The last step of our World of Whisk(e)y is, of course, Scotland. The home of whisky (or whiskey, if you’re from Ireland) is a land of misty rolling hills and lochs, of castles and kilts. Scotland has a long and proud history of whisky production and is the home of some of the most famous brands in the world.
In this blog post, we will take a look at Scotch whisky – the most popular type of whisky in the world. We will discuss its history, production process, and flavour profile, and we will also recommend some of our favourite Scotch whiskies for you to try!
A brief history of Scottish Whisky
Scottish whisky has been produced for centuries, with the first written record of whisky production in Scotland dating back to 1494. The earliest distilleries were small and produced a very basic product.
It was not until the 18th century that Scotch whisky began to be exported, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that it became popular around the world. Today, Scotch whisky is one of Scotland’s most important exports, with over 90% of Scotch being exported to countries all over the globe.
The Production Process
Scotch whisky must be made in Scotland from water, cereals (usually barley), and yeast. It must be distilled in pot stills and aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years.
There are four main categories of Scotch whisky: single malt, single grain, blended malt, and blended grain.
Single malt Scotch is made from 100% malted barley and distilled in pot stills at a single distillery. Single grain Scotch is also made from 100% cereal grains, but can be distilled at multiple distilleries.
Blended malt Scotch is a mixture of single malt whiskies from two or more distilleries. Blended grain Scotch is a mixture of single grain whiskies from two or more distilleries.
The most important factor in the flavour of Scotch whisky is the cask it is aged in. The type of wood, the size of the cask, and the length of time the whisky is aged all contribute to the final flavour.
The most common types of casks used for ageing Scotch are ex-bourbon barrels and ex-sherry casks. ex-bourbon barrels impart a sweet, vanilla flavour to the whisky, while ex-sherry casks add dried fruit and spice notes.
Scotch whisky can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or mixed in cocktails, although single malts are often best enjoyed neat or with a splash of water to open up the flavour.
Whisky areas of Scotland
There are four main regions of Scotland that produce whisky: Highland, Lowland, Islay, and Speyside.
Highland whiskies are typically light and floral in character, while Lowland whiskies are light and grassy.
Islay whiskies are known for their smoky, peaty flavour, while Speyside whiskies are often the most complex and full-bodied.
Leading Scottish whisky brands
Some of the most popular Scotch whisky brands include the following:
The Johnnie Walker brand is owned by Diageo and was founded in 1820. It is the best-selling brand of Scotch whisky in the world, selling over 200 million bottles annually.
Chivas Regal is another popular Scotch whisky brand, also owned by Diageo. It was founded in 1801 and is known for its luxury blends.
Glenfiddich is a single malt Scotch whisky produced by William Grant & Sons. It was founded in 1886 and is one of the best-selling single malt brands in the world.
Laphroaig is an Islay single malt Scotch whisky produced by Beam Suntory. It was founded in 1815 and is known for its smoky flavour.
Glenlivet is a Speyside single malt Scotch whisky produced by Pernod Ricard. It was founded in 1824 and is one of the best-selling single malt brands in the world.
Macallan is a Speyside single malt Scotch whisky produced by Edrington. It was founded in 1824 and is known for its luxury blends. The Macallan is highly valued on the secondary market.
The Scotch whisky secondary market
As you might expect from such luxurious and popular brands, the secondary market for Scotch whisky is booming.
There are a few factors that contribute to this: firstly, the limited supply of certain expressions relative to global demand; secondly, the fact that many bottles are released as collector’s items with very limited production runs; and thirdly, the increasing popularity of Scotch whisky as a global beverage of choice.
One of the most popular expressions on the secondary market is The Macallan “M” Decanter, which was released in 2014 with a limited run of only 500 bottles. This particular bottle is highly sought-after by collectors due to its unique design and rarity.
Another example is The Dalmore 62, which was released in 2002 with only 12 bottles produced. This whisky is expensive due to its age and limited availability.
As the popularity of Scotch whisky continues to grow, so does the demand for rare and limited edition expressions. This has led to an increase in prices for these types of whiskies on the secondary market.
For collectors, the fact that the Rare Whisky Icon 100 Index has increased by over 400% per cent since 2012 is proof that investing in rare whisky is a sound financial decision.
The best whisky in the world
Scotch whisky has established its reputation as the best whisky in the world. This is due to the high quality of the whisky produced in Scotland, as well as the centuries of experience that the Scottish people have in distilling this fine spirit.
For investors and drinkers alike, the Scotch whisky market is one that is definitely worth paying attention to. As the global demand for Scotch whisky continues to grow, there are more and more opportunities for investors to get involved in this lucrative market.
Whether you’re looking to buy a bottle of rare whisky for your own collection, or you’re interested in investing in a distillery, there are plenty of ways to profit from the Scotch whisky boom!