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Scotch Whisky

First it was known as aqua vitae...the water of life or in Gaelic, uisge beatha (ooshka baytha), and then the Sassenachs, the Lowlanders and the English decided that 'whisky' was the word. Water... yeast and barley. Three simple ingredients and one hugely success story. Scotch whisky is the world's most popular spirit because it is essentially simple, unadulterated and of the highest quality. Nothing tastes quite like it.

Whisky...how do you take it?

Whisky has never been regarded as a mixer spirit in the same way as gin or vodka but that has never diminished its popularity. Traditionalists will maintain that there are only two things you can add to a measure of Scotch, the first is some water and the other is more Scotch!

In the States the most popular addition is probably ice, and plenty of it. The only drawback to this is that it tends to chill the whisky to the point where any subtleties of texture and mouthfeel are undetectable. Soda has always been a fine way to lengthen a Scotch but few other additions marry as well as pure water. Water effectively opens the bouquet, reduces the alcoholic strength to an acceptable level (or to one's taste) and lengthens the drinking experience.

Arthur Bell & Sons of Perth have just started bottling a mix of their blended Scotch with Barr's Irn Bru to mixed response from a somewhat astonished public. And it is true that there are some things with which Scotch will mix extremely well....apple juice, for instance was simply made to mix with Scotch. If you want added zest, try a little Appletize instead.

But when you enter the realm of Scotch malt whisky, tread carefully, for the connoisseurs and traditionalists will not brook any nonsense.

If the bottling is at standard strength (40% abv in UK, 43% abv or 86º US proof) then simply add a splash of good natural mineral water. Some of you will prefer it straight, but don't try the cask-strength bottling (frequently between 55 and 60% abv in the UK / 110º - 120º US proof) without water.

Remember, you are simply adjusting the strength to taste by adding one of the malt's main ingredients. The bouquet unfolds, the taste expands over the palate and the aftertaste lingers longer.

Why spoil a great experience? Remember the water and remember what whisky means in Gaelic...'water'.


Aboyne Castle

Formerly derelict castle that was restored in 1979 by the Marquess of Huntly. The building was once more extensive but has been remodelled to class tower style castle.

Bruichladdich Distillery

130 year old Islay distillery with very traditional methods and a very strong sense of place. Still independent.

Caol Ila Whisky Distillery

Located in a quiet cove near Port Askaig,over-looking the Paps of Jura Caol Ila is located in one of the most unexplored parts of the country.

Glenkinchie Distillery

The distillery closest to Edinburgh and one of only three lowland malts still in production. It is the easiest distillery to visit if you are in Edinburgh.

Lagavulin Whisky Distillery

One of the three great whisky distilleries beyond Port Ellen on Islay that are as close as the whisky world gets to mecca!

Springbank Whisky Distillery

Springbank is one of the few remaining family owned distilleries that produce single malt whisky in the traditional methods handed down the generations.

Tobermory Whisky Distillery

Dating back to 1798, Tobermory distillery is the only one on the island and one of the oldest commercial distilleries in Scotland