Whilst Scotland is known for many things, as far as food and drink are concerned, in the drink category, its most famous export is malt whisky. Wherever you travel in Scotland, the length and breadth of the country you will find a malt whisky distillery to visit and a dram to sample.
From the gaelic “uisge beatha”, which means “water of life”, this alcoholic spirit has been the common theme for friends and strangers alike to forge friendships all across the world.
The earliest record of whisky made in Scotland can be found in the exchequer roll for 1494, and comes in the form of a commission from King James IV to Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey to make about “eight bols of malt” or 580kg of aqua vitae (the latin for “water of life”). Undoubtedly there would have been stills throughout Scotland, but from 1707 onwards, the tax man got involved and the volume of stills paying taxes declined, which meant years of work for the custom and excise men, including Scotland’s national bard, Robbie Burns.
Amazing facts about whisky include: there are 115 distilleries in Scotland that are licensed to produce Scotch Whisky; 38 bottles are shipped overseas each second; some 20 million casks lie maturing in warehouses in Scotland; to be known as Scotch Whisky, the spirit must mature in oak casks in Scotland for at least 3 years; Scotch Whisky accounts for around a quarter of UK food and drink exports; more Scottish whisky is sold in one month in France than Cognac in a year; the most expensive bottle of whisky, a Macallan 6-litre bottle sold in 2014 in Hong Kong for £393,109 ($628,205).
The distilling process has changed little over the centuries with three basic ingredients needed, water, barley and yeast, and five stages to the process – malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation. However, there are subtle differences to the flavours depending on location within Scotland. One of the most famous areas is Speyside, which has a designated Malt Whisky Trail with famous brands like Glenfiddich, Dallas Dhu and Glenlivet, where tours of the distillery and a visitor centre are available for visitors.
No doubt each person will have their favourite whisky or a selection of favourites, and one of mine is Dalwhinnie Distillery. Originally named “Strathspey” it is located at Dalwhinnie and is the highest working distillery in Scotland at 351 metres high. Its whisky is known as the “gentle spirit” due to its smooth taste and is one that that newcomers to whisky tasting find appealing.
Located close to the source of the river Spey, is the Lochside Holiday House, which sleeps up to 10 adults on a self-catering basis. Refurbished in 2015, it is available to the holiday letting market in 2016 and is already proving popular. Fitted with a super modern kitchen/dining room, this has become the hub of the house, which enjoys beautiful views across the loch. It is just the perfect holiday house in Scotland, with great access to the Malt Whisky Trail and plenty of activities on your doorstep including the Landmark Forest Adventure Park; Highland Wildlife Park; Aviemore; Rothiemurchus and the Cairngorm mountain for winter sports and all year walking. Contact Scotts Castle Holidays today for more information.