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The Pride Of Scotland

Whiskey from A to Z.

August 25, 2020

For many years, Scotland has produced some of the finest whiskeys the world has ever seen. A country that is immensely proud of this. This Blog will explain all the reasons as to why they should be proud of it. From highlighting the origin of whiskey to its history, its many forms and flavors, you will learn all about the whiskeys that Scotland has to offer. It is not just about the whiskey, it is about the tradition behind it:  The breathtaking views, the culture, the accents, the tall tales, the humor. We could go on and on but how about we just start with the whiskey, so, when you do decide to visit Scotland with Art In Voyage, you can showcase our knowledge of this incredible spirit.

 

Sheep walking in Scotland, By Art In Voyage
Scotland Edinburgh, by Art In Voyage
Whisky glass and bottle, by Art In Voyage
Whisky being poured, by Art In Voyage
Gylen Castle in Scotland, by Art In Voyage

Uisge Beatha

The word “whiskey” comes from the Gaelic uisge, a Celtic language, a shortened version of uisge beatha meaning “water of life,”. Whiskey was originally used as a medicine, both internal and external antibiotic. Distilling techniques were brought to Ireland and Scotland sometime between 1100 and 1300 by monks. Since the wine was not easily obtained there, barley beer was distilled into a liquor which became whiskey.

The manufacturing of distilled spirits was limited to apothecaries and monasteries until the late 15th century. Whiskey made its way to North America with Irish and Scottish immigrants and has spread across the globe as well. Whisky has gone through many ups and downs over the years. The start where the Great French Wine Blight in 1880, a plague that destroyed the vast majority of French vineyards, caused a big decrease in wine production and therefore increase in the demand for whisky. Then in the World Wars, the reduced working distilleries from around 150 in 1900 to only 15 in 1933. Due to the length of time needed to create whisky the supply and demand became a guessing game. The 1980’s were another trying time for whisky as vodka and white rum were just discovered by the rest of the world and became popular.

Fast forward a few years to 2018, the Scotch Whisky Association reports that 41 bottles of Scotch Whisky are shipped from Scotland to 175 markets around the world each second, totaling over 1.28 billion bottles every year. I would say it certainly regained its popularity!

Traditional bagpiper in the scottish highlands, by Art In Voyage
Fire for Flavoring, by Art In Voyage
Irish Whiskey barrel, by Art In Voyage
Sven kovac making barrels, by Art In Voyage
Old Fashioned whisky Cocktail, by Art In Voyage

Scotch or Bourbon?

Some whiskey styles are highly regulated, and others are not. A Bourbon must meet certain criteria to use that name on the label. A generically labeled “blended whiskey” can be made anywhere and use any ingredients or production methods. Scotch is commonly used as a synonym of whiskey, even though it is defined as an adjective (meaning “of Scotland”). Officially, Scotch is a GI (Geographical Indicator: a mark used on products from a precise geographical origin which gives it certain conditions or character, just as a bourbon). This means there is, worldwide, laws regulating and protecting the production of Scotland’s scotch whiskey.

 

Glass of whisky in a barrel, by Art In Voyage
Art in Voyage
Art in Voyage
Blending whiskey, by Art In Voyage
Glass of whiskey with rope, by Art In

Let’s go back to the basics, shall we?

OK, maybe not all the way back, just enough to get with the lingo.

Some of you may be tempted to skip this section.  However, what follows is not just about types and differences, it about understanding the most important aspects to Scottish whisky and the proper terminology. Take a few minutes and showcase your knowledge on the spirit on our  Whiskey Trails of Scotland journey.

Dram – This is a small shot of whiskey; you may also see a small amount of whiskey referred to as a “nip”.

Single Malt – Distilled at one distillery. You can combine whiskies of different ages in a Single Malt, but the youngest of these whiskies is the age that can be put on the bottle. For example, you could put a 50-year-old whisky with a 12-year-old whisky and the bottle would have to be labeled as a 12-year-old or un-aged. You will never know the whiskey you are drinking or how old it may actually be.

Blend – A blend is a mix of whiskies from different distilleries and even often whiskies that have been created in different processes such as a grain whiskey. The Famous Grouse, Chivas Regal, or Johnnie Walker are all blended whiskies!

Cask – an oak barrel where the spirit is left to mature and becomes the liquid gold we know as whiskey. Casks play a huge role in shaping the final flavor profile of a whiskey. Ex-bourbon casks are the most popular used. But many distilleries also use ex-sherry, port, rum, wine, Madeira, or even virgin oak.

Slàinte Mhath – Pronounced Slanj-a-va, is basically their way of saying cheers. It is Gaelic for “good health”. Sometimes shortened to Slanj, it is widely used when raising a dram of whisky.

 

Quiraing at sunrise, Scotland, by Art In Voyage
Scotland Edinburgh during sunset, by Art In Voyage
Campeblton in Scotland, by Art In Voyage
Castle in Scotland in the snow, y Art In Voyage
View on Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland, y Art In Voyage

The different Whiskey regions

What makes a single malt whiskey scotch? Just 3 ingredients, Barley, Yeast, and Scottish Water.
Through Malting, Milling, Mashing, Fermentation and Distillation, the liquid is then matured in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years and one day, creating the ever so blissful moment of that first sip of scotch. The best way to learn about this is to visit a working distillery and see the processes in action! Of course, Art in Voyage already has a journey featuring this process, or we can just create your very own.

The question often asked is: “if all whiskeys have the same underlying processes of fermentation, distillation, and maturation, how can they all taste so different?” Well the location they are made at plays a big factor. Just like any good wine, whiskies do vary according to the region they come from.

Lowlands – softer and lighter in character, a great place to start if you have never drunk a whisky before. Known more for its farming, the land here is wide and fertile, with vast fields ideal for cultivation bordered by low hills and patches of trees. Here in the lowlands, the whiskey is triple distilled making it closer to an Irish whiskey.

Highlands & Islands – Scotland’s biggest region, stretching from the north-west of Glasgow up to the northern islands, features towering peaks, gentle glens, lochs and coastal scenery. The west coast distilleries often have a touch of salt & smoke in their drams.
Oban distillery offers a good introduction to these seaside flavors.

Speyside – We think it is one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. George Smith was the first licensed distiller to make whiskey in Speyside in 1824, and now more than half of Scotland’s distilleries are based here. This small area certainly packs in some incredible spirits. Mellow, sweet, and often fruity flavors dominate here. Again, a good place to start if you are put off by peaty flavors.

Islay – Iconic for strong peaty flavors. Loud and unapologetic. Over the decades, single malts at The Glenlivet and most other Speyside whiskies have slowly evolved from being more robust and peatier to being sweeter and lighter. That is how all our tastes have changed.

Campbeltown – at one time there were 34 distilleries producing here. Only 3 remain. The whiskies are full-bodied, with a depth of flavor and a slightly salty finish from the sea air making its way through the casks. Robust, rich, and briny flavors can be found here. Try a Springbank 10, a Campbeltown classic.

Right now, there are over 20 million casks maturing in warehouses all over Scotland. That’s almost 4 casks for every person living here.
So, go on try a dram or two! We’ve got quite a few waiting to be discovered.

Barrels at the Royal distillery, by Art In Voyage
Prince visiting the distillery, by Art In Voyage
Cloudy day at Lochnagar, by Art In Voyage
Top view of Lochnagar distillery, by Art In Voyage
Whisky from Lochnagar, by Art In Voyage

Royal Lochnagar Distillery

One mile from Balmoral Castle, it sits at the foot of the Cairngorm mountains, fed by the crystal-clear water of the Scarnock springs. This distillery was originally called the New Lochnagar, it was renamed after the royal visit in 1848 when Prince Albert was invited. Today, the smallest distillery in our collection, combines the traditional pagoda kiln heads and techniques such as the open mash tun with a modern visitor center for the appreciation of malt whiskey. A little knowledge of flavor and technique can go a long way. Here at the this magnificent  learn more about one of the world’s most popular drinks.

Glenfiddich entrance, by Art In Voyage
Castle close to Distillery, by Art In Voyage
GLenfiddich whiskey on bar, by Art In Voyage
Glenfiddich whisky in front of distillery, by Art In Voyage
Glenfiddich Whisky with glasses, by Art In Voyage

Glenfiddich Distillery

With a name that has become quite familiar around the world, this multi-awarding winning whiskey is a Speyside single malt Scotch whisky produced by William Grant & Sons in the Scottish burgh of Dufftown in Moray. Glenfiddich means “valley of the deer” in Scottish Gaelic, which is why the Glenfiddich logo is a stag. This family’s story is not just about Willian Grant, who founded it in 1887. It is still being written today, not just by his descendants but by the generations of people who have worked there. Helping to create the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch whiskey.

 The most expensive single malt only sell at auctions. Honoring Scotland’s oldest woman, Janet Sheed Roberts is the last grandchild of their founder. Only 11 bottles of Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve are released worldwide. Each is auctioned for charity, setting world records.

Now, you are ready to join our journey, armed with great knowledge about this incredible spirit that will pave our itinerary!