Heartland - Petra's Scotland pages


Scotch whisky is one of Scotland’s most important and successful exports to the world market, in fact, it is the world’s leading spirit drink.

Whisky is essentially made of barley and water by malting barley, extracting the sugars from the malt with hot water, fermenting the "sweet worts" to form „wash" and distilling this twice or three times. Then it has to be matured for at least 3 years before it can be called Scotch whisky. Most commercially available whisky contains of malt whisky blended with grain whisky.

The word whisky derives from Gaelic "uisge beatha" (= water of life, which reminds of the Latin equivalent "aqua vitae" = distilled spirits of various kinds) or "usquebeaugh". Irish and American "whiskey" is always spelt with an "e".

The earliest documentation of whisky produced in Scotland occurred in 1494. The monasteries were the first large-scale producers of malt spirit. From early on, whisky was appreciated for its medical properties and was believed to preserve health, prolong life, relieve colic, palsy and smallpox.

While Scotch Whisky has been defined in the UK law since 1909, the current UK legislation relating specifically to Scotch Whisky is

The Scotch Whisky Act of 1988.

It defined the

(water and malted barley to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added)
(it must to be produced at a Scottish distillery in Scotland, processed at that distillery into a mash and fermented only by the addition of yeast)
alcoholic strength
(distilled by volume of less than 94,8%) so that it retains the flavour of the raw materials used in its production),
period of maturity
(not less than 3 years of maturity in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres)
colour, aroma and taste
(derived from the raw materials and to which no substance other than water and spirit caramel/caramel colour (E 150) may be added)

for a spirit to deserve the label “Scotch whisky”.

Barely 5% of the malt whisky produced in Scotland today is bottled as single malts, the rest going into blends. Although appreciation of malt whisky has grown significantly in recent decades, it is the sale of blends which accounts for most of the industry’s income at home and overseas.

The "Famous Grouse" has been the leading brand in the UK for over 20 years, while "Johnnie Walker Red Label" is the world best-seller.

These days "Glenmorangie" is the largest selling single malt in Scotland while "Glenfiddich" is the largest selling single malt worldwide.

The approx. 100 working distilleries in Scotland belong to about 17 predominantly global companies.

A great deal of the barley used to produce Scotch whisky is coming from England or South Africa, since there's no legal obligation to use Scottish barley to produce Scotch whisky.


What is...
Single Malt
A Single Malt Scotch Whisky is distilled entirely at one specific distillery and has neither been mixed with whisky from any other distilleries nor blended with grain whisky. The greatest concentration of malt whisky distilleries can be found in the Speyside region of north-east Scotland, with Highland, Lowland and Islay being the other main malt whisky producing areas.

Whisky from one cask only is called “Single Cask”.
Single Grain
A Single grain whisky is the product of one distillery and is usually made from wheat, corn or unmalted barley. Grain whisky is more smooth than the intensive Mal whisky. There are about 8 operating grain distilleries in Scotland, the majority being in central Scotland.
Pure Malt / Vatted Malt
A Vatted Malt is a blend of single malt whiskies that have been skilfully mixed together or "married," to create a consistent whisky with its own distinct, identifiable character. Such a malt can also consist entirely of malt whiskies of various ages from the same distillery. However, vatted malts will never contain any grain whisky. The age of the youngest whisky in the bottle is the one used on the label.
Blended Whisky
A blended Scotch whisky may contain a combination of whiskies from over 40 or 50 different malt and grain distilleries. The normal ratio of malt to grain is 60% grain 40% malt. The percentage of malt used will determine the quality and smoothness of taste and character. Each whisky used in the blending process will normally have been matured for about 5 years, however there are a number of higher aged blended scotch whiskies available. Again, the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle is the one used on the label.
What type of glass to use?

Glenmorangie nosing glassA whisky tumbler is widely thought of as traditional whisky kit, and it is fine for mixing a whisky into a long drink or with a lot of ice, the ideal glass for Bourbon or some blended whiskies.

Anyway, you are only allowed to put two things in your Single Malt Whisky: Water or more whisky. The addition of ice wil completely kill the aroma.whiskysnifter

Experts highly recommend a tulip-shaped glass, which gets narrow near the top, like a Sherry glass, as it focses the aromas towards the nose.

(Above you see the beautiful Glenmorangie nosing glass and another so-called "whiskysnifter", both of which are very suitable for enjoying a dram)


>> proceed to The whisky manufacturing process / glossar
>> proceed to Whisky facts

Links and sources:
The Scotch Whisky Association
Bruichladdich Distillery webcam (shows everything "from barley to bottle")


search this site: