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A Brief History of Whisky

When whisky was invented, it wasn’t anything like the whisky know and love today. The true place of whisky’s origin remains a point of deliberation between Scotland and Ireland, both of which have claimed to invent the spirit.

Records from the Scottish Exchequer have shown that whisky production in Scotland began in the late 1400s. Throughout the next 100 years, when King Henry VIII dissolved monasteries in Scotland, monks were forced to behin distilling the first whisky in farms and houses across the land.

Meanwhile in Ireland, it is believed that St Patrick first taught the Irish to make whiskey 1000 years before the Scottish, however there is no definite proof from that era. One thing we know for certain is the Old Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland has been a licensed distiller since 1608, making it the oldest distillery in the world.

The Evolution of Whisky

Before any modern day whisky distilling took place, the Cognac makers of France were distilling and ageing wine in oak casks and were sold to royal houses across Europe.
After a terrible wine harvest in the 18th Century, short supplies led to the Scottish aristocracy switching their attention to sherry, shipped in oak casks from Spain.

As the used casks built up, distillers used the opportunity to switch from storing whisky in casks previously containing fish or meat products, and instead used the readily available sherry casks.

This was a huge success! The flavours left on the oak revolutionised the spirit, opening up a plenty of possibilities to create flavour. With much experimenting, distillers realised the longer the whisky was stored in the casks, the higher the demand became.

Where was whisky invented?

Common confusion remains about how to spell whisky - whisky or whiskey - upon which there are two schools of thought. One viewpoint is that the discrepancy is simply a trivial matter of dialect or regional language. The second is that the spelling is a reflection of where the whisky originated.

Modern day whisky making

Despite the unsure history of whisky, today, by law, a whisky must be distilled and matured in oak casks for at least three years before being bottled at a minimum strength of 40% ABV. The Scotch Whisky Act, which was introduced in 1988, was followed by new Scotch Whisky regulations in 2009. These acts were designed to protect the integrity and quality of the Scotch whisky.

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