The Scots claim to have invented whisky, not just Scotch (the word whisky, in fact, is a corruption of the Gaelic uisgebeatha, which means water of life) and certainly, even if this claim remains unproven, their contribution to the art of distilling has been incalculable.
The origins of whisky have been lost in the mists of time, but there has been whisky in the glens for a long time. The first official mention of it occurs in the fourteenth century, although it is gener-ally conceded to be much more venerable than that – there are those (mostly Irish!) who claim that a spirit suspiciously similar to whisky was brought to Scotland as long ago as the fifth or sixth century AD by Irish pilgrims intent on converting the pagan Picts to Christianity. (What part alcohol played in such conversions has never been adequately explained!)
Distillation flourished first in the High-lands, where the natives used pot stills and malted barley and where the water, the peat and, or so they claimed, even the air combined to produce a unique beverage. With the introduction of the patent still, production spread to the Lowlands, where other grains were used and, in fact, most Scotch bought and drunk today is a skilled blending of malt and grain whisky. Pure malt whisky can be obtained but it is considered rather strong and is not recommended for the unsuspecting palate reared on gentler, blended products.
Scotch whisky is distilled twice in either pot or patent stills and by law is matured in cask for at least three years, more often
10 TO 12, before it is sold commercially. Most fine Scotch reaches its peak after about
12 TO 15 years in cask.
Scotch today is usually drunk as an aperitif or cocktail, although there are some very fine liqueur whiskies. It is probably rather sacrilegious to drink a really good whisky with anything added to it, but there are many people who enjoy their Scotch with water or ice, or even a twist of lemon.