Scotch Whisky: The Origin Story
I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Did I click the right link? I swear I clicked on Whiskey Culture but here I am reading a history lesson on Scotch. Also why is there no “e” in Scotch Whisky?”. You don’t need to back out, refresh or double take at the URL, you’re in the right place. We’ve been getting into Scotch Whisky here at the blog and we thought you’d be just as interested as we were to find out where this unique drinks originates.
Now if you’ve tried both Scotch and Whiskey, you know they’re two different animals. However, these two spirits share a common ancestor. Way back in “Ye Olde” times (specifically the 11th-14th century) Irish monks galivanted across Europe and the Middle East. In doing so, they spread the gospel and picked up some pointers on how to distill alcohol. Now, when I say they’re getting how-to’s on the process of distillation, I don’t mean they’re getting the same quality of information we can access in the modern world. They couldn’t just pull up a neatly organized YouTube video with slick edits and easy to understand formatting. This was more along the lines of, “Hey, this stuff won’t kill you if you drink it after being left outside for a few days.”
The Irish monks managed to make their way through the Scottish countryside, much to the whisky-less inhabitants chagrin. However, once the Irish monks started breaking out the distillation tips and tricks, the Scots unacceptance seemed to waver a bit and was replaced by intrigue of this revolutionary process.
You see, the Scottish had an alcohol creation process. However, it was nowhere near sophisticated as the modern era and it definitely didn’t produce scotch whisky as we know it today.
It essentially consisted of the boiling and re-boiling of a grain based porridge. Cattle herders would take with this with them throughout the countryside. As you can tell, that’s basically a beer mash being boiled over and over again. All while siting out in a pot for days would create some fermentation. Which in turn brought alcohol along with it. This would be more of a feel-good soup than a distilled alcoholic beverage, and much less enjoyable to consume.
With the introduction of the more sophisticated processes and equipment by the Irish monks, the Scots started to refine their alcohol distillation over the next couple centuries. All they way up until 1494 where we have our first official documents of Scottish whiskey production. A written order for malted barley to distill into “aqua vitae” (water of life) by friar John Cor of the Lindores Abbey in Fife.
And there you have it, a brief and concise overview on the creation of Scotch. If you have any other suggestions for alcohol history tidbits you’d like to read about let us know in the comments below! Cheers!
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Orion has been friends with Greg since their high school days.
His love for whiskey grew as he tried different pours Greg was reviewing for Whiskey Culture. And, when Whiskey Culture began traveling around the country, he went with them to document their whiskey expeditions.
Orion now works full-time for Whiskey Culture managing our production schedule and ensuring the quality of our content. He oversees our contributor program, and can be found alongside Greg during their trips to Kentucky either behind the camera, or behind a glass of fine whiskey after a long day of shooting footage.