Scotch whisky can be described as the whisky that is made in Scotland. While British usually refer to Scotch whisky as merely ‘whisky’, people in other English-speaking countries often know it as just ‘Scotch’. There are basically four distinct categories that Scotch whisky is divided into, including single malt whisky, vatted malt whisky (also called "pure malt whisky "), blended whisky and single grain whisky. Though Scotch whiskey is consumed by majority of those who take alcoholic beverages, very few know of its origin. In case you are interested in exploring the history of Scotch whisky, go through the following lines.
Interesting Information on Background of Scotch Whisky
It is believed that St Patrick was the one who introduced the process of distillation to Ireland, in the fifth century AD, after learning about it in Spain and France. When Dalriadic Scots arrived in Kintyre, around 500 AD, they were also exposed to it and took the information back with them. Initially, the distillation process was used in case perfume, then wine and finally, to fermented mashes of cereals (in places where grapes were not in abundance). The spirit that was produced after distillation was termed aqua vitae ('water of life').
During that time, the spirit was made mainly in the monasteries, that too as a form of medicine. It was basically prescribed for safeguarding health, extending life and getting relief from colic, palsy and smallpox. Even Ireland had monastic distilleries in the late-12th century. With time, James IV Scotland's Renaissance king, became fond of the ‘spirits'. He visited Dundee in 1506 and there, the local barber supplied aqua vitae for ‘the king's pleasure’. Since the equipments used during that time were primitive, the spirit could be potent and even harmful.
It was in the 15th century that monasteries were dissolved, which led to an improvement in the quality of the spirits produced. This is because the monks, who earlier prepared the spirit in monasteries, had become skilled at the process of distillation. Driven away from the monasteries, they started using the skills as a means to earn living. This led to the knowledge of distilling quickly spreading to other people also. With the emergence of better quality, Scotch whisky came to gain more and more popularity.
The rising popularity caught the attention of the Scottish parliament, which introduced the first taxes on malt as well as the end product. This was done in the latter part of the 17th century. In 1707, The Act of Union with England was passed, following which increasing rates of taxation were applied. This forced the distillers to go underground and make the spirit illegally. For the next one and a half century, smuggling became a rampant phenomenon. In fact, Ministers of the Kirk made storage space available under the pulpit.
Illicit spirit was, at times, transported by coffin, to escape the watchful eyes of the Excise men. The practice became so widespread that by 1820s, more than half of the whisky consumed in Scotland was being made and distributed illegally. The disregard to the law finally impelled the Duke of Gordon to propose in the House of Lords that producing Scotch whisky legally should be made a profitable business. Excise Act was passed in 1823, sanctioning the distillation of whisky in return for a license fee of £10.
The payment per gallon of proof spirit was also fixed. Within the next decade, smuggling of whisky had almost ceased. It was the Excise Act that laid the foundation for the Scotch Whisky industry, as we know it today. Till now, whatever Scotch whisky was being produced was Malt Whisky. It was in 1831 that Aeneas Coffey invented the Coffey or Patent Still. It allowed the process of distillation to be continuous. With this, Grain Whisky was produced. It was less intense than the Malt Whisky and lightly flavored.
With time, Grain Whisky was blended with Malt Whisky and the appeal of Scotch whisky reached great heights. By the 1880s, French vineyards had been destroyed by phylloxera beetle. Within a few years, the stock of wine and brandy was almost totally consumed, while production was almost non-existent. This led to Scotch whisky replacing brandy. Since then, Scotch whisky has become one of the most popular alcoholic drinks that are consumed worldwide.