Whether you’re an armchair traveller fond of a dram or are planning a trip abroad and are keen to sample some liquid local culture, there’s a lot to learn. Here are some whisky facts from the four corners of our whisky world.
Due to a traditional lack of consistent quality, Canadian whisky used to be known as ‘brown vodka’. It was made famous when it flowed south by the river-load to stock the back bars of Chicago speakeasies during Prohibition.
The first commercial whisky production in Wales took place in 1705, led by Evan Williams. The venture wasn’t a success, and Williams emigrated to America. That same Williams later became the forefather of Kentucky bourbon.
Korn isn’t just a thrash metal band – it’s also a traditional grain spirit produced in north Germany. Many producers are now maturing it in wood and selling it as whisky, against EU regulations.
The judging panel at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards described Taiwanese Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique – which they awarded the World’s Best Single Malt – as being “like bourbon infused milk chocolate” and “custard creams”.
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.
The discovery of bourbon was an accident. Corn spirit destined for the bordellos of New Orleans was transported in wooden barrels which had been charred as a means of cleaning, resulting in a sweetening and mellowing of the spirit. There are now more barrels of bourbon in Kentucky than people.
Although France is relatively new to the whisky scene, the country’s taste for the spirit dates back some time. During the Great French Wine Blight of the mid-19th century, Scotch producers rallied to the rescue of their thirsty French neighbours.
India has recently been plagued by fake whisky, and much of that produced in the country is actually made from molasses, not grain.
Legend has it that the first Arab chemists to settle in Spain brought with them the wherewithal to produce what became known as agua de vida, a spirit made from the distillation of wine, supposed to immunise drinkers against the plague. It would eventually give its name to what is now whisky.
The whisky of Tennessee is, to a large degree, akin to the bourbon of Kentucky (just don’t say that in Tennessee). A notable differentiator, aside from the state of origin, is the legally-enforced use of the ‘Lincoln County Process’ whereby new-make spirit is filtered through maple charcoal prior to maturation.
The mightily effective temperance movement in Ireland during the 19th century saw five million of the country’s eight million residents turn away from ‘demon drink’, all but demolishing its home whiskey industry, once bigger than that of Scotch.
The monopoly in sole charge of producing Finnish alcohol (including whisky) after the repeal of Prohibition in the country was also responsible for the production of Molotov cocktails for its military.