World Whisky Day is a time to celebrate the fine spirit in all its glory, no matter how you may like to enjoy it. World Whisky Day takes place on the third Saturday in May each year. Unlike lots of the ‘days’ we celebrate this one has been recognised by the Scottish parliament.
As our guests become more knowledgeable than ever, it’s also a good time to whip out a fun fact about Scotch Whisky to flex as they consider your well thought out offering. Here are some well-known tidbits and perhaps a few new ones for your arsenal.
It’s important we know some stuff as Scotch is big business. In 2019 it made up over 20 per cent of all UK food and drink exports with a value of £4.91 billion (AUS8.64 billion).
- Whisky was first taxed by the Scottish Parliament in 1644, fixing the duty at 13.3pence per pint of “aqua vitae or other strong liquor” – the Scots pint being approximately one-third of a gallon (1.5 litres) and 13.3pence would be worth roughly 5 pounds now.
- There are almost four casks of whisky per person in Scotland. There are more than 20 million barrels of Whisky in-store and a population of 5.4 million. If averaged out as all 200L standard barrels, there are over 4 billion litres of Whisky aging, meaning over 285 bottles per person. Though cask sizes vary massively from 80L Quarter casks to 700L Puncheons and everything in between, that is a small estimate.
- In 2020 France was the largest importer of Scotch with 176 million bottles, and the US the second-largest at 112million bottles. 90 per cent of the Scotch exported from Scotland is blended.
- The founder of Jameson’s Irish Whisky, John Jameson, was actually Scottish. Born in Alloa in 1740 into a seafaring family, and served as Sheriff Clerk for the county of Clackmannanshire. In 1768 he married Margaret Haig, eldest daughter of John Haig. Disillusioned with his career as Sheriff Clerk, John Jameson moved with his family to Ireland. There is a record of him joining the Convivial Lodge No 202 of the Dublin Freemasons on 24 June 1774.
- Dr Rachel Barrie, trained initially as a chemist, was the first female master whisky blender, starting her career 28 years ago at Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, and Bowmore. In 2017 Dr Barrie moved to Brown-Forman to work as a master blender, charged with handling whisky creation across their distilleries of GlenDronach, Benriach, and Glenglassaugh.
- There are hundreds of thousands of barley varieties though only a few are suitable for malt whisky production. The most commonly used malting varieties are Concerto and Odyssey. However, other barley grains used include RGT Planet, KWS Irina, Olympus, Sienna, Vault, Octavia, Propino, Quench, Moonshine, Tipple, Belgravia and Optic.
- A standard sized, ripe banana has more calories than an average measure of Whisky, which has only 64 calories. Sadly “hard spirits” are described as empty calories with little to no “actual” health benefits. As opposed to bananas containing reasonable amounts of potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese and fibre. Damn.
- Whisky is gluten-free unless aged in barrels previously holding beer or gluten products. Volatile ethanol particles rise during distillation, whereas heavy gluten proteins sink to the bottom. Once rectified, the spirit is gluten-free.
“The average American oak tree harvested for barrels is 100 years old. There are more white oak trees today than 50 years ago when there were more white oak 50 years ago than 100 years ago. Most other tree species would leak, but white oak is different due to “tyloses”, a substance that clogs the pores.”
9. A typically sized oak tree yields enough wood for approximately two 200lt casks. The average American oak tree harvested for barrels is 100 years old. There are more white oak trees today than 50 years ago when there were more white oak 50 years ago than 100 years ago. Most other tree species would leak, but white oak is different due to “tyloses”, a substance that clogs the pores
- 10. Known as The Perfect Collection’, with over 3,900 bottles from every single Scottish distillery was sold over two auctions in 2019/20 for AUD 11.7 million. Amassed by the late Richard Gooding, a private American collector from Colorado.
- 11. Known as “monkey shoulder”, a condition that caused one arm to hang lower than the other due to repetitive motion, maltsters suffered during the malting process. The barley was traditionally turned with a shovel to promote even malting and reduce the tangling of barley sprouts.
I hope you enjoy a dram this World Whisky Day and get to share some knowledge with your guests. Slainte