17 May 2025
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100 Whisky Facts

Need some whisky trivia to impress? Or still getting your head around the drink? Here are 100, wonderful and wacky facts about whisky capable of stunning even the most seasoned of drinkers.

  1. With a value of £4.91 billion, Scotch whisky exports accounted for over 20 per cent of all UK food and drink exports in 2019.
  2. Suntory has created its very own yeast strain: Suntoryeus Lactobacillus.
  3. According to the Kentucky Distillers Association 95 per cent of all bourbon whiskey is produced in Kentucky.
  4. During World War II, many bourbon distilleries were converted in order to make fuel and penicillin.
  5. Some 42 bottles of whisky are exported from Scotland every second.
  6. The Scottish Parliament first taxed whisky in 1644.
  7. Licensed Scotch whisky production was banned from 1757 to 1760 due to a poor grain harvest.
  8. Kentucky is home to more barrels of maturing bourbon than people.
  9. However, with a population of 5.4 million, and more than 20 million barrels of whisky in store, Scotland has almost four casks of whisky per citizen.

Illustration of a man wearing a whisky barrel

  1. Laid end to end, these casks would stretch about 30,000 kilometres – or about six times the distance between Edinburgh and New York.
  2. Whiskey is the official state beverage of Alabama.
  3. A 30-year-old cask of Macallan set a new world record in 2019 for the most expensive whisky cask ever sold at auction. It fetched a whopping $572,000.
  4. Mountain Dew was originally meant to be a whisky chaser.
  5. The Glenfiddich bottle is triangular in shape to represent the three pillars of whisky making: air, water and barley.
  6. The vast majority of whisky exported from Scotland is blended, not single malt.
  7. Japanese whisky makers rarely trade casks with one another due to how competitive the market is.
  8. Frank Sinatra was buried with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.
  9. Un-aged American whiskey is often called ‘white dog’.

Illustration of a dog raising a glass of whisky

  1. The co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, demanded whisky on his deathbed but was refused it.
  2. While filming in the Congo, the majority of the cast of The African Queen became sick with dysentery from drinking the water. Director John Huston and actor Humphrey Bogart emerged unscathed, allegedly because they drank nothing but whisky throughout.
  3. Ardbeg sent whisky to the International Space Station to test how zero gravity affects the maturation.
  4. Some people believe bourbon was named after Bourbon County in Kentucky. Others believe it was named after Bourbon Street in New Orleans, a major port for trading Kentucky whisky.
  5. Both rapper Drake and UFC champion and boxer Conor McGregor own whiskey brands.
  6. Early in 2018, the world’s first regulated whisky investment fund was launched. Single Malt Fund allows investors to buy a small part of a bigger collection of rare and limited-edition whiskies.
  7. According to the Scottish Whisky Regulations of 2009, Scotland is divided into two protected localities (Campbeltown and Islay) and three protected regions (Highland, Lowland, and Speyside).
  8. In certain Latin American countries, people say ‘whisky’ instead of ‘cheese’ when posing for photographs.
  9. According to The French Federation of Spirits, whisky accounts for the highest retail sales of any spirit in France at 47.2 per cent. This is compared to Cognac which makes up only 0.7 per cent of sales.

Illustration of a rooster drinking whisky

  1. Some 43 per cent of German tourists in Scotland visit a distillery while visiting, making it the second most popular activity for the demographic.
  2. The Jack Daniel’s distillery is located in a ‘dry county’, meaning alcohol sales therein are prohibited. An exception has been made for the distillery.
  3. John Jameson, the founder of Jameson’s Irish whisky was Scottish.
  4. The same John Jameson was the great-grandfather of the radio transmission pioneer, Guglielmo Marconi.
  5. There was a whisky rebellion in Pennsylvania in 1794 due to whisky taxing. The tax was eventually repealed in 1802.
  6. John ‘Johnnie’ Walker was a grocer in Kilmarnock, Scotland in the mid-1800s who specialised in blending tea before he decided to start blending whisky.
  7. The first Scottish distillery to install a Coffey Still was the Grange Distillery, which fell silent in 1851.
  8. There are over 300,000 varieties of barley but only a few are suitable for malt whisky production.
  9. Charles Joughin, the baker on-board the doomed Titanic, trod water for three hours before being rescued. He claimed he hadn’t succumbed to the cold due to the amount of whisky he had drunk prior to the accident, while the ship was sinking.

Illustration of a chef up to his chest in water

  1. In 1956, Whiskey replaced William in the NATO phonetic alphabet.
  2. The year 1994 marked 500 years since the first written reference to Scotch whisky was penned. Many producers released anniversary bottlings.
  3. In Victorian times, some Scottish distilleries allowed workers to stop for a dram each time a bell rang.
  4. Scotch exports earned £156 every second in 2019.
  5. Glenturret’s distillery famous cat, Towser the Mouser, is believed to have caught 28,899 mice in its 24-year lifetime, which begs the question: who was counting?
  6. The average measure of whisky contains just 64 calories – fewer than a banana.
  7. Distilled alcoholic beverages made from gluten grains are gluten-free due to distillation removing gluten proteins.
  8. Andrew Usher, the son of an Edinburgh-based spirits dealer, pioneered Scotch blending in the 19th century.
  9. Sir Nikola Tesla drank whisky every day because he thought that it would make him live for 150 years.

Illustration of Nikola Tesla with a glass of whisky

  1. The revolving mechanism that drags heavy copper chains around the base of a still to prevent sticking or scorching is called a rummager.
  2. A cooper’s apprentice must work accompanied for four years before being allowed to tackle their own barrel.
  3. Robert Burns once had the job of exciseman and wrote fondly of whisky in his poetry.
  4. One large oak tree is said to yield enough wood for approximately three 60-gallon casks.
  5. In order to finish the screenplay for the Blue Dahlia, writer Raymond Chandler drank whisky for eight days while being supervised by six secretaries, a nurse and a doctor.
  6. At the time of writing, there are 133 distilleries licensed to produce Scotch whisky.
  7. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, not just Kentucky.
  8. If bourbon is aged for more than two years but less than four, it must bear an age statement on the label.
  9. The combination of beer and whiskey is known as a ‘boilermaker’ in America, where blue-collar labourers regarded it as an effective pick-me-up after a shift down in the mines.

Illustration of a boilermaker hat

  1. Wild Turkey relies on the same strain of live yeast for a consistent quality across its bourbons. It therefore makes sense that there’s an emergency plan in case anything happens to its Kentucky distillery: the company has secret stashes of its proprietary yeast hidden all across the country.
  2. The famous red-wax sealed Maker’s Mark bottle was designed by the distillery owner’s wife, Margie Samuels. Samuels wanted something that would stand out in the liquor store and reassure drinkers that this bourbon was quality made. She also came up with the name, which comes from the “mark of the maker,” a signature that indicates a product is handmade.
  3. The Keeper of the Quaich is awarded to those who make an outstanding contribution to the Scotch whisky industry for at least five years and outstanding Keepers may progress to become Masters of the Quaich.
  4. Kentucky Colonel is the highest title of honour bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, given in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to a community, state or the nation. Not surprisingly, many bourbon industry figures have been honoured with it.
  5. After Prohibition ended, 69-year-old James B. Beam got his distillery up and running in just 120 days.
  6. Joe Sheridan, a head chef in Foynes, County Limerick claims to have invented and named the Irish Coffee. A group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat on a miserable winter evening in the 1940s, so Sheridan added whiskey to their coffee. When they asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan replied, ‘No, Irish coffee”.
  7. Let the debate end here: Jack Daniel’s is Tennessee whiskey, not bourbon.
  8. During the malting process, the barley was traditionally turned with a shovel to promote even malting and reduce the tangling of barley sprouts. As a result of this repetitive motion maltsters suffered a condition which caused one arm to hang lower than the other – known as monkey shoulder.
  9. An 1896 Scotch from Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition was found in 2006 and is being preserved in New Zealand. It didn’t freeze at -30 temperatures.

Illustration of Ernest Shackleton drinking whisky

  1. When Norman Lamont was Chancellor in the early 1990s, the bag which was waved at photographers outside No 11 contained a bottle of Highland Park, while the speech itself was carried in a plastic bag by his then-aide, William Hague.
  2. A royal footman who poured whisky into the Queen’s corgis’ water bowl as a party trick was demoted and had his salary cut.
  3. The Suntory Yamazaki distillery’s first master distiller, Masataka Taketsuru, studied in Scotland before deciding to bring the craft home to Japan.
  4. Whisky in Gaelic reads ‘uisge beathe’, which means ‘water of life’.
  5. In June 1875, a bonded warehouse in the Liberties caught fire, and rivers of burning whiskey flowed through the streets of Dublin like lava. Titled The Great Dublin Whiskey Fire, the disaster resulted in the tragic loss of 13 lives and 1,900 casks of whiskey.
  6. George Washington was the only founding father to commercially operate a distillery. It was one of the biggest distilleries of its time, but was unfortunately destroyed by a fire a few years after opening.
  7. Ireland’s Old Bushmills Distillery claims to be the country’s oldest legally functioning distillery. Operations on the present site date back to 1276 by some accounts.
  8. Pot still whiskey is made by combining both malted and unmalted barley in the mashbill, prior to fermentation, and then distilling in traditional copper pot stills.
  9. The monopoly once in sole charge of producing Finnish alcohol (including whisky) was also responsible for the production of Molotov cocktails for its military.

Illustration of a molotov cocktail

  1. Before they started blending and selling Scotch, the Chivas brothers ran a grocery in Aberdeen, Scotland. It opened in 1801, yet the brothers wouldn’t start producing whisky until almost half a century later.
  2. Renowned Victorian Illustrator, Tom Browne, drew a picture of a striding man on a menu during lunch with Lord Stevenson, one of Johnnie Walker’s directors. This eventually became the striding man you see on the bottle today.
  3. Bailey’s Irish Cream – a blend of cream and Irish whiskey – did not come into existence until 1974. It was the first Irish cream to be commercialised.
  4. The record for most expensive whisky cocktail sold is a refresh of the traditional Manhattan made with a 55-year-old Macallan served at Dubai’s Skyview Bar. Costing £4,632, the posh concoction was stirred with a very special oak stick from a cask of Macallan. It was also served with ice made from the same water used to produce the single malt whisky it contains.
  5. In a study published by the journal Chem, researchers used fluorescent dyes to map age, area of origin and taste of drams from the US, Scotland and Ireland. They hope to harness these findings and develop a method of detecting counterfeit whisky and other alcohol.
  6. In 2017 Scottish scientists powered a car using a biofuel derived from whisky residue.
  7. Rachel Barrie was the first female master whisky blender and has paved the way for even more women joining the industry.
  8. After the introduction of taxes on distilling in Scotland in the 17th century, illicit distillers had to go to great lengths to avoid the taxman. There are accounts of barrels being hidden in surprising places including beneath broody hens, in funeral corteges and barrels being ‘nursed’ by breastfeeding mothers.
  9. Iceland is home to just two whisky distilleries, both of which use sheep manure in place of coal/peat as a fuel for kilning barley.

Illustration of a sheep pooping rainbows

  1. The world’s largest collection of Scotch whisky is known as ‘the Perfect Collection with a staggering 3,384 bottles.
  2. The record for the smallest bottle goes to White Horse, who produced a bottle containing just 1.3 millilitres of whisky.
  3. The record for the largest bottle of whisky goes to the distillers of Famous Grouse, who created 1.7-metre bottle containing 228 litres of whisky.
  4. Jack Daniel ran away from his stepmother at the age of six and learned to distil whisky from a Lutheran minister.
  5. Standing at 5.14 metres tall, Glenmorangie’s stills are the tallest in Scotland.
  6. Kikori is a Japanese whisky made from 100 per cent rice.
  7. Scotch whisky contributes nearly £5 billion a year to the UK economy.
  8. You can earn an academic degree in distilling.
  9. The pepper mash in Tabasco sauce is aged in Jack Daniel’s barrels before it is then made into the sauce distributed all over the world.

Illustration of a woman breathing fire

  1. One of the oldest bottles of Scotch whisky, the Old Vatted Glenlivet 1862, was opened in 2017. Drops of the rare whisky were captured inside 50 Swiss watches, the most expensive of which cost more than £35,000.
  2. Scotch that evaporates during maturation is known as the angels’ share.
  3. For many whisky producers, the size and shape of the still is as important a factor as barley, yeast or water to the character of the spirit.
  4. Some distillers are looking beyond traditional grains in the production of whisky. Kentucky-based Corsair produce an expression distilled from red and white quinoa grains.
  5. Single malt is often mistaken for whisky that only sees one cask. Really it’s the product of a single distillery so it may actually see multiple casks.
  6. The Guinness World Record for the oldest bottle of whisky in the world belongs to the Glenavon Special Liqueur Whisky. Bottled between 1851 and 1858, it sold at auction for an astounding £14,850.
  7. Glenfiddich means ‘valley of the deer’.
  8. Canadian whisky was once known as ‘brown vodka’.
  9. The Royal Brackla Distillery in Nairn, Scotland is situated in the Cawdor Estate, the home of the fictional Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth, in Shakespeare’s play.
  10. Last year World Whisky Day was celebrated in 47 different countries by more than 25,000 people, we hope you join us again this year for more festivities, fun and drams!
Close up of a person holding a dram of whisky in a Glencairn glass

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