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A Bullshitter’s Guide To Scotch Whisky

on 17/04/15 at 11:44 am

Booze News

Bill-Murray-hp-GQ-14Apr15_rex_b_1445x878GQ meets up with Alan Winchester, the Master Distiller at The Glenlivet, to talk through the do’s and don’ts of Scotch whisky.

First things first. To call itself a scotch whisky, a potential scotch whisky has a few hoops to jump through before it earns the moniker. It must be made from malted barley, it must have been aged for no less than three years in an oak cask, it must have no less than 40 per cent alcoholic volume and, of course, it must have been distilled in Scotland. The Glenlivet ticks all of these boxes and it was, arguably, where scotch whisky, as we know it, began. Now listen up…

Do know your history

There is evidence of whisky, or uisge beatha to give it its Gaelic name, having been distilled in Scotland for hundreds of years, and the argument for the first ever expression (that’s whisky talk for batch) is a hotly contested debate. However, because the English levied large taxes on small-scale distilling of scotch whisky, throughout the 18th century the country was rife with illicit production. In 1823 King George IV visited Scotland and asked for a dram of Glenlivet; little did he know he was supping some illegal liquor. So it’s no great surprise that in the same year an Excise Act was introduced that permitted small distilleries at a reduced tax rate. The first to get an official license to distill was a chap called George Smith who owned The Glenlivet.