That’s right! Whisky starts its life as ‘whisky beer’ or ‘wort’ brewed from the very same ingredients as the beer know and favour – i.e. water, yeast and malt. This whisky beer goes through a double – sometimes triple – distillation process to create new make whisky, a clear potent fluid that is more closely related to vodka than whisky. The new make whisky will undergo cask maturation and transform into that golden elixir we adore so much.
2. Indeed, the word whisky means ‘water of life.’
Whisky is derived from the Gaelic word usquebaugh, which translates to ‘water of life’. Many folks believe that the pronunciation ‘uski’ gave way to its modern sound, whisky.
3. There is no “e” in whisky… say the Scottish!
The Scots (and Canadians) do not spell whisky with an “e.” Meanwhile, the Irish and some Americans, do! The origins of the spelling of the word whisky with an “e” stem from a theory that the Irish, throughout their turmoiled history with Great Britain, needed to set themselves apart from their Scotch rivals. So, one way that they proceeded to distinguish themselves was to brand their bottles by labelling them with a different spelling. Fair warning, do not ever identify whisky as having an “e” amongst a Scotch lover!
4. Speaking of Irish vs Scotch whisk(e)y… which one invented the liquid sunshine anyway?
No one really knows except that monks were involved. While the Irish maintain that they invented whisky, the Scottish maintain that they’ve “perfected” it.
5. Angels have a part to play.
As whisky matures in barrels, up to 2% of the alcohol evaporates each year. This 2% ‘loss’ is referred to as “angel share” …because… how else can you explain where the 2% goes?
6. Speaking of ageing whiskies…
Scotch whisky must be aged in barrels for a minimum of three years. Of course, many distilleries hold their barrels for longer, some even 70+ years. Whenever you see an age statement on a bottle of Scotch – i.e. 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, etc – that number represents the minimum age of the blend when it was bottled. It won’t age longer than what is declared on the bottle. Also, the opportunity to taste 20 years+ aged Single Malts means you better savour every drop!
7. …And Single Malt means…?
One grain – malted barley – from a single distillery. As mentioned previously, Single Malt is “blended” but that means blended from other barrels of Single Malt made by the same distillery. Just to confuse you a smidge, there is such a thing as ‘blended malt’ and ‘blended grain whiskies.’
8. Whisky is produced all over the world!
You’ve probably heard of Bourbon (USA) and Rye (Canada) but did you know that Japan, India, Germany and Australia are also global producers of whisky? Now you know!
9. Some say it’s a better ‘investment’ than wine…
It does keep well in the cupboard much longer than wine if you don’t finish the bottle after a couple days.
10. George Washington swore by it!
One of the Founding Fathers himself, George Washington actually owned his very own distillery in the early 1800s and he was also the largest producer of whisky in the country at that time.
George was not the only politician who enjoyed a dram or few… Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill and Mark Twain all LOVED whisky!