The Irish believe that they are the ones who developed the production of whisky which then made its way to Scotland. While in hiding from tax collectors, the Scots perfected the art of making uisge beatha (pronounced ooshka behar) until it reached the level and popularity it enjoys today. Its name evolved from uisge beatha or usquebaugh through uisge, then uisky, up to the final whisky.

From the 12th century distillation started to spread massively across Europe. Initially, this technology was used for producing perfume. Later on, it started to be applied in France for wine distillation. Only finally was distillation applied for producing high percentage alcohol based on cereal mash in countries where climate conditions made grape growing impossible. It is worth mentioning that at the beginning the alcohol was produced by monks with the intention of health improvement. In the 15th century improvement of technology allowed the popularity of distillation to rise. The breakdown of a large number of monasteries contributed to the transfer of knowledge about production processes from clergy to the people.

In 1707 the government imposed tax on malt and distillate. This brought about an immediate response of producers who decided to go underground and set off illegal production. Hilly terrains of Scotland proved perfect for this purpose. This marked the start of one and a half years of illegal whisky production and smuggling. It is justified to suppose that the effect of many years of maturing of whisky and its influence on the final taste was discovered incidentally, with a large contribution of ruthless tax collectors in the 17th Century. It frequently happened that the illegally produced distillate had to be hidden and producers had to flee from tax collectors. Such vagrancy around foreign lands lasted up to several years and during this time whisky casks matured somewhere in caves or mountains or over hard to reach sea shore. Upon return it was not always easy to find such a well hidden treasure. When finally the owner, producer and smuggler in one found his treasure he would be astonished at the transformation that his product had undergone. This experience was used later when finally legal production of uisge beatha was possible. Apart from whisky production, Scots are also known for providence. This feature decided on the fact that producers started to re-use barrels for maturing whisky. And again, it was incidentally discovered that the combination of the taste of whisky with the taste of bourbon or sherry or that matured in the same cask gives astonishing results. Some distilleries offer its whisky in several versions depending on the type of cask used for maturation of whisky.


What is whisky?

Scotch whisky is foremost an alcoholic beverage that fulfils all requirements of the so-called Scotch Whisky Act, passed in 1909 and adopted by the European Parliament in 1989. According to this act, Scotch is:

produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added) all of which have been:

- processed at that distillery into a mash

- fermented at that distillery only by adding yeast

wholly matured in an excise warehouse in Scotland in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 litres for at least three years

retains the colour, aroma, and taste of the raw materials used in, and the method of, its production and maturation

has no added substances, other than water and plain caramel colouring.

The expression "whisky" or "whiskey" is used to denote several types of tipples produced also outside of Scotland, but none of them can formally use the name of "Scotch Whisky". This is not the only difference. Whisky or whiskey produced in Ireland, USA, Canada or Japan are significantly different with regard to raw materials used in and the method of production. They also differ by manner and time of maturation. Paradoxically, a product which is the closest to Scotch whisky is Japanese whisky. This is not surprising, as the pioneers of Japanese brewing mastered the art in distilleries in Scotland, and it frequently happened that the Scottish mesh and barley were imported to Japan, or the Japanese copied the construction of alembics used for distilling alcohol. It is common knowledge that the tipple produced in Ireland is referred to as "whiskey", where "e" designated the differentiation from the Scotch. Generally, Irish whiskey is different from the Scottish one in the fact, that the production process involves triple distillation (thrifty Scots usually distil whisky twice – among exceptions are some varieties originating from the Lowlands, such as Auchentoshan) and the fact that the Irish do not use peat for drying malted barley. As a result they obtain whisky with a rounder flavour, more delicate without the aftertaste of peat so characteristic for the Scottish variety – making it the perfect addition to coffee and a base for producing Baileys or Carolans type liquors.

American whisky, also referred to as Bourbon (though the two names should not always be used interchangeably) is a beverage produced mainly from corn and other grains. As opposed to whisky, bourbon matures in oak casks – according to the law, the profile of the distillate itself and the climate in which the production is carried out. The result is a bitter, excessively dry flavour with obvious taste of juice from fresh oak planks used for making the barrels.


Basic information

We distinguish two Basic types of Scotch whisky: malt whisky and grain whisky – we can also add blended whisky which is a mixture of the aforementioned two.

Beside the name of the whisky/distillery, alcohol content, date of bottling, time of maturation in casks and the region (of high importance for connoisseurs - each has its own flavour and aroma) the label may also feature additional information:

  • Single malt – whisky produced from malted barley in one distillery, however not necessarily from one distillation.
  • Single Barrel/ Cask - is a more precise term than single malt – it means that whisky was produced from malted barley in one distillery, from one distillation and from a specific cask. Most frequently in such cases the label also provides information about the date of bottling and number of the barrel from which the whisky was poured. Usually such whisky would have a higher alcohol content of around 45-50 %
  • Cask Strength – this terms means that the bottle contains whisky which was diluted before being poured into the cask used for maturation.
  • Pure Malt – is whisky produced solely from malted barley, but from various breweries. In other words, this is blended whisky of which all elements are barley whiskies. One example could be the so-called ‘green label’ Johnnie Walker 15yo Pure Malt.
  • Blended – is a combination of various single malt and grain whiskies produced mainly from rye, wheat, corn and barley. Usually, the blended whisky contains 15- 40 % of the malt distillate and 2-6 % of grain distillate. Legal regulations state that in the blended whisky the youngest element must be no less than three years of age.


Scotch whisky production regions

In the 19th Century, distilleries were divided into regions – Highlands and Lowlands. This was reflected mainly in the amount of tax paid from the whisky produced therein. The conventional border between these regions ran roughly south of the Edinburgh-Glasgow line. South of this line there is also the region of Campbeltown, Islay and Speyside. Due to the characteristic aroma and flavour profile, we can also distinguish Isles (apart from Islay) as a different category.

Lowlands – is traditionally a region where whisky underwent triple distillation (currently a method only used Auchentoshan), and the whisky produced there is delicate, light with floral accents. The most famous distilleries are Rosebank, Glenkinchie, or the aforementioned Auchentoshan.

Highlands – whisky produced here is fuller with a rich floral aroma and flavour. In the case of distilleries located on the coast, their products contain marine accents – iodine, salt, algae. The most famous distilleries are Clynelish/Brora, Edradour, Oban, Dalwhinnie or Glenmorangie.

Islay – the most legendary distilleries known for whisky with a definite flavour and aroma of peat, iodine and smoke are located on this relatively small island on the Inner Hebrides Archipelago. The most famous among them are Port Ellen, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Bowmore, or Caol Ila.

Speyside – a region separated from the Highlands, a true heart of Scottish brewing industry, concentrating around 50% of all Scottish distilleries. Whisky produced here is light with fruit accents. Frequently at least its part matures in sherry casks which gives a slightly heavier, more definite flavour of the final product. Among the most famous distilleries from Speyside are: Glenfarclas, Glenlivet, Macallan, Glenfiddich, Cragganmore and Cardhu.

Campbeltown – is a more of a historical region that a concentration of whisky producers. In the olden days, at the beginning of the 20th century several dozens of distilleries operated there, in most enjoying a highly favourable opinion. However, this opinion was later used for obtaining maximum yield while sacrificing quality. As a result, most distilleries sooner or later collapsed following the loss of their good reputation. Currently, there are two distilleries operating in Campbeltown (at the end of the Kintyre peninsula) - Springbank and Glen Scotia. In previous years also another distillery has been put into operations - Kilkerran (in location of the former Glengyle distillery).

Isles – is really an artificially created category covering distilleries located on isles other than Islay, namely: Mull, Skye, Jura and Orcades. The most well known distilleries are Talisker from the Skye Isle, and Highland Park from the Orcades.




Ardbeg is frequently considered to be the best Scotch whisky. It has the strongest character. It has a very well defined flavour, with extremely strong accents of sea iodine and elements of peat, algae and sea salt, so characteristic for Islay products. The flavour of Ardbeg also displays accents of malt and vanilla. The most popular market version of Ardbeg is the 10yo single malt and Ardbeg Uigeadail, named after the lake where the water is taken from for whisky production.


Bowmore is the first, legal brewery on Islay and one of the eldest in the entire Scotland. It is worth mentioning that Bowmore is only distillery in Scotland where production is carried out entirely in the plant. Bowmore is a more delicate and aromatic whisky than other malts from Islay, yet still it contains a strong note of smoke. The most popular is the 12yo version. It displays notes of lavender, sherry and toffee in the background. On the palate it feels aromatic, sweet with hints of linseed oil, turpentine and pepper. Dry finish. This whisky is characteristic for Islay producers – with strong accents of peat, smoke, algae and sea iodine.


Highland Park is the most northbound Scotch whisky distillery. The most popular version of Highland park is the 12 year-old single malt. Highland Park whisky has been enjoying a fine reputation for many years. The brewery boasts of the words uttered by the Tsar of Russia and the Danish King, who after having been served whisky in 1883 “both stated that they had never tasted better whisky”. The 12yo whisky offers aromas of heather with smoky undertones; along with water there appear notes of honey, leaves and spices. The flavour of the tipple is subtly balanced, sweet and dry, with a hint of smoke characteristic for Highland Park – as a signature of this malt.


This production plant producing the best selling malt whisky in the Word (note that it produces over 800,000 crates annually (twelve 0,7l. bottles each) has been founded in 1887 by William Grant. The name is derived from the nearby Fiddich River. The word "glen" – so frequently used as part of names for many whisky types – denotes the river valley. Glenfiddich is the valley of the Fiddich River. The Word "fiadh" from which Fiddich is derived denotes a deer in Scottish. Therefore the name Glenfiddich is frequently translated as "deer valley". Until today, all stages of production, from malt production to bottling are carried out on the spot. Currently, the production plant has 29 operating distillation boilers that produce 35% of the entire single malt whisky globally, which means that every third bottle of this tipple purchased in the Word is Glenfiddich!!! The 12yo Special Reserve offers a light straw colour with green reflexes. The aroma is light with notes of grain mesh, green twigs, apples and smoke nuances. With the addition of water, the aroma becomes more fresh and appetizing, sweet, malty with a note of pear syrup. The ending is short.


The Balvenie is one of the seven whiskies produced in Dufftown – the capital city of Scotch whisky in the very heart of Speyside. The name whisky comes from the name of a nearby castle, situated on the hill, built in the 13th century. The most widely available version of Balvenie is the 10yo Founder’s Reserve. This whisky is delicate in flavour that gives away the slight dryness and hints of honey. Balvenie is also available is the 12yo Double Wood version, that initially matures in fresh oak casks, and is then poured into sherry barrels to give it more body and the characteristic flavour. In result, we obtain a sweet, rich malt with a nut and spice character. The shape of the Balvenie bottle is also characteristic, as to some extent it imitates the shape of a whisky distillation alembic.


Oban – most frequently available in the form of a 14yo single malt whisky – is the representative of the western Highlands. Thanks to the seaside location of the distillery, Oban whisky is frequently compared with tipples produced on the isles. Indeed, Oban is a tipple which combines characteristic features of Highland whisky – delicate with distinguishable notes of sweetness with characteristics of whisky produced on the isles – the typical marine, iodine and salty aroma and strong turn accents. A 14 year-old whisky has a strong, amber colour with a strongly marine aroma with hints of mirth and smoke. This smooth and medium-bodied tipple offers a sweetish taste at the start, turning into a dry flavour on the finish with an obvious note of peat smoke.


The range of Glenmorangie available on the market is extremely wide – from the 10yo single malt, through 15 and 18yo versions to different flavour varieties. The most popular version of Glenmorangie – in the 10yo version – is an extremely well balanced tipple, with subtly smoky, flower aroma and fresh, aromatic flavour with distinguishable notes of vanilla and citrus fruits. Glenmorangie places an extremely high emphasis on the type of barrels used for maturing. These are principally – at least in the first stage of maturing – American bourbon casks, specially imported to the distillery. In the case of a part of the distillate, two-stage maturation is used – the basic period in standard bourbon casks which is followed by several more years in sherry, Madera or Porto casks.


Glengoyne is one of the few among the group of single malt whiskies, whose taste does not betray any traces of, the usually ever-present, taste of peat. It is undistinguishable simply because it is not there. During the production process of Glengoyne barley malt is dried over natural fire, not over glowing peat. This gives the product characteristic delicacy and sweetness. Especially since Glengoyne matures far from the sea therefore it is difficult to taste the sharp taste of sea iodine – so characteristic for products originating from the Island or the coast.


Cardhu is a special type of whisky. It fully deserves the feminine property. It is a tipple with a gentle flavour with an easily distinguishable note of sweetness. Ideal for beginners.

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