WHISKY IS RIGHTLY SEEN AS ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST ICONIC DRINKS – LOOK AT HOW MANY TIMES IT TURNS UP IN FILMS AND ON TV. BUT THERE ARE MANY FUN WHISKY FACTS YOU MAY NOT KNOW. WOW YOUR MATES WITH THIS INSIDER INFO OR USE THESE FACTS TO TEST THEIR WHISKY TRIVIA NEXT TIME YOU MEET UP FOR DRINKS.
1 – THE ORIGINS OF WHISKY DATE BACK OVER 400 YEARS
Let’s start with whisky history facts. For the earliest known mention of whisky, we need to go back to 1494, towards the end of the Middle Ages, when distilling was first mentioned in Scottish tax records. The Romans first introduced alcoholic drinks to Britain even earlier, back in the 13th century. They called distilled spirits “aqua vitae”, which means “water of life” in Latin. The next time you’re drinking a highball, keep in mind that over five centuries of history have gone into the making of it!
2- WHISKY WAS AVAILABLE DURING PROHIBITION
The Prohibition Era is a well-known period of American history where an amendment to the U.S constitution banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of intoxicating liquors. But did you know a little loophole meant that whisky was still available? Six companies were granted licenses to produce and bottle what is now known as ‘medicinal’ whisky. This whisky could be prescribed by a doctor and each individual was allowed to purchase one pint every 10 days so long as they had a qualifying ailment.
3 – THE BEAUTY OF BLENDED WHISKY INITIALLY HAPPENED BY CHANCE
Blended whisky came about thanks to enterprising shop owners. They’d top-up a customer’s bottle with whatever single malt they stocked, resulting in a blend over time. People soon realised blending whisky could give improved flavours and blend-focused distilleries started to appear. The Ballantine’s blenders at our flagship distillery do exactly this, combining a secret array of malts that can’t be recreated by anyone else. A good bottle is like a great night out: combining different experiences to create something legendary.
4 – YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN WHISKY WITH AN INFINITY BOTTLE
Great whiskies are made from a recipe, to produce consistently great bottles. But if you want to make your own unique whisky, why not start an infinity bottle? This means taking a bottle that is either finished or nearly empty and topping it up with a different whisky. This way you can create a bottle of gold that is truly you, like those resourceful shopkeepers from the early days. It’s a good idea to use similar flavours for each top-up, but whatever you choose, it’ll be original to you.
5 – AGEING WHISKY ALTERS THE COLOUR AND FLAVOUR
A common misconception is that the older a whisky is, the better it is. In truth, the age of a whisky doesn’t make it any better than another bottle. All it does is change the flavour. For some, that provides a better taste, but others might find it worse. It’s all subjective and the only way to find out what works best for your palate is to keep trying. Listen to your tastebuds and ignore the hype about older being better.
6 – SCOTCH WHISKY IS A WORLD FAVOURITE
There’s a reason that the whisky regions of Scotland are known across the globe. The scotch whisky produced in Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands, Islay and Campbeltown is some of the most highly revered. As a consequence of its popularity, 53 bottles of scotch whisky are exported every single second to around 180 markets worldwide. If you laid the number of scotch whisky bottles exported each year end to end, they would stretch approximately 467,000km. That’s more than 11 times around the Earth.
7 – JAPAN TOOK INSPIRATION FOR THEIR WHISKY FROM SCOTTISH DISTILLERIES
Japanese whisky is often compared to scotch, and this is because a Japanese student by the name of Masataka Taketsuru visited Scotland to learn the art of making scotch whisky.
Upon his return to Japan, Taketsuru, along with his wife Rita teamed up with Shinjo Torii to open a distillery. Their whiskies were modelled on scotch whisky and produced in much the same way. Over time, Japanese whisky has developed its own identity, with one single malt variety being crowned the world’s best in the World Whisky Awards in 2017.
8 – WORLD WHISKY DAY CELEBRATES THE SPIRIT EVERY YEAR
World Whisky Day takes place annually on the third Saturday in May. In 2017, World Whisky Day was observed in 47 different countries. 300 events were registered for the occasion, leading to 25,000 people coming together to celebrate their love of the spirit.
9 – THERE’S MORE WHISKY IN SCOTLAND THAN PEOPLE
In Scotland, there are more casks of ageing whisky than there are residents. In 2019, the population of Scotland was estimated to be 5.45 million people yet there are 20 million barrels of whisky in the country. That’s nearly 4 to every individual!
10 – WHISKY IS AN OFFICIAL STATE BEVERAGE
In March 2004, a variety of whisky was chosen as Alabama’s official state spirit. The decision was not due so much to the alcohol itself, but to the moonshiner and bootlegger behind the brand. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, the designation was made because the whisky is “produced using pure Alabama water and embodies family pride, independence, entrepreneurial drive, innovation, and respect for the tradition and craftsmanship”.
11 – WHISKY BEGINS LIFE AS BEER
In a basic sense, all whisky starts as beer. This is because whisky begins as a mixture of grain, water, and yeast. This combination undergoes fermentation, where the grains release sugar that eventually turns into alcohol. The resulting concoction is known as the wash but is also commonly referred to as distiller’s beer. And whilst it can be drunk, it doesn’t usually taste all that great. Instead, this ‘beer’ is used in the next stage of whisky creation, which is distillation.
12- THE CASK IS CRUCIAL FOR DEVELOPING FLAVOUR DURING THE WHISKY MATURATION PROCESS
The barrels that whisky is aged in play an important part in its characteristics. After distillation, whisky is actually clear. However, the pigments in the wood of the cask seep into the liquid, giving whisky its distinctive amber colour. Additionally, for a whisky to be labelled as a scotch, it must be matured in casks for a minimum of three years.
13 – THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF DIFFERENT WHISKY BRANDS
Guess how many brands of whisky there are. You’ll have seen countless types so if you guessed “more than a few”, you’d be right. There are almost as many different whisky brands as there are species on Earth. Each is unique, but everyone has their own favourite. For us, the secret Ballantine’s blend hits the spot every time, no matter how you have it. On the rocks or with a mixer, the Ballantine’s blend is one in a million.
No other drink has a history like whisky. Many decades of knowledge and experimentation have gone into creating the rich, complex types we have today. There’s no right way to drink it, it’s all about what works best for you.
Now you’re armed with a bunch of whisky fun facts, why not invite your friends over and host a whisky-themed quiz night? Visit our whisky cocktail library to find a variety of delicious drinks, from coffee and whisky to variations on a classic, you’re sure to find a selection perfect for the occasion.
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