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Apr 16, 2015

How Much Do You Actually Know About Scotch Whisky?

Let's see how much you remember from all those distillery tours.

Flickr / Via Flickr: scottsimphotography / Creative Commons
  1. 1. Let's start with an easy one. What is the main grain ingredient in Scottish malt whisky?

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    Correct answer: Barley

    The three main ingredients in Scottish malt whisky are barley, water, and yeast. It's practically one of your five a day.

    Via geograph.org.uk
  2. 2. What is the "angels' share"?

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    Correct answer: 2-4% of alcohol volume

    While whisky is maturing, a certain amount of alcohol – known traditionally as the "angels' share" – is lost to evaporation each year. What a waste!

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  3. 3. What is the minimum alcoholic volume whisky has to have to be labelled "Scotch"?

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    Correct answer: 40%

    The Scotch Whisky Regulations Act states that to be called Scotch a whisky has to be have a minimum alcoholic strength by volume of 40% (80 US proof).

  4. 4. The Gaelic term for whisky is uisge beatha, but what does it mean?

    Via Flickr: scottsimphotography
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    Correct answer: Water of life

    The Romans referred to distilled alcohol as aqua vitae, which was translated into Gaelic as uisge beatha ("water of life"). Uisge (Ish-ka) is the basis for the word whisky.

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  5. 5. What's the official definition of a "single malt" whisky?

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    Correct answer: A whisky entirely produced from malt in only one distillery.

    Under the Scotch Whisky Regulations Act, a whisky can only be described as a Scottish single malt if it is made from malt barley in only one distillery and aged for a minimum of three years.

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  6. 6. How strong is whisky when it leaves the cask after aging?

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    Correct answer: Around 60-63%

    The grain spirit that will become whisky is typically around 65-70% ABV when it's put into casks to mature. Assuming a three-year maturation, after the "angels' share" is taken this reduces to around 60%.

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  7. 7. Which of these is NOT the name of a single malt?

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    Correct answer: Burnistoun

    Burnistoun is a very funny Scottish comedy show, not a whisky.

    BBC
  8. 8. When was a tax first applied to Scottish whisky, causing a rise in illicit stills?

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    Correct answer: 1644

    The 1644 Excise Act set a duty of 13p per pint of "aqua vitae" or similar distilled spirits. The law was very unpopular and led to a huge rise in illicit stills. Why pay tax when you could just make booze in the bathtub?

    Via commons.wikimedia.org
  9. 9. What are the five official regions of Scottish whisky production according to the Scotch Whisky Association?

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    Correct answer: Highland, Islay, Speyside, Campbeltown, Lowland.

    Whisky-producing islands Arran, Jura, Mull, Orkney, and Skye are considered to be part of the Highland region, while the Isle of Islay gets full region status as it's home to eight distilleries.

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  10. 10. Which of these is NOT a brand of blended whisky?

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    Correct answer: Yer Maw

    Yes, there is actually a brand called Shyte Whisky. Despite its name, it's pretty good. There's no whisky called Yer Maw (yet).

    Royal Mile Whiskies / Via royalmilewhiskies.com
  11. 11. What does "malting" mean?

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    Correct answer: The process of spreading damp barley on the ground to germinate.

    Barley is soaked in a mixture of sugar and water, then spread evenly on the floor of a "malting house" (a distillery outbuilding) to germinate before being processed.

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  12. 12. What is ground malt barley called?

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    Correct answer: Grist

    The ground barley grain that is added to water to ferment is called grist, hence the phrase "grist to the mill".

  13. 13. Which of these is NOT a Scottish distillery?

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    Wrong! 

    Correct answer: Balamory

    Balamory is actually a children's TV show set in Tobermory, Mull. There is a Tobermory whisky distillery though.

    BBC
  14. 14. What would you find in a "mash tun"?

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    Correct answer: A combination of ground malt barley and boiling water.

    A mash tun is filled with grist and boiling water. It's then stirred to release the sugar in the mixture.

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  15. 15. And finally...do you have ice with your Scotch?

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    Wrong! 

    Correct answer: Gonnae nae do that.

    Adding ice to Scotch is a crime. It reduces the aroma and dulls the taste. Try adding a drop of water instead. Slàinte!

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Update: An earlier version of this quiz stated that mash is a combination of ground malt barley (grist) and boiling water. This has been changed to hot water.

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