HISTORY OF SCOTCH WHISKY

The word whisky comes from the Scottish Gaelic term "uisce beatha", originated in the Highlands from Scotland and Ireland.

Scottish or Irish?

According to historians, Irish whiskey became very popular during the years of 1600, since it was the first to be distilled by XII century monks. They used it as a natural remedy to cure colds until it became a preferred drink in parties and funerals since it warmed the body and was thought to be a healer for soul pains.

Tough whiskey is the gift of the Irish to the world, it was the Scottish who, thanks to its mystical and legendary land, perfected through artisanal methods this distilled liquid, and turned Scotch into one of the most popular and desired spirits in the whole world.

 

How is whisky made?

The manufacturing of Scotch whisky is an ancient tradition that has been refined through time. It went from being a homemade tradition to an industry with specific processes. A whisky’s personality varies depending on the types of grains used as well as the leavening, maturating period, type of distillation and even the chosen cask. In the end what gives each Scotch whisky its own spirit is the region where it was produced.

Scotland by region

Speyside

This region is where more than half of the total distilleries existing in the country can be found. Speyside is home of the refined single malts with elegant and complex smoked notes. It has become a popular belief that this region’s products have such a particular flavor because of the barley that grows around the River Spey.

Islay

Almost all blended whiskies owe its flavor to the Islay whiskies, since it is in this region where malts with salted or algae notes are produced. Its coastline has huge amounts of peat, used to turn barley into malt.

HIghlands

It is the largest region of Scotland where the most whisky varieties are produced. The vast majority is defined as whiskies with robust, firm, dry and light notes of peat personalities. The Northern area where whiskies with spiced touches are produced, while in the Southern area it is common to find whiskies with fruity profiles.

Islands

In this region whiskies with charcoal are produced. Hence, its characteristic flavor is peat.

Campbeltown

It is the smallest whisky production area in Scotland. Its distilled malts have a very particular salted flavor.

Lowlands

Home of the soft and light single malts. Its malts are known as “the Lowland ladies”.

That it is how Scotland has been able to produce such an extensive variety of whiskies and turned them into a national drink. From the intense power of the West Coast and the Isles to the subtle gentleness of the East. This is a quick guide to basic concepts on the manufacturing of a true Scotch whisky.

  • 1
    The process of whisky elaboration starts with a cereal. Since they are rich in starches, cereals need to be turned into soluble sugar in order to be able to produce alcohol. This happens naturally during germination, where hot water is added to the mixture to increase its temperature until cereal starts growing. This process is known as malting.
  • 2
    Drying the cereals in an oven stops the growing process. The peat smoke is sometimes used to help dry the cereals to add flavor. The cereal is grinded in order to be able to mix it with water.
  • 3
    Hot water is then added to extract soluble sugars. Afterwards the sweet, hot liquid obtained is extracted to be cooled. Leavening is added and the fermenting process starts until a mixture similar to beer is created.
  • 4
    The liquid is distilled twice to reduce the amount of water and increase the alcohol and flavor density. Distillation means to boil the liquid in a big container called still, usually made out of copper. This process is called “the flavor catalyst”.
  • 5
    The final product of this distillation process is transferred to especially curated oak barrels to mature the liquid for a minimum of three years. Legally, only by following these steps can a spirit be named Scotch whisky.
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What is a blended scotch whisky?

A blended Scotch whisky is the result of two or more whiskies from many distilleries. Most of them are a blend of malt whiskies and grain whiskies, which gives them body and complexity. The blended Scotch is a best seller and it must be aged for at least three years and one day in oak barrels. Blended manufacturing started in the middle of the 19th century, motivated by a cost reduction need. When Coffey Still invented the alembic or still, new softer and sweeter flavors were created, that becoming a great success among consumers. The main idea of a blended scotch is to create a style, a unique recipe for each variety and brand that can be repeated year after year. The blended are usually the result of the Master Blender’s creativity and sensibility. When searching for a perfect balance, the Master Blender can mix up to 50 kinds of whiskies from different distilleries.

Who is a Master Blender?

A blended Scotch whisky is the result of two or more whiskies from many distilleries. Most of them are a blend of malt whiskies and grain whiskies, which gives them body and complexity. The blended Scotch is a best seller and it must be aged for at least three years and one day in oak barrels. Blended manufacturing started in the middle of the 19th century, motivated by a cost reduction need. When Coffey Still invented the alembic or still, new softer and sweeter flavors were created, that becoming a great success among consumers. The main idea of a blended scotch is to create a style, a unique recipe for each variety and brand that can be repeated year after year. The blended are usually the result of the Master Blender’s creativity and sensibility. When searching for a perfect balance, the Master Blender can mix up to 50 kinds of whiskies from different distilleries.

OUR MASTER BLENDERS

Maureen Robinson

Maureen Robinson

A scientist herself, Maureen was in charge of perfecting Buchanan’s Special Reserve and Buchanan’s Red Seal, the ultra premium blends of our House. Maureen is one of the few women to hold a Master Blender Title and we are proud that she is a part of our grand legacy.

Keith Law

Keith Law

With more than 30 years of experience working with whisky, Law is one of the main contributors of Buchanan’s blends. Passionate for whisky and very well-known and respected for his work, Keith Law is the Master Blender of the extraordinary Buchanan’s Master.

Types of Whisky

Using its most ample definition, “whisky” is an alcoholic drink obtained through fermented malt’s distillation. Malt is any grain, especially barley or rye, that was first fermented and then dried. The process by which you obtain malt is called “malting”.

Single Malt Whisky

It must be made only with water and malted barley and is produced from a single distillery. It cannot include other grains, except the leavening that ferments the liquid. It must be matured for at least three years in oak barrels that do not overpass 700 liters and it must be bottled with a minimum of 40% of alcohol per volume. By law it must be distilled in copper stills in order to retain whisky’s texture and flavor.

Grain Whisky

It is a kind of whisky whose main ingredient is a grain different to barley, such as corn or wheat.

Blended Scotch Whisky

Manufactured with single malt and single grain blends. The advantage of blending is that it results in a unique style for every variety and brand.

Irish Whisky

Any whisky crafted in the Irish Republic or North Ireland gets the name Irish whiskey. Just like scotch, any malted cereal grain can be used to produce it and must be aged for at least three years in oak barrels.

TIPOS DE WHISKY

Japanese Whisky

Although it has recently gained popularity and was exported from Japan just a decade ago, is made in the same way that Scotch whiskey since 1920.

AMERICAN STYLE WHISKIES

Bourbon

The classic American whiskey is made with malted grains that are at least 51% corn. It is made of corn, water, barley, wheat or rye malt. It is thought that bourbon can only be produced in Kentucky in the United States, but as of today, it is manufactured in every state, from New York to California.

Straight Bourbon

It must be aged in white oak barrels with smoked interiors that have never been used previously. No colorings or flavorings can be used and is aged for at least two years.

Blended Bourbon

It must be at least 51% straight bourbon and might include other liquors or flavorings.

Tennessee Whiskey

In essence, it is Bourbon’s twin brother. The only difference is that in the post-distillation process it passes through a charcoal filter.

Rye

Before 1920’s prohibition, rye was the most popular whiskey in America. Similar to bourbon, by law, Rye must contain at least 51% rye, as opposed to corn. The Canadian whiskey is called rye whiskey for a matter of history and tradition. They are commonly associated because rye was almost always used to produce it, but in actuality it is more like a bourbon due to its composition.

Other Whiskies

Flavored Whisky

Launched into the market in America in 2007 and have gained a spot among the whiskies. They are created with flavorings such as honey, cinnamon, cherry, apple and other spices.

Whisky Liqueur

It is known as whisky liquor any type of whisky that is flavored with sweeteners. This variation is used as a digestif to be enjoyed after a meal. There are liquors created with or without cream.

AMERICAN STYLE WHISKIES

Bourbon

The classic American whiskey is made with malted grains that are at least 51% corn. It is made of corn, water, barley, wheat or rye malt. It is thought that bourbon can only be produced in Kentucky in the United States, but as of today, it is manufactured in every state, from New York to California.

Straight Bourbon

It must be aged in white oak barrels with smoked interiors that have never been used previously. No colorings or flavorings can be used and is aged for at least two years.

Blended Bourbon

It must be at least 51% straight bourbon and might include other liquors or flavorings.

Tennessee Whiskey

In essence, it is Bourbon’s twin brother. The only difference is that in the post-distillation process it passes through a charcoal filter.

Rye

Before 1920’s prohibition, rye was the most popular whiskey in America. Similar to bourbon, by law, Rye must contain at least 51% rye, as opposed to corn. The Canadian whiskey is called rye whiskey for a matter of history and tradition. They are commonly associated because rye was almost always used to produce it, but in actuality it is more like a bourbon due to its composition.

Other Whiskies

Flavored Whisky

Launched into the market in America in 2007 and have gained a spot among the whiskies. They are created with flavorings such as honey, cinnamon, cherry, apple and other spices.

Whisky Liqueur

It is known as whisky liquor any type of whisky that is flavored with sweeteners. This variation is used as a digestif to be enjoyed after a meal. There are liquors created with or without cream.