The festive season is fast approaching (as of this writing) and there is a distinct chill in the air. Yes, we’re in the midst of winter and many will agree that there are few finer ways of warming your bones than sitting back in front of a roaring log fire, sipping from a glass of fine scotch whiskey. Whiskey in general is one of the most popular beverages on the face of the earth, it has been distilled and consumed for centuries upon centuries, and there are a number of different variations out there to choose from. Single malt, double malt, bourbon, and of course, the whiskey we’ll be focussing on here, scotch whiskey, to name but a few. A bottle of fine scotch whiskey would make the ideal gift over the festive period and so for that reason, plus many more, let’s take a look at the history of scotch, plus a look at a few uses and mixers that work especially well with it.
A brief history of scotch whiskey – As the name suggests, scotch whiskey is indeed the produce of Scotland, and has been distilled in the country for centuries upon centuries, but is now vastly popular all over the world. Records trace whiskey distillation in Scotland way back to the year 1494, with monks being famed for their brewing techniques. Obviously back then there were no experienced distillers, and no sophisticated safety and brewing equipment, which meant that early incarnations of scotch whiskey would very well have been extremely potent and probably harmful to your health too. By the 17th century however, equipment, experience, and techniques improved, meaning the scotch actually resembled the scotch we know and love right now, rather than paint stripper. As monasteries were closed down by Henry VIII the monks had no choice but to use their brewing and distilling skills and eventually passed on their knowledge to outsiders. Whiskey was originally consumed for medicinal purposes, but as time went by, people began loving the taste, and the feelings of alcohol consumption too. During freezing cold winter nights on the high grounds of Scotland, scotch whiskey became an everyday part of social life, and as with most things, the politicians got wind of its popularity and began taxing malt, a key ingredient in the whiskey. By the end of the 17th century, taxes on whiskey were extortionate, and so it became whiskey smugglers versus the taxmen. For 150 years, whiskey smuggling was a part of everyday life in Scotland. In 1823 however, a new law was passed which made it legal to brew whiskey, for a fee of £10, plus payments per gallon of alcohol spirit. Because of this, more people began brewing, and grain whiskey became popular, being blended with malts, eventually evolving into a firm favourite amongst the Scots, coming to be known as Scotch Whiskey. Since them techniques and ingredients have vastly improved, and scotch whiskey has gone from strength to strength.
Uses for scotch whiskey – Ideally a glass of fine Scotch should be enjoyed neat, at room temperature, although some people do like to add water and/or ice to theirs. It also works well with ginger ale, lemonade, and cola, as well as being a key ingredient in many cocktails, including a scotch Tom Collins and a Scotch Horse’s neck.