"I love to sing, and I love to drink scotch. Most people would rather hear me drink scotch." - George Burns
“Water of life” produced in Scotland and Ireland comes from the Celtic translation of the Latin, acqua vitae. Before the name of “whisky” (whiskey if from Ireland or US), it was called “Uisge Beata”. This became Usquebaugh, then Uisge and eventually Whisky. Whisky from Scotland is always spelt without an ‘e’, regardless of a malt or blended whisky; traditionally Irish distillers inserted the ‘e’ factor to differentiate their product from Scotch whisky.
Scotch whisky’s distinctive flavour and bouquet?
The distilling and maturing processes for Scotch whisky has evolved through the centuries, using crafts passed from generation to generation in a continual process of refinement.
The distilling process marks the uniqueness of Scotch, and after it has been distilled, it contains not only ethyl alcohol and water but certain secondary constituents, including essential oils of barley and other substances that derive from the peat. The amounts of these constituents retained depend on the shape of the still, the way it is operated and also on the strength at which the spirit is drawn off.
Natural elements of water, peat and climate all certainly have an effect on flavouring, with a reliable source of good, soft water being essential. Peat, used in the drying process has an influence that can be detected in the `peaty’or smoky flavour of some malts. Our well known ‘soft’ Scottish climate permeates the casks and works on the whisky, eliminating harsher constituents to produce a mellow taste.
Differing flavours and different Distilleries.
This again is a question which it is very difficult to answer, though most would agree that the water used is the major factor. Adjoining distilleries using different sources of water are known to produce whiskys that are quite different in flavour.
The different shape of the stills are also important and obviously the skill and experience of the men who manage them. It is the objective of the distiller to produce a consistent whisky taste under all circumstances, and this would be considered the true art of distilling, requiring many years of experience and ‘tastings’. There are several scotch whisky distilleries near the Four Seasons Hotel in Perthshire, and guests have ample opportunity to go on distillery tours.
Some deeply relevant facts
- It is healthy as well, for the weight watchers; an ounce and a half of Scotch whisky contains only 104 calories – less than a regular glass of whine or ½ pint of beer.
- The French drink more Scotch whisky than Cognac, and as an aside China is the second largest consumer of cognac, mainly thanks to the ‘Yum Sing’ toast!!
- The technical term of ‘a dram’ applies only to a measure of Scotch Whisky – the size of which is determined by the pourer, we prefer 35ml here, and generally a double is recommended, essential for a good nose.
- The catchy well known phrase ‘The Real McCoy’ was originally comes from the reference to Scotch whisky smuggled to the USA during Prohibition by Captain Bill McCoy.
- The origins of malt whisky distilling in Scotland are lost in the mists of time, but can be traced back at least as far as the monks of the 15th century.
- There are in the region of one hundred Pot Still Malt distilleries and Grain, or Patent Still, distilleries in Scotland.
- By law all Scotch whisky must be matured for at least 3 years, but most single malts lie in the wood for eight, ten, twelve, and fifteen years. Customs & Excise generously allow for a maximum of 2% of the whisky to evaporate from the cask each year – this enchantingly called the Angels’ Share.
Worthy Distilleries nearby The Four Seasons Hotel, Perthshire
The distillery, to the east of Aberfeldy dates from 1896 and was purpose-built by John and Thomas Dewar, sons of John Dewar of Aberfeldy. ‘Whisky Tom’ Dewar, was an entrepreneur and a great character, whilst brother .John was a wine and spirit merchant and a pioneer in the art of whisky blending. The distillery’s water comes from the Pitlie burn, and the whisky was to be a blending malt for Dewar’s’ whiskies, being in nature neither too light nor too peaty. The original distillery design shows the progress of malt distillation from a farm-based exercise to an industry in its own right. The buildings are purpose-built forming a long row, taking in barley at one end and producing filled casks at the other, in a recognisable production flow. Whisky connoisseurs will enjoy a visit to Dewar’s World of Whisky and Distillery, home of the Single Malt at the heart of the award-winning Dewar’s White Label.
Blair Atholl Distillery
(sixty six miles)
Blair Atholl Distillery standing in the picturesque town of Pitlochry was established in 1798 making it one of the oldest working distilleries. It produces twelve Year Old Single Malt, with a mellow deep-toned aroma, a strong fruity flavour followed by a smooth finish. Blair Athol wins hearts through Bell’s Blend, the most popular blended whisky in the U.K. Make a Blair Day of it and fit in a visit to Blair Castle, one on my favourites.
Edradour Distillery, By Pitlochry
(sixty two miles)
With the distinction of being the smallest distillery in Scotland, Edradour is the last original “farm” distillery with some very traditional equipment. It traces its history back to the beginning of legal whisky production in the Highlands, in 1825, though the present distillery is founded in 1837. The distillery in Balnauld, above the town of Pitlochry, produces as much malt whisky in a year as some distilleries can make in a week and has a staff of three.
Its water sources from Moulin Moor through peat and granite, reaching the surface a few hundred yards from the distillery. Its stills are the smallest in Scotland, which contributes to the distinctive richness of its unique, single Highland malt whisky. For the connoisseur, this malt with its exquisitely smooth and creamy texture, with just a hint of smokiness. If you manage to find it, (we stock the whisky, so follow the signs otherwise!) you will be one of the few people lucky enough to experience its charm – golden in the glass, smooth and creamy with a nutty, honeyed finish, and a rare gem of a distillery.
Glenturret Distillery, By Crieff. Home to the Famous Grouse Experience
Experience the Famous Grouse like you have never seen it before, follow the kowk – ok – ok – ok bird all the way – here at the spiritual home of the most famous whisky burd. Scotland’s oldest distillery Glenturret has a long and colourful history, from illicit stills and smugglers, through the worldwide boom in Scottish whisky to near dereliction post-prohibition.
Though The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret boasts of being the most visited distillery in Scotland, you can still learn about how single malt is made in the traditional way.
Tullibardine Distillery, Blackford
(thirty two miles)
At the foot of the ‘Ochil’s’ which are renowned for the crystal purity of their spring water. This is the same source that was also used to feed the first brewery in Scotland and where King James IV purchased beer to celebrate his coronation in 1488.
In the early part of the 20th century, the brewery fell upon hard times; however by 1949 Tullibardine Distillery produced spirit for the first time and ran under Delme Evan’s ownership until 1953. Brodie Hepburn ran it until it was “mothballed” in 1994, lying dormant until June of 2003, when it was purchased by the present incumbents. By late 2003, Tullibardine spirit flowed again from the stills for the first time in nearly nine years, throughout the re-commissioning process, care was taken to maintain as many of the traditional methods s possible. The care, attention to detail and passion, which is instilled by the team at Tullibardine, has resulted in the superb spirit that is stored in the finest casks available.
Described as ‘eminently quaffable’, Tullibardine is smooth and mellow with a fruity flavour and clean crisp finish, it’s bouquet is of a fresh, floral aroma with hints of vanilla and chocolate orange.
“Always carry a large flagon of whisky in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.” “We frequently hear of people dying from too much drinking. That this happens is a matter of record. But the blame is always placed on whisky. Why this should be I never could understand. You can die from drinking too much of anything – coffee, water, milk, soft drinks and all such stuff as that. And so as long as the presence of death lurks with anyone who goes through the simple act of swallowing. I will make mine whisky.”
(W.C. Fields, 1880-1946)
Remember that The Four Seasons Hotel in Perthshire offers Gourmet Wine Nights and the occasional Whisky Night, and that our bars stock a reasonable range Malts. We recommend larger measures for practical nosing.