The Scots originally came from Ireland


Scots or Irish - Who Invented Whiskey?

The distillation process was developed in the Orient as early as the 9th century BC, but for the production of perfumes and medicines. The word alcohol already comes from Arabic. Probably someone just tried this alcohol at some point - and that's how the history of the distilleries began.

Who invented whiskey can no longer be clearly clarified today. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the drink was discovered in Ireland - although the Scots still attempt the most adventurous explanations as to why they are in fact the real inventors of the whiskey.

The distilling process came to Ireland through the Irish patron saint St. Patrick, who had learned about distilling in southern Europe at the end of the 4th century.

"Uisge beatha" (pronounced: ui-sca-ba) or "usque baugh" is Gaelic for "water of life" and was later corrupted by the English, who could not pronounce Gaelic, to whiskey or whiskey (in Scotland).

Gaelic was first spoken in Ireland and was only brought to Scotland by Irish immigrants. The Scots oppose that St. Patrick was a native Scotsman and that he had already learned the art of making alcohol in Scotland.

Convent drink and medicine - the beginnings of whiskey

Originally whiskey was only made in Irish monasteries. It was not until the soldiers of King Henry II of England, who subjugated Ireland in the 12th century, that the drink was brought to England - where it was initially not widely used. When the Irish Count of Cork gave several barrels of whiskey to Queen Elizabeth I of England, the Irish still felt it was treason.

Ireland also had the earliest legally licensed distilleries: Alcohol production laws were passed in the 15th and 16th centuries. From the end of the 18th century, a real whiskey distillers guild emerged in Ireland, and some distilleries quickly reached the size still known today.

The first documented evidence of whiskey production in Scotland dates back to 1494. At first, however, alcohol production was only allowed for medicinal purposes: a mixture of whiskey, hot water and sugar, known as toddy, is still considered an effective remedy for colds.

In 1505 the guild of doctors and baths acquired the monopoly for the production of alcohol for medicines and herbal tinctures. But a short time later, reports of violations of this privilege increased.

In 1579 whiskey production was only allowed to the nobility because barley was scarce as a food. A restriction that is difficult to control as the drink has already been distilled across Scotland.

Above all, the Scottish highlands - the Highlands -, which have always been a haven of resistance against government control, developed into the stronghold of the whiskey distillery. At that time, however, the Scots only produced the drink for domestic use, and exporting the mostly illegal and rather strong substance was not yet an option.

The fight against the bootleggers

Due to the union with England, the English malt tax also applied in Scotland from the early 18th century, whereupon even more distilleries said goodbye to illegality. There were even riots in Edinburgh and Glasgow over the tax.

Soon only the illegal products were considered real Scottish whiskey, as the legal distilleries used higher proportions of unmalted barley to avoid the tax. All further attempts to tax the whiskey only led to sweeping smuggling and illicit distillery.

A reward of five pounds for every illegal distill found should solve the problem. But the stills quickly discovered an additional source of income in it: If the expensive spiral of the still had to be replaced in a system, they dismantled all usable parts of the distillery and reassembled them elsewhere. Then they revealed the old location, took the reward and used it to buy the new IUD.

It was not until 1823 that the government realized that the fight against whiskey was not going to be won and granted licenses at moderate fees and affordable taxes. The number of an estimated 14,000 illegal Scottish distilleries had been reduced to just six by 1874.

Whiskey as an industrial product - thanks to commission and phylloxera

In 1905 a royal commission determined that whiskey is a distillate made from malt with or without added grain. This seemingly innocuous judgment was of vital importance to the Scottish whiskey industry. Since 1826 there has been the so-called patent still in Scotland, a column-shaped still, which continuously produces whiskey and can also process unmalted grain.

The so-called single malt whiskey, on the other hand, is distilled exclusively from malt in piston-shaped copper stills (pot stills). This single malt is considered a heavy, rough drink, which hinders mass sales. But if you mix it with "Grain Whiskey" from the patent stills (blending), it becomes considerably milder.

The judgment of the commission now recognized these "blends", which had been on the market in ever larger quantities since 1850, for the first time as whiskey. This gave the Scottish whiskey industry an unexpected boom in the decades that followed. Because it was the blended whiskeys that increasingly pushed the Irish competition out of the market.

In Ireland, the traditional production method remained for a long time and did not want to have anything to do with blending, which turned out to be a serious economic mistake.

However, the blended whiskey owed its final breakthrough to a small pest: phylloxera. From 1870 onwards, wine, cognac and brandy production in Europe almost came to a standstill for several years. A replacement was needed, and consumers all over the world soon came across Scottish blended whiskey.

Prohibition and the triumph of Scotch

Due to the significantly higher output, Irish whiskey remained the market leader not only in Ireland but also in England and the United States towards the end of the 19th century. But that changed at the latest with the prohibition from 1920 in America: This total alcohol ban on the largest sales market initially led to a reduction in production in Ireland.

Prohibition did not make the United States dry or peaceful, as its proponents had hoped. On the contrary: Due to the increasing demand for high-proof beverages such as whiskey, the American mafia became one of the richest and most powerful organizations in the country through alcohol smuggling. Gangsters like Al Capone became legend. In 1930 it is estimated that there were about 30,000 illicit distilleries in the United States.

When Prohibition was finally lifted in 1934, Irish distilleries could not meet demand quickly enough. In addition, it had hurt Irish whiskey that the American black distillers had often called their almost blinding booze Irish whiskey to benefit from its pre-prohibition popularity.

The Scottish whiskey manufacturers had only been waiting for this moment: their products were considered milder and more in line with contemporary tastes. Even during Prohibition, the Scots had sold their Scotch whiskey in large quantities to Canada, where it was blended with Canadian whiskey and smuggled into the USA.

Especially after the Second World War, the global triumph of Scottish blended whiskeys began. Today the Greeks drink more whiskey than ouzo and the French drink more whiskey than cognac.

Even in Germany during the economic boom, whiskey was one of the status drinks. Since then, however, a steady downward trend has been observed, as whiskey has gone a little out of fashion compared to other spirits such as rum or vodka.