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Thursday, 13 October 2016 10:38

Scotch! The Story of Whisky

BBC Scotland has released a 3 part documentary presented by David Hayman called “Scotch! The story of Whisky”. The first episode aired on Tuesday 11th October 2016 at 9pm GMT. We at Slainte Scotland have taken a great interest since we are very much a part of the whisky community and decided to follow the show, blogging on what we have learned, the impact of the whisky industry and the Scot’s clothing choices worn by David (a real highlight).

The show invites whisky industry professionals who explain their experiences and knowledge in short snippets throughout. They include whisky journalists, master blenders, distillers authors and managing directors of some of the distilleries.

This week’s episode started off in Tokyo, Japan with David introducing the notion of Scotch’s global impact. Scotch, in fact was described as “Scotland’s gift to the world”. What a lovely thought and one that was the main thread of episode.

Firstly though, let me briefly explain the rule of the “Scotch Brand”

“Whisky that is produced in Scotland and matured in Oak Barrels for a minimum of 3 years and 1 day.”

Scotch Single Malt Whisky:

Must follow the rule as above using 3 ingredients; malted barley, water and yeast and produced from 1 distillery.

Blended Scotch Whisky:

Must follow the “Scotch brand” rule however is produced using whisky from multiple distilleries including often “grain” whisky, which is made using unmalted cereals such as wheat and maize as well as malted barley.

Now back to the show:

They discussed quite a few interesting facts which has led to the success of Scotch whisky and I have detailed a few below:

  • Whisky production and farming have always gone hand in hand,and since the natural crop in Scotland is Barley, it only makes sense to produce an alcohol from it. The distilleries, still to this day follow the harvest each year and much of their bi product (which I will go into at another time) goes back to farming - just like one big circle, it is easy to see why it is called “the water of life” :-)
  • There are 5 whisky regions of Scotland: Islay, Highlands, Speyside, Campbeltown and the Lowlands. For historical reasons (which is for a separate blog) some do better than others. Speyside in particular is the most productive single malt whisky area nowadays, with 60% of all single malts produced coming from here.
  • Whisky is a billion pound industry which employs tens of thousands of people across the UK.
  • The French people are the biggest whisky consumers in the world.
  • Scotch took over the world’s whisky industry thanks to the middle classes of the 19th century and subsequent prohibition in the US because us canny Scots were not going to let a small problem such as illegality get in the way of good business ;-)
  • Blending whisky accounts to over 90% of Scotch whisky production and remains a very secretive process still dictated by none other than the human nose. Give Blends a go was the big message to the audience of the show including David who advised he was a single malt man and didn’t care too much for a blend….he changed his mind.


Finally, one of my highlights of the show was learning about the Springbank Distillery, one of only 3 left in production in Campbeltown (the old whisky giant of days gone by). It is an independent distillery which is as close to the “old ways” as you can get in the modern day. They are also the only distillery to carry out 100% of the production onsite and has been owned by the same family for nearly 200 years. Pretty awesome stuff - I will definitely be attending their whisky festival in May 2017.

David’s Scottish clothing choices:

David is definitely a patriotic Scot with a beautiful Glasgow accent and a love our very own amber liquid, he added an extra bit of flair with his saltire badge, bunnet (hat) and very swish tartan scarf. Paris and Milan better watch out, Scotland is in style. ;-)

Next week, the program is going to centre around Islay, how the landscape can affect Scotch, the market of collecting whisky and marketing whisky across the world. The 2nd episode will air at 9pm on 18th of October on BBC 2 Scotland.

You can watch the show on BBC iPlayer now. :-)

Our Whisky Tours of Scotland are a real treat. Check them out here: http://slaintescotland.com/whisky-tours.html

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