The Pride Of Scotland

Whiskey From A to Z

August 25, 2020

For many years, Scotland has produced some of the finest whiskey the world has seen – a country that is immensely proud of this achievement. In this blog, we explain some of the reasons behind the pride, from highlighting the origins of whiskey to its history and many forms and flavors. It is not, after all, only about whiskey, it is also about the traditions behind it. The breathtaking views, culture, accents, tall tales and humor, all add to the lengthy list of amazing quirks. At Art in Voyage, we offer an incredible journey curated to impress – click here to view our Whiskey Trails Of Scotland journey. Read on for our Whiskey from A to Z guide.

 

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 word ‘uisge’, short for ‘uisge beatha’ meaning “water of life”. Whiskey was originally used medicinally as both an internal and an external antibiotic.

Distilling techniques were brought to Ireland and Scotland between 1100 and 1300 by monks. The manufacturing of distilled spirits was limited to apothecaries and monasteries until the late 15th century. Whiskey then made its way to North America with Irish and Scottish immigrants and has since become popular across the globe. With an interesting history, the plague of The Great French Wine Blight in 1880 destroyed a vast majority of French vineyards, causing a substantial decrease in wine production and an increase in the demand for whisky. Later, during the World Wars, working distilleries were reduced from 150 in 1900 to only 15 in 1933 due in part to the lengthy time needed to distill whisky. The supply and demand of the spirit became a guessing game. and in the 1980s, vodka and white rum became popular, adding to the dilemma.

Today, 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. A comeback of grand proportions.

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, whereas others are not. A Bourbon, for example, must meet certain criteria in order for the word Bourbon to be printed on the label. A generically labeled “blended whiskey” can be distilled anywhere as well as use any variation of ingredients or production methods. Scotch is commonly used interchangeably with whiskey, although it is defined as an adjective, meaning “of Scotland.” Officially, Scotch is a GI or Geographical Indicator, a marker used on products from a precise geographical origin which gives it certain characteristics. Worldwide, there are 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

Back to Basics

Sound like a connoisseur using basic whisky terminology!

Dram – A small shot of whiskey, also 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 will be the age that appears on the bottle. For example, you could put a 50-year-old whisky with a 12-year-old whisky and the bottle would be labeled a 12-year-old or an un-aged.

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

Cask – An oak barrel used to mature whisky to a golden color. Casks play a large role in shaping the final flavor profile of a whiskey. Ex-bourbon casks are typically used, however, many distilleries also use ex-sherry, port, rum, wine, Madeira, and virgin oak casks.

Slàinte Mhath – Pronounced ‘slanj-a-va,’ meaning good health. Often, the expression is shortened to Slanj and is widely used when raising a dram of whisky as a toast.

 

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

Barley, yeast, and Scottish water are the three ingredients needed to distill single malt Scottish whisky!
After malting, milling, mashing, fermentation and distillation, the liquid is matured in oak casks in Scotland for at least three years, creating sheer bliss. Visit a working distillery and see the processes in action! Art in Voyage offers a journey featuring this process, or  you could create your very own experience.

The question that is often asked is: “if all whiskeys have the same underlying processes of fermentation, distillation, and maturation, how do they all taste different?” The answer lies in the location, like any good wine, whiskies vary according to the region from which they originate.

Lowlands – Softer and lighter in character, a great place to start if you have not enjoyed whisky before. Known more for its farming, the land is wild and fertile. 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.
The Oban distillery offers a good introduction to these seaside flavors.

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

Islay – Iconic for strong peaty flavors that are 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.

Campbeltown – At one time there were 34 distilleries here, however, only 3 remain. The whiskies from this region are full-bodied, with a depth of flavor and a slightly salty finish from the sea air. Robust, rich and briny flavors can be sampled here. Try a Springbank 10, a Campbeltown classic.

Currently, there are over 20 million casks maturing in warehouses all over Scotland. That’s almost 4 casks for every person living in the country.
So, go on, try a dram or two! There is an abundance of flavors awaiting discovery.

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

About one mile from Balmoral Castle, at the foot of the Cairngorm mountains, fed by the crystal-clear waters of the Scarnock springs lies the Royal Lochnagar Distillery. The distillery was originally called the New Lochnagar, it was renamed after the royal visit in 1848 when Prince Albert was invited. Interestingly, the traditional pagoda kiln heads and techniques, such as the open mash tun are combined. There is also a modern visitors center for the appreciation of malt whiskey.

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 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, the reason the Glenfiddich logo is a stag. This family’s story is not just about Willian Grant, who founded it in 1887, but about his descendants and the generations of people who have worked there.

 The most expensive single malt only sells 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 and has set world records.

Armed with great knowledge, join our journey to Scotland where you can showcase your prowess!