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Whisky - that warming tipple               

                                     January 2011  

Whisky – that warming tipple

WhiskyI have always rather envied whisky drinkers – their enthusiasm for the drink flows over well beyond basic taste and effect to history, grain, production methods and a range of related subject that make drinking whisky a hobby rather than a refreshment.

Distilled liquor has been produced for thousands of years – there is evidence that around 800BC the process was in regular use in Asia, although at that time mainly to make perfume. The knowledge gradually filtered west and is thought to have been spread through Europe’s monasteries. One theory is that the Patron Saint of Ireland, St Patrick, brought the art with him when he arrived in the country as a Christian missionary in 432AD.

At some point the Celts used this knowledge to make a special drink, uisge beatha, Gaelic for “water of life”, from which the word whisky was derived.

Today whisky is made all over the world and the word can be used for a range of liquors distilled from a fermented mash of grains including rye, barley, wheat, or corn. There are enormous variations in whisky, from Irish whiskey (note the addition e in the spelling) to American whiskies which are generally classified as rye or bourbon.

For a good malt Scotch whisky, still recognised as one of the elite in whisky circles, the basic raw materials are limited and consist just of barley, water and yeast.

The process to make whisky goes through a number of different stages and is today a highly complex and controlled system. Malting involves the controlled germination of the barley corn to produce malt; mashing produces the sugar solution or wort from the ground or crushed malt; the fermentation introduces yeast in the wort to produce a base spirit; distillation strengthens and purifies this spirit and maturation transforms the raw spirit into whisky.

Many say that water is the most important ingredient in making good whisky and the difference in the taste of whiskies is partly due to the different waters used in manufacture. Water in Scotland is known for its great purity, but even within the one small country whisky made in different regions with different water offer a unique flavour.

After production, generally whisky is aged in wooden casks and the ageing is part of the process to produce the perfect final result.

That is just the basics; the variations within the making of a good whisky are endless.
Single malt whisky is produced by just one distillery, although it is possible the bottle contains whisky from different barrels, even from different distillation years.

A blended whisky can contain a combination of whiskies from numerous malt and grain distilleries. One advantage of blended whisky is that its quality is constant over the years and many of the best known brands of whisky, including J&B, Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse, Chivas Regal and Dimple, are blended whiskies.

For the uninitiated, it is surprising to learn that whisky can have so many variations in flavour, but whisky experts can often identify the location and name of actual distilleries just by tasting the whisky.

There is no one accepted way of drinking whisky, some like to drink it neat, others like to add soda or a splash of water which can enhance the aroma and flavour. Some people add mixers such as ginger ale although this seems rather a shame when you realize the love, care and effort that have gone into perfecting the flavour of the finished product.

If you develop a taste for whisky, there are tasting clubs, distillery tours and numerous events for enthusiasts which can turn whisky from a simple drink into a lifetime interest.


Nutricentre Discount for laterlife visitors If in any doubt about any of the information covered in health and nutrition related articles and it's relevance for you, consult your GP.




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