Whiskey is one of those very rare products which has consistently developed a mythology and almost cultish appreciation. Every single distillery has a unique story to share and possesses a history that can stretch back over hundreds of years. The easiest way to deepen your whiskey enthusiasm and appreciation? Simply delve a little deeper into some of the astounding facts surrounding this spirit, and you’ll be armed with the info you need to impress your friends and take your tastings to the next level.
Whiskey is a drink which, as every whiskey fan knows, packs in subtleties and character like no other spirit on the market. Distilleries founded just a few miles from each other can - and often do - produce casks and bottles with astoundingly different features and flavors. Just like fine wine, the vision of the whiskey distiller shines through in every glorious sip.
Just ask any dedicated whiskey enthusiast, and they’re sure to take great pleasure in regaling you with figures, facts, and anecdotes aplenty regarding their favorite bottles. After all, whiskey is one of those very rare products which has consistently developed a mythology and almost cultish appreciation. Every single distillery has a unique story to share and possesses a history that can stretch back over hundreds of years. The easiest way to deepen your whiskey enthusiasm and appreciation? Simply delve a little deeper into some of the astounding facts surrounding this spirit, and you’ll be armed with the info you need to impress your friends and take your tastings to the next level.
Whiskey Fun Fact #1: There Are an Estimated 20 Million Whiskey Barrels in Scotland
You might guess that Scotland is the true spiritual home of quality whiskey, but did you know that the leading Scotch distilleries never really stop distilling their spirits? Each and every one of the whiskeys they create need to be aged in barrels, often for remarkably long periods which cover several decades, before being released to the public. That leads to a truly staggering backlog of barrelled whiskeys, which sit quietly in their cellars, waiting to reach perfection.
The result? An incredible number of whiskey barrels, squirreled away, beneath the great distilleries of this ancient country. Conservative estimates claim there are about 20 million casks maturing in Scotland right now… that’s almost four barrels of whiskey for each and every Scottish man, woman, and child!
Whiskey Fun Fact #2: ‘Whiskey’ Comes from a Gaelic Word
There’s plenty of doubt thrown around regarding just where whiskey first originated, with many different ancient cultures claiming to be the first to distill grain spirits for drinking. Despite this, the modern roots of whiskey are, without a doubt, traceable back to Scotland and Ireland.
These proud and ancient countries can confidently lay claim to the word ‘whiskey’, which comes from the Gaelic ‘uisge beatha’ - the water of life. That doesn’t really look like ‘whiskey’, but it over time it was shortened to ‘uisge’, pronounced ‘oosh-keh’, which when said fast starts to sound more like our modern, ‘whiskey’. Gaelic is the ancient language of the Irish and the Scots, and it continues to be spoken and understood to this day.
Whiskey Fun Fact #3: Whiskey is a Worldwide Favorite
Whiskey is one of the most popular spirits right across the world, and every year, its market reach grows exponentially. Indeed, countries like Taiwan, China, and South Korea have seen huge explosions in their homegrown whiskey scenes over the past decade, proving that you don’t have to from Northern Europe to excel at producing this singular spirit.
However, the countries with the highest numbers of whiskey fans (based upon import numbers) are not the countries you’d expect. Astonishingly, neither Ireland nor Scotland are in the top three countries for whiskey drinkers. The countries with the highest numbers of whiskey bottles sold are France, Uruguay, and the United States (which is home to the world’s most popular whiskey, Jack Daniels).
Whiskey Fun Fact #4: Whiskey, When Distilled, is Colorless
Did you know that when whiskey is first distilled, it is completely colorless? That iconic amber hue that we associate with our favorite whiskeys is actually a product of the barrel aging process and a result of slow oxidation within the wood. Older whiskeys are darker, and the barrel has more influence on the flavor the older it is, too. But color is not always indicative to taste, so some manufacturers actually add a caramel color to their bottles.
Whiskey Fun #5: Whiskey Distills For a Record Length of Time
Many distilleries age their whiskeys for astounding lengths of time. It isn’t unusual to see bottles auctioned that were barreled way back in the 1930s, and the last few years saw the release of a number of bottles from the 1950s and earlier. That’s a long time to wait for a dram!
The record broken for the oldest bottle of whiskey sold at auction was one from the 1850s, which was kept by an Irish family and passed down through the generations. Sold for $20,000 a few years ago, the whiskey was said to be ‘transportative’.
Whiskey Fun Fact #6: Whiskey Is Near Invincible
Whiskey has a wide number of remarkable properties. Indeed, when enjoyed in moderation, it is claimed to be beneficial for a number of different health issues - including the prevention of heart attacks and strokes - and it is proven to be able to withstand incredibly cold conditions. Arctic explorers are known to enjoy a drop of the good stuff, and no wonder: it can remain liquid and intact in temperatures of -30 degrees celsius!
Perhaps most impressive of all, whiskey is incredibly long-lasting and capable of preserving itself for huge lengths of time. If kept sealed and out of direct sunlight, there’s actually no way of knowing just how long it can last - more than a century, at least, as we’ve seen!
Whiskey Fun Fact #7: Water Has a Huge Impact
If you were to ask any of the world’s greatest distillers what was the secret to their success, the vast majority of them would point towards their water source, claiming that the crystal clear mountain waters and springs were responsible for the resulting flavor and character of their spirits. Water is, indeed, the key to a whiskey’s overall flavor and notes of distinction, and this is why so many distilleries have popped up in places where iron-free, freshwater is easily accessible (iron will have a negative effect on both the color and tasting notes of a whiskey), including Scotland’s west coast and islands, and across the Southwesterly US states.
Whiskey Fun Fact #8: Angels Can’t Get Enough of it
Well… that’s not entirely true. However, you may have heard of ‘the angels’ share’ - the percentage of whiskey which evaporates from the barrel as it ages, and which helps to lend a whiskey its intensity and finesse. Once bottled, however, the heavenly hosts can’t steal your whiskey, so don’t worry about winged visitors enjoying your collection at home!
That’s it - eight fascinating facts about whiskey and whiskey production to deepen your knowledge and impress your friends. The next step? Get yourself one of BrüMate’s beautiful spirits glasses: they’re made to keep your whiskey at the perfect temperature, ensuring the last drop is as perfect as the first.