Whisky | Irish Whiskey, Scotch, Bourbon | Next Day Delivery | 31DOVER.com
There's a whisky for everyone; from peaty single malt Scotch to new Japanese and Irish releases to smooth, American bourbon and rye. Note - American and Irish whiskey is spelled with an extra 'e'.
The History of Whisky
The first confirmed whisky production came in Ireland back in 1405, where a chieftain died after imbibing a surfeit of aqua vitae. Aqua vitae was distilled alcohol that was used for medicinal purposes, and used by doctors to treat all manner of ailments. One of the first licensed whiskey distilleries – the Old Bushmills in Northern Ireland – was granted its licence in 1608, while the first recorded instance of whisky in Scotland came in 1494, where malt was sent to a friar, John Cor, by order of the king to make 500 bottles of aqua vitae. James IV had a taste for whisky, it was reported, and he purchased a large order from the Guild of Surgeon Barbers, who had a monopoly on production at that time. He would not be the last monarch with a taste for a wee dram or two. At this time, whisky wasn't distilled or allowed to age – so it was a pretty brutal drop to drink, and could cause severe drunkenness from the merest of dosages.
The English Malt Tax of 1725 forced many whisky producers to do go underground, and they hid their brews away at home, under altars and even in coffins. Whisky was distilled under the cover of darkness to hide the smoke, and it is thought that around half of whisky production at this time was illegal. In America whiskey was often used as a currency; it was highly coveted, and when a tax was introduced against it the so-called "Whisky Rebellion" soon followede. A similar Excise Act was passed in the UK in 1823. During the Prohibition days in America, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, all alcohol sales were banned apart from those of whiskey that were prescribed by a doctor through a licensed pharmacy. During this period, the number of pharmacies grew by almost 1,000% –coincidence?
Today, whisky is enjoyed liberally in all four corners of the globe, with nations as diverse as Sweden, India and Japan all establishing themselves as whisky countries with prolific production and export of this wonderfully warming spirit. In the UK, whisky sales contribute more than £4 billion to the economy – more than a quarter of all food and drink revenue. Even David Beckham has got in on the act, backing the Haig Club brand, which is made at Scotland's Cameronbridge distillery.
How is Whisky Made?
The first stage of the whisky production process is known as malting. Here, the chosen grains are bathed in water and rotated until the germination process starts. Then they are then dried in a kiln and ground down in a mill to create the malt. The sugars are extracted from the malt in warm water, and this mix is known as "the mash" which doesn't sound particularly appetising but this is where the whisky really starts to take shape. Any remaining sugars are dissolved and the mash is given a good stir to create the base liquor. The mix is given time to ferment – typically for around 48 hours, and then distilled in copper stills. The resulting spirit is then stored in oak casks, and must be left to rest for at least three years in order to legally be called whisky.
Your typical whisky is bottled and sold at around 40% abv, which is actually the minimum allowed in some countries, although a whisky can pack a punch as powerful as up to 80% depending on the distillation and storage medium used.
Types Of Whisky
There are, generally speaking, two types of whisky: malts (which are made primarily from malted barley) and grains (made from any type of grain). Whisky is further categorised in one of the following ways:
Single malt – this is whisky distilled once and made from a single malted grain. It can contain whisky from many different casks, and can be matured in a variety of ways to create a distinctive note or flavour.
Blended malt – this is a blend of single malt whiskies that could have been produced from different distilleries.
Blended whisky – most UK produced whiskies are blended, in that they contain different types of whisky to create depth of flavour and a taste unique to that particular brand.
Single cask – whiskies bottled from one cask, which can create an unbalanced taste from one bottle to the next.
American whiskies are categorised further still, and can include Bourbon, Corn and Rye Malt.
How to Enjoy Whisky
Whisky is enjoyed neat over rocks by many a discerning drinker, forms the basis of numerous mixers and cocktails, and can even be mixed with honey and lemon as a medicinal toddy to tackle the common cold and sore throats.
From a more social perspective, the classic whisky & coke combo is a favourite in bars and clubs across the world, with many timeless cocktails also utilising the powerful flavours of whisky. The Manhattan is a winning combination of whisky, vermouth and orange, while the Four Horsemen is made up of eight shots of whisky: two each of Jack Daniel's, Jameson's, Jim Beam and Johnnie Walker. For the more faint of heart, a Whisky Sour – made up of the spirit, lemon juice and a dash of sugar – is a tasty and popular alternative.