Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Know the history, age etc of your Scotch - Part 1

 If you've ever been to a whisky distillery you have no doubt been told that your favourite tipple is made using three ingredients – barley, water and yeast. Although, if your tour guide had a knack for drama, he or she may have added a fourth one. Time.

Hundreds of years ago Scotch was a clear spirit, often flavoured with herbs and fruits and usually drank shortly after the distillation. But the influence of the oak casks used to store whisky didn't go unnoticed and eventually Scottish distillers started maturing their product to make it smoother and give it more flavour and aroma, making uisge beatha – the water of life - more enjoyable to drink. But it wasn't until the second decade of the 20th century when the maturation of Scotch was made mandatory for the whisky producers. The enforcement of the minimum age of initially two and eventually three years of ageing in oak casks was probably the single most important legal act in the history of whisky production and ensured that Scotch whisky sold around the world was of consistently high quality, helping to build a global brand for Scotland's national drink. A quick look at the spirits aisle in your local supermarket should convince you that this 100-years-old piece of legislation still benefits the industry today.

So what's the importance of ageing and what's our take on it? This is a very broad subject, people devote scientific careers to better our understanding of the complex process of ageing whisky. Our next post will tell you all about it in detail.

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