National Scotch Day is celebrated each year on July 27, in recognition of the day in 1494 that Scotch whisky was first mentioned in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland—in other words, the first time Scotland’s whiskies were taxed.
According to the Scotch Whisky Association, Friar John Cor, a distiller at Lindores Abbey in Newburgh, was given 8 bolls of malt during 1494—a transaction recorded in Scotland’s records of royal income and expenditure. The malt was to be used for 1,500 bottles of aqua vitae—Latin for “water of life.” Aqua vitae is the distilled predecessor of the liquor we now recognize as Scotch whisky.
Scotch Whisky Regulations regulate the production and sale of Scotch whisky, and legally require their national whisky to meet the following criteria: Scotch must be made in Scotland; it must be made from malted barley and water; it must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years; and it must be bottled between 80-190 US proof.
This seems simple enough, but before you break out your snifters this National Scotch Day, let’s take a moment to review the five different categories of Scotch whisky (or check out this handy Scotch Cheat Sheet):
- Single malt Scotch whisky is made solely from malted barley and water—no additional grains are added during the whisky-making process, and there are no added substances, other than plain caramel coloring. Single malts are distilled in batches using traditional pot stills. If you’re looking for a classic example of a single malt, we recommend trying a whisky from The Balvenie or The Macallan.
- Single grain Scotch whisky, like its single malt sibling, is distilled at a single distillery—but in addition to water and malted barley, may contain other whole cereal grains, such as rye or wheat. This type of Scotch may also be distilled in continuous or column stills. We like Teeling Single Grain.
- Blended malt Scotch whisky is blended from two or more single malt Scotch whiskies, hailing from different distilleries, such as Monkey Shoulder.
- Blended grain Scotch whisky is a blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies, which were made in different distilleries. An exquisite example, in our opinion, is Compass Box Hedonism.
- Blended Scotch whisky is a blend of at least one single malt and at least one single grain Scotch whiskies, like Johnnie Walker’s best-selling range of “label” whiskies.
Congratulations! You’ve passed Scotch 101, and you’re ready to celebrate National Scotch Day in style. Slàinte!
National Scotch Day is typically celebrated