Sunday, 19 February 2017



In Uruguay, people don’t say ‘cheese’ to force a smile for the camera – they say ‘whisky’.

World War II re-shaped the industry. Could whisky be made at a time of rationing? The government argued that as the country was bankrupt and needed to earn more currency overseas, cereals would only be released if companies agreed to export more. Whisky rationing only came to an end in 1959.

Since 1956, whisky has been the W word of choice for the NATO phonetic alphabet. It replaced William.

There are only 12 working distilleries in Ireland, compared to ~110 in Scotland.

John ‘Johnnie’ Walker was a grocer in Kilmarnock in the mid-1800s who specialised in blending tea, until he decided to try his hand at blending whisky too.

Saturday, May 21, 2016 is World Whisky Day. It takes place on the third Saturday of May each year (launched in 2012).

Throughout the years, whisky has been thought to have magic powers and hugely restorative qualities, including being splashed on to men’s heads in an attempt to cure baldness, feet being soaked in it to prevent blisters, given in milk to cats to help them catch more mice and even poured around the base of trees to give them a boost.

1994 saw the 500th anniversary of Scotch Whisky production in Scotland.

An 1896 Scotch from Ernest Shackleton’s Antartic expedition found in 2006 is being preserved in a museum in Christchurch, NZ. It didn’t freeze, even at -30 temperatures, and 11 full bottles were found in crates. It will never be poured for drinking but samples have been taken and used to recreate the taste.

The ‘cup of kindness’ mentioned in Auld Lang Syne, written by Robert Burns, refers to whisky.

There are over 300,000 varieties of barley but only a few are suitable for malt whisky production.

Depending on the strain of barley that is used, one metric ton of barley can be converted into ~ 400 litres of pure alcohol (at + 95.6%).

Many Scottish distilleries now give the grain waste produced by distilling to farmers as a nutrient-rich food supplement for livestock.

The first Scottish distillery to install a Coffey Still was the Grange Distillery, Alloa.

In Victorian times at some Scottish distilleries a curious – and somewhat benevolent – rule allowed workers to stop for a dram each time a bell rang. It rang 4 times a day!

Distillery workers have been known to take used barley home to be packed into a drawer and stored overnight to set, then cut and taken the next day for snack/lunch. A predecessor of the flapjack!

Coopers use more than 20 different tools to build a whisky barrel.

‘Flogging a bung’ means using a mallet to pry open the bung of the cask – bashing the barrel either side of the bung hole to loosen it up and allow sampling.

Recently, whisky barrels have found an unusual use once they are no longer required for maturing whisky – there is a company which now transforms them into flooring for your home or workplace, as well as for bars and restaurants.

There are over 25 descriptive terms for the colour of whisky. 

Whisky does not mature once it has been bottled.

Most new make spirit is diluted to around 62.5% ABV before being placed in casks to mature.

Blending was pioneered by Andrew Usher in Edinburgh in the 19th century.

Whisky gains as much as 60% of its flavour from the type of cask used in the ageing process. 

As of November 23, 2012, Single Malt Scotch Whisky must be bottled in Scotland.

On Sunday, Aug 12, 2012, the Guinness Book of World Records recorded the largest bottle of whisky in the world at 228 litres. 

The earliest known ‘whisky bottles’, in 1841, were re-used wine bottles, often used by local grocers.

There are currently 117 operational distilleries across Scotland, 7 grain and 110 malt.

There are 8 distilleries (soon to be 9) on the island of Islay.

In 1941, German U boats sank the SS Eriskay Politician with 28,000 bottles of whisky on board.

Scotch Whisky can not only be enjoyed as a drink or paired with food, but also in recipes including cakes, preserves and sauces – often in place of more traditional brandy or wine.

The first distillery came into ‘official’ existence in 1824 following the Excise Act of 1823.

Scotch Whisky was so popular that people began to make their own to avoid the tax man.

John F Kennedy’s father, Joseph Kennedy was an agent for the first legal Scotch Whisky brand to be delivered into the US after Prohibition. The whisky was landed in New York the moment the law was repealed on Dec 5, 1933.

The Ardbeg Distillery on Islay sent compounds of unmatured malt – new make spirit – to the International Space Station (ISS) in an unmanned cargo spacecraft on 30 October 2011. It also sent up particles of charred oak and, once the spacecraft docked at the ISS, the two sets of molecules were mixed. 

Glenmorangie has the tallest stills in Scotland. Their long copper necks stand at 5.14 metres, the same height as a fully grown adult giraffe! They are not small and squat like traditional stills as the company’s founder was a ‘canny’ Scot who bought second-hand gin stills rather than purchase new, more expensive stills. The ones used today are exact replicas of this original design.

The oldest recorded visitor to a Scottish distillery was 103.

KT Tunstall was given a handmade guitar built from oak cask staves by her favourite distillery (Talisker).

Degrees of peating are measured in ‘parts per million phenols’, or ppm. Well-known distilleries generally range from 1-55 but, experimentally, a ppm of 200 has been achieved on Islay. 

The Quaich, a uniquely Scottish invention designed specifically for whisky, is used to offer a guest a cup of welcome and also as a farewell drink.

Scotch Whiskies contain more than double the number of flavour 
components (congeners) of its nearest competitors, cognac and rum – with more than 100 complex flavours versus 5 to 10 in vodka.

While a dram is a standard pub measure, ‘A Wee Dram’ has an altogether different definition. The term can only be applied to a measure poured by a host, and its size is dependent not on HM weights and measures, but on the generosity of the host.

Standard measures of Scotch Whisky (25ml) contain 55 calories and no fat.

Diageo invested £10 million in its state of the art Cambus Cooperage to make it a completely up to date operation combining innovation with traditional skills.

There are more than 500 species of oak growing throughout the world but only a few are suitable for coopering.

The art of making barrels is one of the world’s oldest crafts.

The Scotch Whisky production process has changed little in the last two hundred years.

The Wine and Spirit Brand Association was formed in 1912, becoming the Whisky Association in 1917 and the Scotch Whisky Association in 1942.

The Coffey or Patent Still has been in use since 1831.

Until 1821, glass bottles for Scotch Whisky were free-blown.

In 1887 Josiah Arnell and Howard Ashley patented the first bottle-blowing machine.

Scotch Whisky only began to be sold in bottles after 1860 when blending became widespread. 

Glenturret’s record breaking distillery cat Towser, caught 30,000 mice in his 24-year lifetime (1963-1987).

Scotch Whisky water source on Islay flows through rocks thought to be 800 million years old. 

The description ‘Single Malt Scotch Whisky’ must appear exactly in that form.

In 1827, Cameronbridge became the first distillery to produce grain whisky.

The 1915 Immature Spirits Act brought in the three year rule for ageing whisky. 

There are more than 1.5 million visits to Scotch Whisky distilleries annually. This means they rank among many well-known UK attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish National Gallery, Tate Britain, Stonehenge and London Zoo.

Elgin architect Charles Doig invented the iconic ‘pagoda’ roof which is still used in many Scotch Whisky distilleries.

Agents who bought whisky from smugglers were called ‘Blethermen’.

Cooper’s apprentices must work accompanied for 4 years before being allowed to tackle their own barrel.

There were 400 illicit stills in Edinburgh alone in 1777.

Campbeltown could at one point boast more than 30 distilleries and proclaimed itself ‘the whisky capital of the world’; it was nicknamed ‘Spiritville’ or ‘Whiskyopolis’. 

Robert Burns was once employed in the Scotch Whisky industry as an exciseman or ‘gauger’.

Islay peat is made up of moss, heather and seaweed while mainland peat contains wood, bark and needles from the Caledonian pine forests, giving two very distinct flavours.

Visitors to Scotch Whisky distilleries spend £50million per year, an average of £32.50 per head.

The largest proportion of visitors came from Scotland and other parts of the UK, Germany, USA and France. The source of visitors reflects some of the largest markets for Scotch.

A crystal decanter of Macallan Imperiale ‘M’ whisky scooped the prestigious title of world’s most expensive whisky when it sold at auction in Hong Kong for $628,205 in 2015. The luxury decanter contains 6 litres of whisky and stands 28 inches tall.

Scotch whisky is now being sold in a can in the United States, putting liquor prized for its pedigree into a humble container known for its affordability and portability. Johnnie Walker has released Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky with Soda, which will be available in both 345ml bottle and 375ml can formats. Cola mixes are at or below 5% ABV.

Approximately 15 percent of blended Scotch whisky is bottled overseas.

Glenfiddich buys German Oak casks and sends them to Jerez, Spain. A sherry-maker is paid rent to make a 'fino' sherry in this cask and bottle it in 2 yrs. The cask is brought back to Scotland and filled with a brand new make of raw malted whisky and matured for 10-15 years. The end result is an expensive Scotch whisky. Macallan does the same, except that at 10-12 years, the whisky is shifted for another 2-5 years into once-used American bourbon casks that last held Oloroso sherry.  The end result is a bloody expensive Scotch whisky, most popular in China for corporate gifts.

Glenmorangie is more exclusive. LMVH has its own Oak plantation in the US, make their own bourbon barrels and pay Bourbon manufacturers to use these casks for one-four years. Thereafter, the casks are split open into staves and exported to Scotland to mature Glenmorangie raw make.