coloring.

At one time much of the whiskey produced in the U.S. was "Bottled-in-
Bond" according to the dictates of an 1898 Act of Congress; this practice has
been largely discontinued, because one of the requirements of the Act was
that such whiskey be produced at 100 U.S. alcoholic proof (50% alcohol by
volume). Whiskey this potent is currently rare in the U.S., partially because
of changing public tastes but also because an alcoholic content so high is
illegal in many countries, limiting the export market for it.

The origins

Are the origins of whisky Scottish or Irish ? Naturally, opinions about this
question are drastically opposed depending on the native country of the
person to whom you ask.

Nevertheless, it seems that more and more people tend to agree on the
hypothesis of an Irish origin. It would be no one else than Saint-Patrick
himself, the patron of the Irish, who would have introduced the still in his
country at Vth AC, holding it himself indirectly from the Arabian. Irish
monks would have then spread from Vth before J.C. the art of distillation at
the same time as Christian civilization, in their own country to start with,
then in Scotland.

In any case, what one knows for sure is that the art of distillation is very old
and dates back too much more ancient time than the first origins of whisky.
The Egyptians are known to have practised the distillation of perfumes 3000
years before J.C. As a matter of fact, the word alcohol is directly derived
from the Arabic al-koh'l, koh'l being a dark powder from pulverized
antimony and used as an eye make up.

From XIIth onwards, distillation of water of life or aqua vitae spreads

progressively through Europe, notably in Ireland and in Scotland under its

Gaelic name of Uisge Beatha or Usquebaugh, which will eventually
transform into Uisge then Uisky, until becoming Whisky. Some virtues,
literally miraculous which were justifying its name, were attributed to the
water of life. Curing virtually any pain, it was then a medicinal potion which
was prescribed as well as an ointment as a remedy to be drunk. It was a long
way from possessing the flavours and the subtlety of the one drunk today,
and was consumed for its mere virtues as opposed for pleasure.

In his "Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland" published in 1577,

Raphael Holinshed describes as follows the incomparable virtues of Uisge
Beatha :

"Being moderately taken,
it slows the age,
it cuts phlegm,
it lightens the mind,
it quickens the spirit,
it cures the dropsy,
it heals the strangulation,
it pounces the stone,
its repels gravel,
it pulls away ventositie,
it keeps and preserves the head from whirling,
the eyes from dazzling,
the tongue from lisping,
the mouth from snuffling,
the teeth from chattering,
the throat from rattling,
the weasan from stiffing,
the stomach from womblying,
the heart from swelling,
the belly from wincing,
the guts from rumbling,
the hands from shivering,
the sinews from shrinking,
the veins from crumpling,
the bones from aching,
the marrow from soaking,
and truly it is a sovereign liquor
if it be orderly taken."

A remedy definitely miraculous and most indispensable !

Whilst Irishmen and Scotsmen were distilling and double-distilling
whisk(e)y from malted barley, at the same time Frenchmen were producing
Armagnac and Cognac from fermented wines with the same techniques. In
Italy, in Spain and in Germany, one distils also the burned or branded wine.

Whether distilled from malted barley or from fermented wines, in both cases
the spirit of life offered, when compared to the drink from which it
originated - a kind of rough beer or a wine - the triple advantage of allowing
preservation without problem, of being more economical to transport and of
being more palatable.

Uisge Beatha
In 1494 is to be found the first official and indisputable reference concerning
distillation of whisky in a document from the Scottish Exchequer Rolls
mentioning "Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make

In Ireland as well as in Scotland, distillation of Uisge Beatha will from now

on develop steadily but not without events, governing instances waiting little
time until they would start to regulate and tax its production. In 1644
distillation had developed to such a stage in Scotland that, following a poor
harvest, a fear of a shortage of cereals appeared. This situation inspired to
the king of England, Charles Ist, the idea of a fiscal tax on water of life. This
idea was immediately taken over by the Scottish Parliament who will decide
to restrict the right of distillation to upper and noble classes and will put in
effect the first taxation measures.

These will mark the first step of a long saga which will see illicit distillers
and governments representatives confront each other. This epic, rich of
anecdotes in which comical and tragic are often mingled, will know its
apogee during the course of XVIIIth.



The Gaelic "usquebaugh", meaning "Water of Life", phonetically

Became "usky" and then "whisky" in English. However it is known, Scotch
Whisky, Scotch or Whisky (as opposed to whiskey), it has captivated a
global market.

Scotland has internationally protected the term "Scotch". For a whisky to be

labelled Scotch it has to be produced in Scotland. If it is to be called Scotch,
it cannot be produced in England, Wales, Ireland, America or anywhere else.
Excellent whiskies are made by similar methods in other countries, notably
Japan, but they cannot be called Scotches. They are most often referred to as
"whiskey". While they might be splendid whiskies, they do not captivate the
tastes of Scotland.

"The best Scotch whiskies taste of the mountain heather, the peat, the
seaweed. They taste of Scotland, more obviously than even Cognac tastes of

its region or the best Tequila of its mountain soil"

"Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae"

The entry above appeared in the Exchequer Rolls as long ago as 1494 and
appears to be the earliest documented record of distilling in Scotland. This
was sufficient to produce almost 1500 bottles, and it becomes clear that
distilling was already a well-established practice.

Legend would have it that St Patrick introduced distilling to Ireland in the

fifth century AD and that the secrets traveled with the Dalriadic Scots when
they arrived in Kintyre around AD500. St Patrick acquired the knowledge in
Spain and France, countries that might have known the art of distilling at
that time.

The distilling process was originally applied to perfume, then to wine, and
finally adapted to fermented mashes of cereals in countries where grapes
were not plentiful. The spirit was universally termed aqua vitae ('water of
life') and was commonly made in monasteries, and chiefly used for
medicinal purposes, being prescribed for the preservation of health, the
prolongation of life, and for the relief of colic, palsy and even smallpox.
There were monastic distilleries in Ireland in the late-12th century.

Scotland's great Renaissance king, James IV (1488-1513) was fond of

'ardent spirits'. When the king visited Dundee in 1506, the treasury accounts
record a payment to the local barber for a supply of aqua vitae for the king's
pleasure. The reference to the barber is not surprising. In 1505, the Guild of
Surgeon Barbers in Edinburgh was granted a monopoly over the
manufacture of aqua vitae - a fact that reflects the spirits perceived
medicinal properties as well as the medicinal talents of the barbers.

The primitive equipment used at the time and the lack of scientific expertise
meant that the spirit produced in those days was probably potent, and
occasionally even harmful. During the course of the 15th century, along with
better still design, the dissolution of the monasteries contributed to an
improvement in the quality of the spirits produced. Many of the monks,
driven from their sanctuaries, had no choice but to put their distilling skills
to use. The knowledge of distilling then quickly spread to others.

The increasing popularity eventually attracted the attention of the Scottish

parliament, which introduced the first taxes on malt and the end product in
the latter part of the 17th century. Ever increasing rates of taxation were
applied following The Act of Union with England in 1707, when England set
out to tame the rebellious clans of Scotland. The distillers were driven

A long and often bloody battle arose between the excisemen, or gaugers, as
they were known, and the illicit distillers, for whom the excise laws were
alien in both their language and their inhibiting intent. Smuggling became
standard practice for some 150 years and there was no moral stigma attached
to it. Ministers of the Kirk made storage space available under the pulpit,
and the illicit spirit was, on occasion, transported by coffin - any effective
means was used to escape the watchful eyes of the Excise men.

Clandestine stills were cleverly organised and hidden in nooks and crannies
of the heather-clad hills, and smugglers organised signaling systems from
one hilltop to another whenever excise officers were seen to arrive in the
vicinity. By the 1820s, despite the fact that as many as 14,000 illicit stills
were being confiscated every year, more than half the whisky consumed in
Scotland was being swallowed painlessly and with pleasure, without
contributing a penny in duty.

This flouting of the law eventually prompted the Duke of Gordon, on whose
extensive acres some of the finest illicit whisky in Scotland was being
produced, to propose in the House of Lords that the Government should
make it profitable to produce whisky legally.

In 1823 the Excise Act was passed, which sanctioned the distilling of whisky
in return for a license fee of 10, and a set payment per gallon of proof
spirit. Smuggling died out almost completely over the next ten years and, in
fact, a great many of the present day distilleries stand on sites used by
smugglers of old.

The Excise Act laid the foundations for the Scotch Whisky industry, as we

know it today. However, two further developments put Scotch Whisky on
firmly on the world map.

Until now, we have been talking about what we now know as Malt Whisky.
But, in 1831 Aeneas Coffey invented the Coffey or Patent Still, which
enabled a continuous process of distillation to take place. This led to the
production of Grain Whisky, a different, less intense spirit than the Malt
Whisky produced in the distinctive copper pot stills. The lighter flavored
Grain Whisky, when blended with the more fiery malts, extended the appeal
of Scotch Whisky to a considerably wider market.

The second major helping hand came unwittingly from France. By the
1880s, the phylloxera beetle had devastated the vineyards of France, and
within a few years, wine and brandy had virtually disappeared from cellars
everywhere. The Scots were quick to take advantage of the calamity, and by
the time the French industry recovered, Scotch Whisky had replaced brandy
as the preferred spirit of choice.

Since then Scotch Whisky, in particular blended whisky, has gone from
strength to strength. It has survived USA prohibition, wars and revolutions,
economic depressions and recessions, to maintain its position today as the
premier international spirit of choice, extending its reach to more than 200
countries throughout the world


The History of Whisky Timeline

Year Event
1494 First written record of whisky
Guild of Surgeon Barbers, Edinburgh granted charter to
sell whisky
Raphael Holinshead writes his Chronicles of England,
Scotland and Ireland and extols the value of uisge beatha
1590 First recorded export of whisky to Ireland
License granted to produce whiskey at Bushmills Distillery,
Northern Ireland
1627 Robert Haig establishes his distillery
First duty on whisky introduced by Act of Scottish
1675 Robert Boyle describes his new hydrometer
1688 First duty on alcoholic strength of whisky
1689 Ferintosh Distillery burnt down by supporters of James ll
1751 Gilcomston Distillery, Aberdeen founded

1757 Kilbeggan Distillery, reputedly built in Ireland
1775 Glenturret Distillery founded
Justerini & Justerini sell whisky in London.
Bowmore Distillery founded.
1784 John Jameson started distilling in Dublin
1786 Strathisla Distillery founded
1794 Bridge of Don Distillery completed
1795 Tobermory Distillery on Mull founded
1798 Highland Park, Ardbeg and Glen Garioch start distilling
1810 Glenburgie Distillery founded
Sikes hydrometer adopted.
Laphroaig Distillery founded.
1817 Teaninich, Duntocher and Lagavulin Distilleries open
1823 Licensing of Distilleries
1824 Glenlivet takes out license
1825 Edradour, Scotland's smallest distillery founded
First patent for a continuous still awarded to Robert Stein.
James Allardes of Glendronach takes out a license.
1830 William Teacher opens his first grocers shop
1837 Lagg Distillery, Arran founded
1839 The Chivas dynasty founded
1844 Glenfarclas Distillery opens
1851 Dailuaine Distillery founded
1789 Black Bottle is introduced
1882 VAT 69 is launched by Sanderson
1886 Glenfiddich Distillery founded
1892 Balvenie Distillery opens
1894 Famous Grouse Whisky appears for the first time
1896 Dufftown Distillery opens
1897 Tomatin and Dalwhinnie founded
Pattisons blending company goes bankrupt and many
distilleries forced to close
1909 Johnny Walker Red Label launched
1913 Teacher's introduce their new cork
1936 Ballantine's is bought by Hiram Walker
SS Politician is lost with a cargo of whisky of the Isle of
1949 Tullibardine Distillery is rebuilt
Tormore, the first new distillery to be built in the 20th
1959 century in Scotland.
Whisky rationing in the UK ceases.

Deanston Distillery opens in an old cotton mill designed
by Richard Arkwright
1990 Drumguish Distillery produced its first spirit
500th anniversary of whisky production in Scotland.
Arran Distillery founded.


The distillation of Irish Whiskey has a long history, no one knows for sure
when it first began some sources place it as early as the 6th Century when
travelling monks on their return to Ireland brought with them the knowledge
of distillation.

We may never know for sure but can be thankful it was started sometime in
the distance past, enabling many hundreds of years of experience and
perfection to bring us to the stage we are at today. Certainly the distillation
process in Ireland is many hundreds of years old....

The following pages cover some of the recorded history of the production of
Irish Whiskey, or you can find out some information about the various
distilleries in Ireland through the Distilleries

Uisce Beatha"

Production of Irish Whiskey, "Uisce Beatha" meaning "Water of life" in
Irish, was prevalent in the 16th century. Elizabeth I was apparently quite
fond of it but missed the opportunity to raise extra revenue by placing a tax
on distillation. The opportunity was not lost forever as on Christmas day
in1661 the then Government introduced a tax of 4 pence on each and every
gallon of Whiskey distilled.

By 1785 the tax on whiskey stood at one shilling an tupence the last straw
for many was in 1815 when the tax was levied at a crippling six shillings. It
was this high tax which drove many to produce there goods illicitly and by
the end of the 18th century it is thought that there were some 2000 stills in
operation in Ireland. Many of these producing "Poitien" or Poteen which is
illicit whiskey. Some of these distillers decided to distil legally and tried to
raise the capital to set up larger distilleries of these by far the most
successful were the four big Dublin distillers: They were John Power, John
Jameson, George Roe and William Jameson.



Barley, water, yeast and fire !

The making of whisky can be done in different manners, depending in

particular to the geographical origin of production. The main differences are
related to the raw material, which is always a cereal, and on the type of
distillation which may be either "batch" distillation in a pot still, or
continuous distillation in column stills.

This allows for the making of different types of whisky corresponding to
various definitions, each offering their specific character, the main ones
being Blended whisky, Single Malt whisky and Grain whisky.
The most famous whiskies are often issued from the distillation of malted
barley in pot stills. Such is the case in particular of Scotch Pure Malts, of
which we will follow the main steps of making.

To produce a Malt Whisky, you need barley, water, yeast, heat and (much !)
This process can be broken down in Six main steps :

1 - Malting
2 - Milling
3 - Mashing
4 - Fermentation
5 - Distillation
6 - Ageing

Many factors have an influence on the quality and character of whisky :

characteristics of malt (Origin of barley, malting process), quality of water,
type of yeast, shape of stills, conducting of distillation, origin and quality of
casks used for ageing, ambient air being "breathed" during many long years
by the spirit through the cask's wood. each of theses elements play a role,
and if combination
of these parameters
can vary to infinite, very
few are these which allow
for a good whisky.

If you ask to a Scottish distiller which, in his opinion, are the most important
factors, chances are that he will reply that the key elements are the quality of
his water and the shape of his stills. This is effectively true, even if in reality
things are much more complex than that. Beyond the experience
painstakingly accumulated by generations of distillers and the resulting
mastery, the making of whisky still depends to a certain extent of a
mysterious alchemy which escapes any analyse or reasoning.

Even if today's distillers benefit from analysing tools which enable them a
better understanding and an improved control of the process, achieving the
"marvellous" balance in the combination of all the factors being involved
remains a particularly delicate art in which Scotsmen and Irishmen are the
undisputed masters.

One of the consequences of the complexity of this art is that the variety of
characters to be found among whiskies is definitely comparable to the one
that can be observed among wines.

This is precisely this richness which makes this spirit so unique and so
fascinating !

After it has been harvested, barley contains starch which is a non
fermentiscible sugar. The process of malting is aimed at transforming this
starch in a fermentiscible sugar which itself will be able to be transformed
into alcohol.

To start with, barley is soaked in water for two or three days before being
spread as a layer approximately twenty to thirty cm thick on the malting area
made as a wide flat concrete surface. This is where its germination will start,
lasting for about eight days.

will have
to be
times a
day with
shovels so as to allow steady and uniform germination, and its temperature
will be controlled permanently. Once the starch has been transformed into
sugar, germination will be stopped through the heating of the barley in a kiln
during 20 to 48 hours.

Heat will be provided by the burning of coal and to a varying degree by the
burning of peat. the smoke of the latest will impart to the malt a character
and aromas of very specific type which will be found in the finished product,
the peatiest whiskies being those from the island of Islay.

Nowadays, the majority of malts are produced in industrial malting plants,
where the process take place in large horizontal steel drums including a
perforated bed on which lays the barley, turning on themselves and through
which vaporized water then hot air are spread.

The malt is then ground in a mill containing two or three pairs of steel
rollers and transformed into grist. The latest must consist of about 10% flour,
20% husks and 70% "middles" or actual grist to allow for a satisfying

Grist is then mixed with hot water in the mashing machine which pours it
into the mashtun, which capacity can be in excess of 25.000 litres. Three
successive waters, with temperatures varying from 63 to 95C, are used to
produced a sugary liquid known as wort.

The mashtun possesses a double bottom finely perforated which will allow
the wort to be drawn off through the underback at the same time as it will
retain the solid particles known as draff. Those will be taken away at the end
of the process and are excellent food for cattle.

The last water used for mashing will be directed to a tank and used as the
third water of the next mashing. Wort will then travel through a heat
exchanger to be cooled to about 20C, to prevent yeast cells which will
ferment it from being killed.

Traditional mashtuns may be enclosed by a copper dome so as to preserve
heat. They are nowadays very often superseded by lautertuns which allow
for a better extraction of sugars contained in the malt.

Wort is the pumped into the washbacks which are large and open
fermentation vessels, which can hold up to 70.000 litres and be as high as 5
or 6 m. They may be covered by detachable panels and are usually made of
Oregon pine.

Some distilleries use fully closed vessels made of steel which are easier to
clean.Yeast is added, being either distillers yeast or a mixture of the latest
with brewer yeast, and will start fermentation. The action of yeast on wort's
sugar will produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. Wort will bubble, and may
even in some occasions generate strong vibrations of the washback itself in
spite of its impressive size.

After about 48 hours, bubbling and fermentation are over and the wort has
been transformed into wash, an alcoholic liquid of 7 to 8% vol. and not
unlike a sort of crude beer, which is pumped into the wash charger.

This is the process which is at the heart of whisky making. It consists
essentially in separating the alcohol contained in the wash from the water,
taking advantage of the fact that alcohol boils at a lower temperature than
water, at about 80C. Distillation comprises two stages accomplished in two
stills varying by their capacity and by their shape.

First distillation is done in the wash still which capacity maybe reach 25 to
30.000 litres and will transform the wash into low wines at about 21% vol.
Originally heated by a naked flame, usually from the burning of coal or gas,
the majority of stills are nowadays heated by coils placed inside them and
through which steam circulates. Evaporated alcohol rises up to the upper
part of the still, the swan neck, and then through the lyne arm after which it
enters the condenser in which alcoholic vapours will transformed into liquid.
Traditional condensers were made as coils immersed in large open wooden
vessels and cooled by water flowing through them.

Nowadays the vast majority of distilleries are equipped with tubular vertical
condensers offering improved calorific efficiency.

The low wines are kept in the spirit charger, wastes of the first distillation
known as pot ale being conveyed to a dark grain plant to be transformed into
cattle food.

The second distillation takes place in the spirit still which usually has a
capacity equal to about two third of the wash still's. This is where the
stillman's art expresses at its best, when he must retain only the middle cut,
eliminating the heads which contain too much high volatility alcohols
running at about 80% vol., and the tails comprising the heavy components.
As the distillation progresses the alcoholic strength of the flowing distillate
diminishes regularly : the moment when the stillman stops collecting the
middle cut or heart of run is called the cut, and will usually happen when the
hydrometer will read about 62/65% vol. If the cut is made too late, too high
a proportion of the tails will result in an unbalanced whisky with unpleasant
aromas. To the contrary, if the cut is made too early, the spirit will be
deprived from some of its components indispensable to achieve a whisky
with satisfying character. One will then obtain a product without major
default, but without real interest and personality either.

Speed of distillation also has a direct influence on the quality of the
collected spirit.

The latest which is perfectly colourless is at about 70% vol. and is pumped
into the spirit receiver. The stillman has to do all his operations by
intervening on the spirit safe, built with a copper frame holding plate glasses
and into which lead all pipes linking the stills to the various holding tanks. It
is usually a beautiful object duly padlocked under the control of Custom and
Excise, the stillman not being allowed to have any direct contact with the
product flowing from the stills.

For controlling the process, the stillman uses hydrometers and can check the
purity of the spirit in verifying if it does not get cloudy when mixed with
Heads and tails will be pumped and kept in the low wine charger to be
redistilled in the spirit still at the same time as the low wine intended for the
next distillation. Waste of distillation known as spent lees will be thrown

away or treated.
Some whiskies, notably in Ireland and in the Scottish Lowlands, are subject
to a triple distillation process, which delivers a spirit of a higher alcoholic
strength at about 85% vol.

Before being transferred into casks, the newly made spirit will have its
strength reduced to 63,5% vol. with demineralised water. The cask being
used are usually casks having been previously contained Bourbon, and are
used either as they come or after being rebuilt as hogsheads in Scottish
They will usually be kept on site for ageing or in a centralized warehouses
together with other spirits from a same company or group.

Last stage of the process of whisky making, ageing is at the same time the
longest one and one of the most important. The origin and the quality of
casks have a determining role in the end result, as well as, even if to a lesser
extent, the location of the warehouse. The quality of he air, its temperature,
its humidity, its coastal character or not, have an influence on the ageing

The nature of the warehouse itself has its importance, in particular
depending whether it is more or less isolate. For instance, it is generally
admitted that warehouses with earth ground provide the best results as they
maintain higher humidity level. As a matter of fact, during ageing some
alcohol evaporate through the wood of the casks with losses of about 2% per
year, this is what is called the "Angel Share". In a humid warehouse the loss
of spirit will materialize as a decrease of the alcoholic loss, which will
advantage the obtaining of a high quality whisky. In a dry warehouse, this
loss will materialize through a diminution of volume, with in extreme cases
a rising of the alcoholic strength, and will deliver a dryer spirit. Altogether,
losses are lower in dry warehouses than they are in a damp ones, the latest
which provide the best results are also the most costly.
Temperature also has its influence on ageing, if it is higher maturation of the
whisky will progress faster.

It is only after three years of ageing in cask that spirit is entitled to be called
whisky, but one usually considers that it is only after 8 years that a malt
whisky reaches real maturity. Some can reach their optimum at the age of 10
or 12 years, many are those which will take advantage of further maturation
up to 15 years or possibly beyond. If some of them may become exceptional
at the age of 20 or 25 years, others might suffer of staying too long in a cask,
their character ending up in fading away and aromas directly imparted by the
cask becoming too preponderant.

Last of all, one should not forget the ultimate stage in the long process of
whisky making which is bottling. The reduction, which is the operation by
which the alcoholic strength, initially at around 60% vol, is brought down to
drinking strength - in most cases 40 or 43% vol - is much more delicate than
one usually imagines. Quality of filtration has also an important effect, in
particular depending whether it is a chill or non chill filtration process.


The basic ingredients required to make Irish whiskey are pure clear water, of
which there is no shortage of in Ireland quality barley, and time (Lots of It)
and experience.

Basically to distil whiskey the distiller requires starch in sufficient quantity

to make spirit. The starch is provided by barley and it is from this starch that
sugars are released during the fermentation process


The first step in the process is known as Malting, this will release the starch
in the barleycorn by controlled germination. Traditionally the barley is
steeped in water for up to 2 days the water being changed several times
during this period, the water used in the last steeping is heated to help start
the germinating process.

The barley is then spread on a malting floor and turned daily to allow the
barley to germinate. As germination progresses the starch within the
barleycorn releases some of its sugars. It is at this stage that the germination
is halted by drying the malted barley in a closed kiln ready for the next stage
of the process.


The malted barley is mixed with un-malted barley prior to being passed
through a mill to be roughly ground into grist The grist is then mixed with
water in a mash tun where it is slowly stirred. The addition of water allows
the natural sugars to dissolve in the water which is drained off this liquid is
called "wort"


The wort containing the dissolved sugars from the barleycorn is now
pumped into a set of vessels commonly known as "washbacks" into the wort
is added yeast. This causes the a reaction with the sugars to produce an
brown coloured liquid. When the fermentation process has run its course the

liquid ceases to foam and bubble at which point it is ready to be pumped to
the stills for distillation

The distilling process is where the alcohol which has a
lower boiling point than water is separated from the
fermented liquid or wash from the washback. Traditionally
Irish Pot still whiskey is distilled three times in copper
stills to ensure a smooth and delicate spirit

Traditional Copper Pot Stills
1. The wash is heated in the first still (Wash still) and condensed into
low wines
2. This then goes to the second still (Low wines and Feint still) where
more impurities are removed and feints are collected.
3. The feints then go to a third still (Spirit still) where a further
refining of the spirit takes place The result is the production of a
colourless spirit which has a high alcohol content.

It is this third distillation that gives "Irish" its different taste which is purer
and lighter than Scotch Whisky which is distilled twice. At the Midleton
distillery in Co. Cork depending on the desired outcome the spirit may have
been distilled as many as 5 times. The distilled spirit at this stage still has a
long journey ahead of it before it can be truly called whiskey.

Having been successfully distilled the required number of times the spirit is
filled into wood casks and left to mature for a legal minimum of three years,
however more often than not it is usually more with eight, ten, or more years
required for some of the top brands.

It is during this maturation process that the magic that is Irish Whiskey takes
place. The clear spirit over time takes on the character of the cask in which it
is stored. The casks may have been used previously to store sherry bourbon
or rum although new oak casks are also used. While maturing in sherry
casks the alcohol's extract the sherry residue that has soaked into the wood,
or whilst maturing in charred bourbon casks the spirit will extract some of
the chemicals in the wood of the cask.

It is all of these factors along with temperature humidity and general storage
conditions plus the length of time the whiskey is left to mature that
contribute to the final product.

Prior to bottling the matured whiskey is vatted or "married" as it is

sometimes referred to In this the final stage of the distilling process. The
purpose of vatting is to fuse together many casks of whiskey in order to
produce as consistent a quality and flavour as possible . This is the art of the
blender, however Irish Whiskey producers have a historical disdain for
blended whiskey and even today with a few exceptions the vatting process
for brands such as Power's or Paddy will take only two or three days.

Bottling at the Cooley Distillery

Only with very specialised whiskeys such as Midleton Very Rare or

Redbreast will the casks be vatted for up to a full month prior to bottling. In
comparison Scotch whiskey may be vatted or married for a year or more.
This is said to reflect the importance of blending in Scotch as opposed to the
theory in Ireland where it is the distiller's art that has the greater influence on
the whiskeys final taste.



1. Manufacturing process
a) Malting

Irish Whiskey differs from Scotch in the malting stage. In the making of
Scotch whisky, malted barley is dried over peat fires. Thus allowing
smoke from the peat to penetrate the barley, This is what gives scotch
whiskies their distinctive smokey flavor. In the making of Irish Whiskey
malted barley is dried in closed ovens. The barley never comes in contact
with smoke, so the true malted barley flavor shines through with no

b) Mashing

The process of grinding the grain into grist and then mixing it with water
to produce wort are the same for Irish and Scotch Malt whiskeys

c) Fermentation
Once again the same basic process applies to both Irish and Scotch
Whiskeys. Yeast is added to convert the liquids' sugars into alcohol

c) Distillation
During this stage the alcohol with a lower boiling point than water is
steamed off. The shape of the still contributes to the final character of
the finished product and in Ireland the stills are generally larger than
Scottish ones. Generally, Scotch whiskies are distilled only twice. Irish
Whiskeys, however, are usually but not always triple distilled. Because
each stage of distillation increases the purity and smoothness of the
whiskey, This is what makes Irish Whiskey particularly pure and

e) Maturation
Once again the process of making Irish or Scotch is similar in that during
the final stage of the process the whiskes is transfered intto casks to
mature for the required number of years, three is the legal minimum, but
some whiskeys are left for many years more.

2. Spelling

How should whisk(e)y be spelled ?

Whiskey, with an "e" is how the generic word is spelled when

unconnected to a brand name. Most Irish and American distillers also
use this spelling. Scottish and Canadian products are however spelled
without the "e" as in whisky.


Types of Scotch


To be classed as Scotch whisky must be both distilled and matured in


There is a good reason for this ...

Scotch whiskies derive part of their flavour from the air in the locations
where they are stored during maturation. For example some people swear
that they can taste the sea from the strong, distinctively flavoured malt
whisky from the Island of Islay.

In accordance with the Scotch Whisky Act of 1988, Scotch must be

matured in oak barrels of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres. The
American Bourbon industry demands that barrels may be used only
once so these are now sold on to Scotch whisky distillers. Spanish
Sherry casks and Port casks are also used. All of these contribute
distinctive flavours to the whisky.

Scotch Whisky is commonly sold in single malt, pure malt and

blended versions. Malts are generally more expensive than the blends
and are produced entirely from malted barley.

It should be noted that the production of all types of Scotch Whisky does not
allow for any additives or enhancers. Only cereals (barley, wheat, maize
etc) water and yeast may be used, although a small amount of caramel (burnt
sugar) is permitted at the point of bottling this ensures a consistent colour
of the finished product.

Blended Scotch Whisky

By far the most popular worldwide, blended Scotch whisky accounts for
the majority of the Scotch that is consumed. Blends are created from many
different malt whiskies and grain whisky. Typically there would be about
80% grain and 20% malts in a blend with as many as 20 (but usually less
than 15) different malts being used. Blended whiskies are popular because
skilled master blenders can produce individual blends with consistent and
distinctive characteristics. These are sometimes blended with particular
markets in mind. For example at the end of the prohibition period in
America (1933) some distillers created blends specifically for the re-
emerging market there.

Single Grain Scotch Whisky

Single grain Scotch whisky is the product of a single distillery and made
from unmalted barley, corn (maize) or wheat, water and barley. There are
only a few single grain whiskies on sale to the general public and they are
often hard to find. Almost all grain whisky goes into the blending process to
create blended Scotch. The production process for grain whisky is
continuous process and therefore production volumes are much higher than a
typical malt distillery. This is reflected in the fact that there are only seven
grain distilleries operating in Scotland at present and they can cope with the
required volume.

Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Single malt Scotch whisky is so called because it consists

strictly of malt whiskies from a single distillery. These must
not contain any whiskies from other distilleries and it must
be distilled in copper pot stills.

Single malts are produced in many areas of Scotland. Perhaps the best
known (and the area with the highest concentration) is Speyside. Malt
whiskies tend to be classified by there area of origin. There are five distinct
areas, namely Speyside, Highland, Lowland Campbeltown and Islay, but it is
not true to say that all whiskies from one area are the same, they may share
certain characteristics, but no more than that.

It is worth noting that only about 5% of the todays malt whisky is bottled.
The rest goes into blends.

In malt whisky distilling only malted barley may be used. Distillers may
not use any other grains or fermentable products. Malt whiskies are
produced in pot stills. The pot stills used here at the Loch Lomond Distillery
are quite unusual. Four of these have rectifying heads and two have
traditional swan necks. This range of stills allows us to produce a total of
eight different single highland malt whiskies.

Single Cask Malt

A single cask malt is one which is a bottling from a single cask. Since most
of the American Bourbon casks that are used are 200 litres, and by the time
the angels have taken their share, this means that not much more than 400
bottles will be available from each cask (depending on the age and type of
cask used). The angels share is what evaporates during the maturation
stage so it will be dependent on the time in storage.

While single cask malts are very exclusive their consistency cannot be
controlled by mixing the malts from different cask so dont always expect
them to taste the same as other whiskies from the same distillery. Some of
these single, single malts are also bottled at cask strength, with no water at
all being added. This means that they often have 50% alcohol content or
more, with some being as high as 60%. Most distillers would recommend
that whisky be consumed at approximately 28 to 30%, typically 3 parts
whisky to 2 parts water. This allows all of the flavours (some of which are
dissolved in the alcohol) to be fully appreciated.

Pure Malt

Pure malt whisky or vatted malt is a blend of malt whiskies from different
distilleries. The term Pure Malt was coined to suggest exclusivity but it
really just means that the bottle contains no grain whiskies. Clearly all
Scotch malt whiskies are by definition pure malts or 100% Scotch malts.

This is not to say that pure malts are inferior. Once again the master blender
can marry together a number of malts in various quantities to produce a
distinctive whisky with its own character and traits.

Loch Lomond Single Blend Whisky

Never heard of it? Having read the above do you

think that it is a misnomer? Well, here at the
Loch Lomond Distillery we also produce the
Loch Lomond Single Blend whisky.

This is a unique product, not found elsewhere.

We are the only single distillery to produce both
grain whiskies and a number of different malt
whiskies on the same site, albeit that the stills are
in different buildings.

This allows us to use the word single in relation to our Loch Lomond
Single Blend.

Postscript - The Scotch Whisky Act 1988

Scotch Whisky has been defined in United Kingdom (UK) law since 1909
and recognised in European Community legislation since 1989. The
current UK legislation relating specifically to Scotch Whisky is The Scotch
Whisky Act 1988 and the Orders made under it. which came into effect in
June 1990 and superseded that part of the Finance Act 1969. as subsequently
amended, defining Scotch Whisky.

For the purposes of The Scotch Whisky Act 1988 "Scotch Whisky''
means whisky

(a) Which has been produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and
malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added) all
of which have been

(i) Processed at that distillery into a mash;

(ii) Converted to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme
systems; and

(iii) Fermented only by the addition of yeast;

(b) Which has been distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume of less than
94.8 per cent so that the distillate has an aroma and taste derived from the
raw materials used in, and the method of, its production;

(c) Which has been matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland in oak casks
of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres, the period of that maturation being
not less than 3 years;

(d) Which retains the colour. aroma and taste derived from the raw materials
used in, and the method of, its production and maturation; and

(e) To which no substance other than water and spirit caramel has been
The Scotch Whisky Act 1988 prohibits inter alia the production in Scotland
of whisky other than Scotch Whisky. The Scotch Whisky Act 1988 and
European Community (EC) legislation both specify a minimum alcoholic
strength of 40 per cent by volume, which applies to all Scotch Whisky
bottled and/or put up for sale within or exported from the Community.

Types of Irish Whiskey

There are two different types of Irish whiskey, malt whiskey
distilled in a traditional manner in pot stills and grain
whiskey made in modern distilleries using patent stills. Over

90 percent of all whiskey consumed is a blend of pure malt
whiskey and grain whiskey.

As a rule of thumb the more expensive the whiskey the

higher the percentage of malt.



Glasgow is renowned for its history and the famous spirit of
Glasgow. A lowland single malt.

Ardbeg close to the ancient Kildalton Cross, the white-washed,

wave-washed buildings of Ardbeg lie on the dramatic, rugged southerly
shores of Islay. Ardbeg is one of the most welcoming distilleries to visit.

Bowmore Distillery one of the oldest in Scotland, has stood

on the shores of Loch Indall, on the Hebridean island of Islay
since 1779

As any whisky lover knows, the precious water of life needs time to mature
before its charms can be savoured.

Glengoyne is located just 35 minutes drive from Glasgow

and Stirling and 70 minutes from Edinburgh.

Come and visit us at The Glenlivet Distillery. You will
find us in one of the most remote and beautiful of Scotland's inland glens. It
lies in the heart of Speyside situated high up in the Banffshire Highlands

At Glenmorangie Distillery the gleaming swan-necked copper stills - the

tallest in Scotland - play a vital role in the making of one of Scotland's
favourite dram.

At the heart of Speyside on the banks of the river lossie is

the Glen Moray Distillery. Originally built as a brewery in
1815, Glen Moray was converted to a distillery in 1897
and today continues to produce this distinctive smooth Speyside Malt.

Hebridean specialize in the creation and manufacture of

Scotch whisky liqueurs. We are a small family business
based in Helensburgh in Argyle on the West Coast of Scotland.

Inver House Distillers owns and operates 5 Highland malt distilleries.

Each produces excellent spirit of distinctive character
sought after by blenders and single malt connoisseurs

The first official distillery on Jura was built in 1810 but there is
evidence that illicit distilling took place as far back as 1502. A
unique Single Malt which truly represents the island of Jura, its
land, water, climate and people.

Pulteney is the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland. It stands

in the suburbs of Wick, about eighteen miles from John O'Groats

The Balvenie Distillery lies at the very heart of
Scotch whisky country in Speyside, in the Scottish Highlands.
The exceptional quality of our single malt is due to the fact that The
Balvenie Distillery retains and nurtures a high level of craftsmanship that
other malt whisky producers no longer employ.

Dalmore Distillery sits on the banks of the Cromarty Firth overlooking the
rich and fertile Black Isle, the "big meadowland", from which it takes its

Tullibardine Distillery nestles at the foot of the Ochil

Hills in Perthshire, where the Highlands of Scotland
begin. These hills are renowned for the crystal purity
of their spring water.

The Speyside Distillery is situated West of Aberdeen and

South of Inverness, four miles from Kingussie, along the
B970. The buildings themselves nestle in a beautiful location at the foot of
Glentromie by the River Tromie where it enters the Spey.

SCOTLANDWHISKY.com, the site dedicated to promoting

Scotland and its national drink. Central to experiencing scotch whisky in
Scotland is a stay at one of Scotland's Scotch Whisky Embassies.


Tullamore Dew

Tullamore no longer exists as a distillery however its name

lives on in this its most famous whiskey. It is now produced
for Tullamore Dew Co. By the Irish Distillers Group at the
Midleton Distillery Co. Cork.
Tullamore Due is probably the grainiest and least Irish of the
popular Irish Whiskeys, with its smooth sweet flavour it
makes a good aperitif.

Black Bush

Now Owns by the Pernod Ricard group and part of the Irish
Distillers Group Bushmills Distillery promotes itself as being the
Oldest licensed Distillery in the World, remembered by the year
of 1608 being displayed on every bottle produced.
Black Bush is a premier blended whiskey with a malty nose
whose nutty flavours are rounded off by a sherry sweet finish.

Green Spot

Distilled by John Jameson & Son for Mitchell & Son Green
Spot pot still has been produced since the turn of the 19th
century. It is currently the only brand produced and sold
under name specifically for an independent wine merchant
in Ireland. The last from a range of "Coloured Spot"

A hard to find whiskey, It is a rich and complex pot still whisky notable for
an abundance of pot still character

Bushmills 16 Year old Single Malt

A new addition to the stable of Bushmills whiskey this offering

was first released in the 1996. Notable for its "Three wood finish"
(referring to the fact that the whiskey has been influenced by three
different types of cask during the maturation process.
An excellent malt whiskey and a must for any connoisseur. A rich
whiskey with subtle sweetness not to be missed.

Bushmills Original

No one knows for certain just how old Bushmills "Original" or

"White Bush" as it is sometimes known, has been available.
The Old Bushmill Distillery lost most of its records during the
war when their offices were burned. It is the best known of the
Bushmills brands.
A blended light fresh bodied whiskey with a pleasant malty
sweet finish.

Paddy Old Irish Whisky

Produced by the Cork Distillers Company Paddy old Irish

Whiskey carried the rather unwieldy name of "Cork
Distilleries Company Old Irish Whiskey" It was renamed
after Paddy Flaherty a sales rep for the company. Another
Blend from the Irish Distillers Group.
Paddy Old Irish Whiskey is Light and fresh being one of the softest of all
Irish Whiskeys due to the low percentage of pot still content.

John Powers

John Powers and sons began production in 1791 in 1886

they were one of the first to start to bottle their whiskeys
until then almost all drinks were sold from the barrel.
Powers is probably the No1 Irish whiskey sold in Ireland.
Originally a pure pot still it is now produced at the Midleton
Distillery in Co. Cork as a blend of pot still and grain whiskeys
Power's is an Irish favourite with its fruity and spicy flavours giving way to
a long lingering finish.

Locke's Irish Whisky

Made by the Distillery at Kilbeggan. Although distilling

began in 1757 Locke's Irish Whiskey is named after the
19th century family who took over the running of the
Distillery in Kilbeggan in 1843. The Distillery finally
closed in the early 1950's an was literally turned into a
pigsty. Today it is managed by the Kilbeggan Development Association
Locke's is a smooth quality blended whiskey, its malty sweet taste being
complemented by dryer fresh notes.


The influence of chill filtration, on the quality of whisky is merely

a marketing claim. Neither can the participants identify the
filtration method, nor is the quality rated better.

Instead of falling for the argument of non chill filtration the

consumer should better aim for an additional maturation in ex-
sherry or wine casks. Here an improved quality rating is
statistically measurable.

Whether a consumer should look to peated whisky is everybody's

personal choice. Since different sample sets were provided, each
participant could decide for themselves. This selection showed the
slightly better-rated quality of the peated samples versus the
unpeated samples.