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The History of Scotch Whisky

12/02/2015 Spirits

The exact origins of the first “wee dram” of Scotch whisky have unfortunately been lost over the years, however, there are records of the ancient Celts referring to a potent amber liquid as “uisge beatha”, which means “aqua vitae” or “the water of life”.

The earliest written records referring to Scotch whisky production occurred in the Exchequer Rolls, written by one of the earliest governmental departments, which oversaw the royal finances. A 1494 entry reads “Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor, by order of the King, wherewith to make aqua vitae.” It has been estimated that that 8 bolls of malt would have produced around 1500 bottles of whisky, insinuating that a fairly large distillery was operating successfully by this time.

From the reign of the Celts up until the present day, Scotch has by and large been viewed as a panacea, an omnipotent and divine nectar, capable of curing anything from the common cold to swine flu. A Scot’s relationship with whisky truly can begin soon after birth, with some mothers opting for a drop of whisky to sooth the gums of their teething children!


Colours and Barrels at the Ardbeg Distillery (Islay, Scotland). Winterriot (CC BY 2.0)

There are two basic types of Scotch whisky, from which different blends are produced. Single malt whisky refers to a single distillery Scotch whisky produced only with water and malted barley using batch distillation in pot stills. However, whereas single grain Scotch whisky also refers to a whisky which has been distilled at a single distillery using water and malted barley, other whole cereal grains may have been added during the process.

Nutritionists in Norway recently revealed that, if consumed in regular amounts, whisky can in fact provide health benefits by helping remove blood clots in veins and arteries and substantially reducing the risk of stroke!

Here we highlight a few of our favourites:

Talisker 10 years- A classic Island whisky from the Isle of Skye. Consistently well received, this was an Editor’s Choice at Whisky Magazine. On the palate, it gives hints of spices and fresh, tangy, peaty notes.

Laphroaig 10 years- Produced on the island of Islay off the west coast of Scotland, Laphroaig 10 years must be one of Scotland’s most characterful whiskies. The flavour is intensely smoky and rich in peat and iodine.

The Macallan Amber- An amber coloured whisky by Macallan, part of the popular 1824 series. This malt is matured in sherry casks and the palate shows fresh green apples together with cinnamon. Subtle oak lingers throughout the journey. An example of what Macallan can do with good quality oak.

Aberlour A‘Bunadh- A single malt from the Aberlour Distillery. It is released in limited batches blended from barrels ranging from 5 to 25 years old, each batch carries a unique number. This whisky is exclusively aged in Spanish Oloroso sherry butts and therefore has interesting aromas of roasted nuts, old leather, black pepper, old oak and dried fruit.

To benefit from maximum taste and flavour, we recommend drinking Scotch whisky either neat, adding a few drops of water, or using whisky stones. Putting ice directly into your whisky will only reduce its temperature, freezing its aroma and smell and dulling the taste.


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