The pleasing feel of a proper glass of malt no ice a touch of water, my favourite Glendronach, at the end of a day warmed by the hand the rich aroma in your nostrils can take away the cares of the world.
Whisky is inextricably woven into Scotland's history, culture and customs. Drunkenness is not. Distillation was known in the ancient Orient, but true whisky is a purely Celtic contribution.
No one can say when Scotch Whisky was first distilled. The origins of distilling are lost in the soup of pre history, distilling was attempted in Asia as long ago as 800BC, and to have found its way to Europe via Egypt.
The Ancient Celts practised the art and had an expressive name for the ardent liquid they produced - uisge beatha - the water of life. To the Celts its power to revive tired bodies and failing spirits, to drive out chills and rekindle hope was a veritable gift from God.
In 432 AD. Saint Patrick, a native of Scotland was sent to Wicklow to spread Christianity and introduced distilling to the pagan Irish.
The earliest documented record of distilling in Scotland is in 1494AD, when an entry in the Exchequer Rolls listed "Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae" (water of life). This was sufficient to produce almost 1500 bottles. Distilling must have been well-established. .
Whisky was lauded for its medicinal qualities, it was decreed for the conservation of health, the prolongation of life, and for the relief of colic, palsy, smallpox and what ever else ailed you. Scots used whisky from cradle to grave.
Whisky became an ingrained part of Scottish life - a reviver and stimulant during the long, cold winters, and a feature of social life, a welcome to be offered to guests upon arrival at their destinations.
The Duke of Gordon, on whose land some of the finest illicit whisky in Scotland was being produced proposed in the House of Lords that the Government should make it profitable to produce whisky legally.
In 1823 the Excise Act was passed, which sanctioned the distilling of whisky in return for a licence fee of £10 and a set payment per gallon of proof spirit. This legislation laid the foundations for the overtaxed Scotch Whisky industry as of today. Scotland biggest foreign exchange earner.
In USA whisky 13.14 % of the spirit market with a Sterling value £283.72 million pounds
In the European Community excluding UK 33.13% market share value £823.04million pounds
All Scots whisky (also spelt whiskey in American) is made from grain or malt (sprouted grain), or from both, and water. All Scots distilleries have access to spring water that passes up through granite or limestone.
Whisky-making begins when whole grain is steeped in water promoting germination. Starches are converted to fermentable sugar by malt: For Scotch, self-generated malt is produced by arresting germination of the barley; for most other whiskeys, malt is added to the basic grain mixture. (In the production of Scotch, the malted grain is dried at this juncture, over peat fires from which the characteristic smoky flavour of finished whiskey is developed. It is then lightly milled. Hot water is added to the malted grains, and the resultant mash is stirred or shaken until the sugars present are dissolved. Wort, a liquid is produced, then strained into fermenting vessels; fermentation is then activated by the introduction of yeast, which converts the sugars to alcohol and the mixture to a crude whiskey, called wash, with a low alcohol content. The wash is distilled, after distillation, the still-colourless whiskey is put in charred wooden barrels and left to mature, mellow, develop colour, and purge itself of impurities..
The current distilleries of Scotland
Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Auchentoshan, Balblair, Banff, Ben Nevis. Bladnoch, Blair Athol,
Brackla Brora, Bushmills(Highland whisky made in N Ireland), Clynelish, Dallas Dhu, Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Deanston, Edradou, Fettercairn, Glen Deveron, Glen Garioch, Glen Mhor, Glen Ord, Glen Scotia, Glencadam, Glendronach, Glenesk, Glenglassaugh, Glengoyne,
Glenkinchie, Glenlochy, Glenmorangie, Glenturret, Glenury Royal, Highland Park, Inverleven,
Knockdhu/An Cnoc Ledaig/Tobermory, Littlemill, Lochranza, Lochside, Millburn, North Port,
Oban, Pulteney, Rosebank, Royal Lochnagar, Scapa, Springbank, St. Magdalene, Talisker, Teaninich, Tomatin, Tullibardine
Ref: The Original Scotch. Michael Brander [Hutchinson, London 1974: ISBN 0 09 120720 7]
HM Customs & Excise Export Statistics 1998 HMSO London
Encarta 98 Encylopedia 1998 edition