Where did the name Whisky come from? The Latin aqua vitae (water of life) from which came the Gaelic “usage beathea” became “usky” the Whisky in English. First written record of production of uisage breatha (water of life, eau-de-vie, in Gaelic) dates back to 1494, but its origin is much older.
Scotland has internationally protected the term Scotch. For a Whisky to be labeled Scotch it must be produced in Scotland. Excellent whiskies are produced in other countries, but they are not Scotch.
What is Scotch Whisky?
For Whisky to be called Scotch Whisky, it has to satisfy certain criteria which are governed by law Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009. There are literally pages of regulations but in simple terms a Scotch Whisky must:
Be made from barley – Have been produced in Scotland – Be matured in oak casks in Scotland.
Be matured for minimum three years – Contain nothing else except natural caramel for coloring.
The Scotch Whisky Family
Single Malt – Single Grain – Blended – Blended Malt – Blended Grain.
Must be distilled at a single distillery from water and malted barley only. Must be produced by batch distillation in pot stills. Single malt is generally the most expensive Scotch. The barley does not have to come from Scotland.
Must be distilled from water and malted barley only with or without whole grains of other mallet or unmalted cereals, typically wheat or maize. Produced using a continuous distillation process which does not involve pot stills.
This is a blend of single grain and single malt whisky’s. The larger portion is from Grain whisky. The rest is made up from 3 different types of malt Whisky.
- Base malt (larger proportion)
- Top dressers (intense flavors)
- Packers (low aroma intensity)
Some blended whiskies are mixed together then re-casked for approximately 6 months to insure all the flavors are combined, a process called marrying.
Blended Malt Whisky
Blended malt Whisky is a blend of single Malt Scotch Whiskies distilled at more than one distillery. It cannot have the name of one distillery and will have a brand name. Usually done by independent bottlers.
Blended Grain Whisky
Blended grain whisky is a blend of single grain Scotch Whiskies distilled at more than one distillery.
Source The Best Wood
Up to 70% of the flavor in Scotch Whisky can come from the wood that the spirit matures in. Great wood is essential to make great whisky.