Why Scotch Whiskies Differ

The folklore and heritage of Scotch whisky are as rich as a highland bog. This is the first of many Wyres to explore this magnificent drink.

We start with this interesting fact: all Scotch whiskies are made the same way. Yet, they’re remarkably different in taste, colour and even viscosity. Why?

First, the character of the local water: two distillers on contiguous properties can create wholly different whiskies if one draws water from a loch and the other from a mossy burn (Scottish for creek) downstream.

Secondly, the shape of the still affects the final outcome: Some stills are slightly onion-shaped, others more like oversized and squat Hershey’s kisses. Some encourage extra condensation, so millions of drops which would normally move straight through pipes fall back into the mix to boil again. (Yum.)

Third is the speed of distillation: Like the shape of the still, the amount of time the distiller takes to purify by boiling and allowing the liquid to condense can broaden or concentrate the final flavour.

And fourth, the cask: Single malts always use ‘previously enjoyed’ barrels for maturation. They come either from America in oak, used once for whisky, or from Europe for sherry. No, it’s not because Scots are too cheap to make new casks; they demand the wood be gorged with another country’s booze first. It adds to the flavour.

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