Scotch is the world’s favourite whisky. No other spirit can offer the same range of tastes, textures and flavours. Made the same way for over five hundred years in distilleries small and large, the length and breadth of Scotland, it is the very pinnacle of quality - loved in every corner of the globe. Trends come and go, but Scotch is here to stay as shown by the #LoveScotch movement.

Where it began

The earliest distillers in Scotlandwere probably monks, as suggested by the first written reference to the distillation of ‘aqua vitae’ from malt in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland for 1494-95.

After the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, the art of distilling moved into the surrounding communities. During the 18th century a series of excise duties imposed on both malt and distilling in Scotland led to a proliferation of illicit distilling in rural Highland communities, whilst larger capitalized distilleries began to flourish in the lowlands. The 1823 Excise Act permitted the distilling of malt whisky in smaller stills for the payment of a relatively modest license fee. This new law resulted in illicit production and smuggling, dying out almost completely.

In 1831 Aeneas Coffey invented the Coffey, or Patent Still, which allowed the continuous process of distillation to take place. This still led to the wide scale production of grain whisky, with a lighter flavor than malt whisky.

Grocers and wine and spirit merchants like John Walker took advantage of these developments to blend together lighter grain whiskies with heavier more flavoursome malt whiskies to produce Blended Scotch Whiskies, which were more palatable to a wider group of consumers.

Over the years Scotch whisky has grown to become one of the most popular spirit categories in the world with an unrivalled range of variations and flavours.

How it is made

INGREDIENTS

Water is used at various stages of throughout the production process of malt whisky and it is important that it is of high quality.

Malted barley is the only grain used in the production of malt whisky. It is used alongside wheat or maize in the production of grain whisky.

Yeast is used to ferment the sugary ‘wash’ produced from ‘mashing’ the malted barley

Production

1) During the malting process the barley goes through a germination process to convert proteins in the seed into starches.

2) The barley is then dried in a kiln, sometimes using peat as a fuel, to deliver a pungent phenolic, or smoky, character.

3) The malted barley is milled (ground) and then mixed (‘mashed’) with hot water to extract the fermentable sugars from the starches.

4) This ‘wash’ is fermented by adding yeast to create a low alcohol beer.

5) The wash is then double distilled in copper pot stills.

6) The distilled spirit is matured in oak casks (in Scotland) for a minimum of three years before it can be called Scotch whisky.

Maturation

By law, in order for whisky to be Scotch whisky, the new spirit must be matured in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years. During the maturation process over 50% of the flavour of the final whisky will develop as the spirit interacts with the wood.

New oak casks impart a dominant woody flavour which is not desired in Scotch whisky so the majority of Scotch is matured in second-hand casks. The casks are often charred before they are used because this creates an active wood surface that can both remove undesirable elements from the spirit, and allow complex flavours to develop. American Oak ex-bourbon casks give sweet vanilla and coconut notes and a lighter colour while ex sherry European oak casks give a richer flavour and darker colour.

Blending

Blending Scotch whisky involves a skilled process of mixing different single malts with different grain whiskies to produce a consistent product. Blends may comprise as many as forty individual whiskies. As each whisky has its own character, it is down to the master blender to use their knowledge, skills and intuition to blend together the right whiskies at the right age to produce the perfect blend, batch after batch, time after time.

Types

Whisky can be made anywhere in the world - however, Scotch whisky unsurprisingly can only be made in Scotland. Here are some other factors that make whisky, Scotch whisky:

  • Distilled in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added).
  • Matured for at least three years in oak casks in Scotland.
  • Has a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40%.

Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Must be distilled from 100% malted barley, be produced in a traditional pot still and be the produce of one individual distillery.


Single Grain Scotch Whisky

Can be made from a combination of cereals but must be produced by a single distillery and it is typically column (Patent Still) distilled.


Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

Is a blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies that have been distilled at more than one distillery.


Blended Grain Scotch Whisky

Is a blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies that have been distilled at more than one distillery.


Blended Scotch Whisky

Is a blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies.


Blended Scotch whisky accounts for over 90% of Scotch whisky sold around the world today; it is what has made Scotch the world’s favourite whisky.

Whisky 101

Every year World Whisky Day is celebrated in May. Ahead of the celebration this year, whisky expert, Nick Morgan took a look through the different types:

Key serves

Johnnie Ginger

50ml of JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL

150ml Ginger ale

Lime Wedge

Method

Fill up the glass with ice cubes.

Pour 50ml of JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL.

Fill to the top with ginger ale.

Garnish with a lime wedge.

(2 standard drinks*- 1.6 units per serve)

Johnnie Soda

50ml of JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK LABEL

150ml Soda Water

Lime Wedge

Method

Fill up the glass with ice cubes.

Pour 50ml of JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK LABEL.

Fill to the top with soda water.

Garnish with a lime wedge.

(2 standard drinks*- 1.6 units per serve)

Did you know?
The term 'whisky' is derived from the Gaelic word "uisge beatha" (pronounced Ooshky-bay), meaning 'water of life'. This was shortened to 'usky' and then ‘whisky' in English.
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(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)

CHECK OUT THESE SCOTCH WHISKY BRANDS FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THEIR STYLE AND RANGE:

BLENDED SCOTCH WHISKIES

  • Bell's

    Bell's

    A pioneer of blended Scotch whisky dating back to 1825, Bell's continues to draw from the finest malts to create a rich, distinctive liquid.

  • Buchanan's

    Buchanan's

    Buchanan's blended Scotch whisky is an excellent example of quality. The brand stands for prestige and tradition and is well known, as such, within the Latin community.

  • Black & White

    Black & White

    Black & White is a very accessible blended Scotch Whisky. Light, fresh and spicy with a hint of smoke.

  • Dimple

    Dimple

    Dimple blended Scotch whisky consists of over thirty malt and grain whiskies, and is produced by Haig, Scotland's oldest surviving Scotch Whisky distiller.

  • J&B

    J&B

    J&B brings together a blend of 42 single malt and grain whiskies for a smooth, delicious Scotch whisky that's ideal for mixing.

  • Johnnie Walker

    Johnnie Walker

    The world’s most iconic and best selling blended Scotch whisky: from the vibrant Red Label to the super-premium Blue Label - and beyond.

  • Old Parr

    Old Parr

    A blended Scotch whisky launched in 1909, named after the reputed oldest man in England.

  • VAT 69

    VAT 69

    Vat 69 is a Blended Scotch Whisky with a light, very fresh and slightly spicy taste profile.

  • White Horse

    White Horse

    White Horse is a blended Scotch Whisky with a full-bodied, peaty flavour and a warm after-taste.

  • Windsor

    Windsor

    Windsor is a blended Scotch whisky of exceptional quality, containing an exclusive selection of fine grain whiskies and precious malt whiskies.

SINGLE MALT WHISKIES

  • Cardhu

    Cardhu

    An unmissable Speyside Single Malt Whisky. Sweet and smooth with a warmth and cleanliness of taste.

  • Caol Ila

    Caol Ila

    This Single Malt whisky is a subtle take on western island smokiness down to its maritime location on the island of Islay.

  • Clynelish

    Clynelish

    A single malt constantly praised for its unique combination of North Highland and maritime qualities.

  • Cragganmore

    Cragganmore

    Established in 1869, Cragganmore is a Speyside Single Malt Whisky with a rich fruity taste.

  • Glenkinchie

    Glenkinchie

    A Lowland Single Malt Whisky, Glenkinchie is one of the handful of distilleries still operating in the region known as the 'garden of Scotland'.

  • Dalwhinnie

    Dalwhinnie

    As an Highland malt, Dalwhinnie is a subtle, floral and elegant Single Malt Whisky with a slight hint of peatiness.

  • Haig Club

    Haig Club

    Scotland's hidden gem, Haig Club is a Single Grain Scotch Whisky, made only at Cameronbridge Distillery - the oldest grain distillery in Scotland.

  • Lagavulin

    Lagavulin

    With a scent of massive peat smoke, a subtle hint of seaweed and a deep, intense sweetness, Lagavulin is a classic Islay Single Malt Whisky.

  • Mortlach

    Mortlach

    Born of innovation, rich in character and tradition. Beloved of connoisseurs, from a Speyside few know. Re-born as a family of four fine, rare Single malt whiskies.

  • Oban

    Oban

    Oban, made on the western coastline of the Highlands, is a Scottish Single Malt Whisky with a distinct maritime notes that echoes its western island neighbours

  • The Singleton

    The Singleton

    The Singleton of Glen Ord, Dufftown or Glendullan are all Single Malts whiskies from The Singleton distillery in Speyside. Approachable, naturally rich,and with rounded flavour, they are ideal for those new to whisky.

  • Talisker

    Talisker

    Powerful and spicy, with a peppery finish and a touch of island smoke, the award-winning Single Malt Whisky is the only one on the Isle of Skye.

WANT TO EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE WITHIN THE SCOTCH WHISKY CATEGORY? CHECK OUT THESES VIDEOS...