Why is Scottish whisky spelled without an ‘e’ and Irish whiskey with an ‘e’?

Marketing! I know that’s probably not what you were expecting! But it was a move by Irish distillers in the 19th century to differentiate their product from Scottish distilleries also producing whisky. They put an ‘e’ in the word so that at a glance you’d know it was an Irish whiskey!

Here’s an easy one… Why is it called Scotch? An abbreviation of Scottish Whisky. Strangely though, very few Scottish people ever call it Scotch.

I love that the Scottish Gaelic for whisky is uisge-beatha – The Water of Life! And I know a few folk who would swear that a wee dram of whisky keeps you young!

The word ‘dram’ means a measure, one eighth of a fluid ounce to be exact. Another definition, which I think is really cool is ‘a small weight of apothecary’s measure’. So there you have it, it’s official, whisky is a cure!

A copper still at a Scottish distillery
A copper still at a Scotch Whisky distillery.

The first written mention of Scottish whisky was in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland in 1495. Wow! It was a friar making the amber liquid, at Lindores Abbey in Newburgh, Fife. Richard and I were very lucky to get a private tour of the whisky distillery at Lindores before it officially opened, as we have family that live right next door to it! We would thoroughly recommend you visit and sample their first whisky, available now, as it’s had more than the legal requirement of 3 years and 1 day to mature in a cask to be called a Scotch Whisky.

How is this delicious Scottish spirit made?

There are six steps to making a Scottish Malt whisky; malting, milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturing. These processes will be explained during a whisky tour and you’ll be taken to each part of the distillery to see the production of whisky in action.

A single malt whisky is made from malted barley, water and yeast whereas a grain whisky can be made from other grains as such wheat. A whisky blend or blended Scottish whisky is a mix of a single malt whisky and a grain whisky.

Visiting whisky distilleries:

There are approximately 130 Scotch Whisky distilleries in Scotland and they are in just about every region of the country. But the true home of Scotch Whisky is Speyside. It’s an area in the northeast of Scotland and an easy drive from Inverness. There are over 60 distilleries producing more than half of all whisky made in Scotland. So if you want to visit the distillery where they make your favourite Scotch Whisky or discover a new dram, then Speyside is the place to go.

A whisky distillery is a must-see when you are visiting the Scottish Highlands, even if you are not a fan of Scotland’s National drink. Whisky distillery tours are often entertaining, informative and fascinating, not to mention a complementary dram is usually included!

We can recommend our favourite whisky distilleries to you, some of which are not far from Inverness, there are two excellent distilleries less than an hour drive from our Inverness B&B – Tomatin and Glen Ord, both worth a visit.

A cooper working on a barrel at Speyside Cooperage, Scotland
A cooper working on a barrel at Speyside Cooperage, Scotland. Image courtesy of Visit Scotland.

We’d also recommend that you take a tour at The Speyside Cooperage, as it’s the only working cooperage in the United Kingdom that lets you experience the ancient and skilled craft of coopering (cask/barrel making).

Always remember that the designated driver will have to savour their dram once they are back at our local bar! Or better still, book a Scottish whisky distillery tour and let a knowledgeable guide tell you the story of whisky and do all the driving!