The word “Whisky” comes from the Gaelic word "usquebaugh", meaning "Water of Life", which became "usky" and then "whisky" in English. However it is known, Scotch Whisky, Scotch or Whisky, it has captivated a global market. Scotland has internationally protected the term "Scotch". For a whisky to be labeled Scotch it has to be produced in Scotland.
The distilling process was originally applied to perfume, then to wine, and finally adapted to fermented mashes of cereals in countries where grapes were not plentiful. The spirit commonly made in monasteries, and chiefly used for medicinal purposes. In fact, the Guild of Surgeon Barbers, in Edinburgh, was granted a monopoly over the manufacture of whisky in 1505.
The primitive equipment used at the time and the lack of scientific expertise meant that the spirit produced in those days was probably potent, and occasionally even harmful. During the course of the 15th century, along with better still design, the dissolution of the monasteries contributed to an improvement in the quality of the spirits produced. Many of the monks, driven from their sanctuaries, had no choice but to put their distilling skills to use. The knowledge of distilling then quickly spread to others.
The increasing popularity eventually attracted the attention of the Scottish parliament, which introduced the first taxes on malt and the end product in the latter part of the 17th century. Ever increasing rates of taxation were applied following The Act of Union with England in 1707, when England set out to tame the rebellious clans of Scotland. The distillers were driven underground. A long and often bloody battle arose between the excisemen and the illicit distillers. The Whisky Prohibition lasted until 1823 when the Excise Act was passed.
By the 1880s, the phylloxera beetle had devastated the vineyards of France, and within a few years, wine and brandy had virtually disappeared from cellars everywhere. The Scots were quick to take advantage of the calamity, and by the time the French industry recovered, Scotch Whisky had replaced brandy as the preferred spirit of choice.
Scotch Whisky has survived Prohibition, wars and revolutions, economic depressions and recessions, to maintain its position today as the international spirit of choice, extending to more than 200 countries throughout the world. Learn more about the history and intricacies of this time-honored drink on a Celtic Tours Whisky Tour of Scotland!