If you have ever gone into a whisky shop or visited an online whisky exchange you will be have been surprised by the different arrays of whiskies on display. But have you ever wondered what is it that makes this drink so special? In order to fully appreciate scotch single malt whisky it’s essential to know how it is produced and where to buy high quality Scotch whisky. On the Internet there are many places to purchase good quality Scotch, like a whisky exchange or online whisky shop.
Origins of Whisky
It is possible that the distillation process was started in ancient Babylon around 2000 BC. Although this wasn’t to distil spirits, but for perfumes. It is thought that the art of distilling spirits was developed around the 13th century in Italy, where wine was distilled to extract the alcohol. Then the practice spread to Ireland and Scotland.
In the Gaelic language (the language spoken by the Irish and Scots) the words ‘whisky’ literally means “water of life”. It is thought that the process of distilling grains came from Ireland and that the Scots may have learned whisky distillation from the Christian missionary monks, who had travelled over from Ireland. Although the Socts claim to have the earliest recorded accounts of distilling spirits, no one can be certain just when the drink from distilled grains was produced.
In order for a whisky to be called ‘Scotch Whisky’ it has to have been produced in Scotland and have been matured in wooden casks, on Scottish ground, for at least 3 years. Whisky is produced in other countries and the spelling of it depends on where it is produced. Whiskey produced in the US and Ireland has the ‘e’ at the end. Whereas whisky produced in Scotland, Canada and Japan don’t have the ‘e’ at the end. Although many countries have tried to produce their own whiskies, nothing can compare to the uniqueness of a fine Scotch single malt.
What Is Needed For High Quality Whisky?
The three main factors to make a good quality Scotch single malt are: pure water, barley and peat. Scotland has been blessed with all three of these factors. The Scottish climate produces high quality barley. Although Scottish distillers prefer using Scottish barley, the source isn’t important. For making high quality whisky the barley needs to have a higher sugar content. The water from the hills is clean and pure and fresh peat is in abundance. The water in Scotland is naturally ‘soft’, it is in abundance and is naturally filtered through peat. This all combines to give Scotch whisky a unique taste.
Blended or Single Malt?
There are generally 2 main types of Scotch whisky – blended and single malt (although in the past few years some distillers have been selling ‘grain whisky’). Any whisky produced in Scotland has to be matured in casks, usually oak, for a minimum of three years. Unlike wine, whisky doesn’t mature in the bottles. All the maturation process happens in the casks, where some evaporation occurs (called the angels share).
A blended whisky is a blend of different whiskies, from different distilleries combined with a grain whisky. The age of whisky on the bottle will be the age of the youngest whisky in the blend. Some high quality blended whisky can contain whiskies that have been matured in casks for 50 years!
A single malt whisky will be produced from one distillery and not be blended with other whiskies. The minimum age for a single malt is 8 or 10 years. The older the whisky then the smoother the flavour will be.
So what is better – a single malt or blended whisky? This is a matter of opinion. A high quality blended whisky can be even richer in flavour and smoother to the palate than a cheaper single malt. In general though, single malts are classed as the best type of whisky.
When it involves whisky there’s nothing like scotch whisky (or, as we say in Scotland “a wee dram”). It retains a unique and original flavour which has not changed throughout the centuries.
In order to view a range of good quality whiskies you can visit a whisky exchange or whisky shop. There you will be able to browse through the various brands and see what region of Scotland there are from, how ‘peaty’ the whisky is and what is unique to that specific whisky.
Scott Gibson is an expert on the production techniques of single malt whiskies. He has travelled extensively to write about this subject.