Scotland’s National drink is of course whisky, a spirit raised from grain, distilled, nurtured and aged in oak barrels for many years. Different areas of Scotland produce different whisky and each of the single malts produced has its own taste, depended on the grain, the water, the way of distilling and even the air, as its own colour.
There are at least over 100 distilleries all over Scotland, each producing whisky and the people around the world cannot get enough of it. The Japanese have tried to reproduce it and it’s good but it doesn’t have the secret that all Scottish whiskies have. Traditions and expertise makes Scottish whisky that special.
The distilleries around Scotland, or the majority of them, do tours and you’re able to buy a bottle, after you have sampled and seen how it leads to the finished product, which we hope you will sample quite a lot while taking the tours around different distilleries. It’s not like seen one distillery you have seen them all, as each one has a different story, different traditions and of course different taste.
The process to produce whisky is not a complicated one, but it takes time and with the right barley can lead to plenty of sugar produced during the malting, where the barley is soaked in water for a few days, then laid out across floors to geminate. While it’s geminating, it’s the starch producing sugars, and then the grain is dried to stop the germinating. In the past, peat was used to try the malts, giving the whisky a peaty taste, but many of the malting is done outside the distillery but only a couple of distilleries do their own malting using peat.
Taking the malt and placing it through the malt mill, and grinding into Grist, and then to the mashing stage, when hot water is mixed into the grist, allowing more of the starch to produce sugars. All this takes place in a Mash Tun, as fermentable sugars are needed to produce alcohol. Then yeast is added to the mash to start producing alcohol, which is called fermentation. The liquid that runs off is called the Wort this is the start of whisky. At this point, there is not much alcohol in the Wort, until it has returned to the backwash, when fermentation really starts turning the Wort into Wash.
There is a double distillation in copper pot stills. There are actually two types of stills involved: wash stills for the first distillation and spirit stills for the second. Spirits are made because alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water. The vapours from the boiling wash can be collected at the top of the still as they cool down and condense into alcohol. The first distillation run in a wash still which produces the ‘low wines’ with an alcohol percentage somewhere around 20 to 30%. These low wines do not smell great and they are still full of not so nice bits. More refinement is required and so, the second distillation run occurs in special spirit stills. Scotch malt whisky is distilled twice, but some distilleries run a triple distils to their whisky.
Still no whisky yet. It is now placed in oak barrels for 3 years and then bottled. Single Malts normally have corks on the bottle, unlike the lesser blended which has a screw top. There is plenty more to say about whisky and how it’s distilled. The nearest distillery to your host is Glencaddam in Brechin, well worth the visit, and you can find them online. Also see about Raasay
Scotland, furthest north of the UK, where it’s said you can experience mother nature’s weather all in one day, but it really isn’t that bad. Scotland isn’t known for its wine producing regions, but that is where you would be wrong, Scotland is known for its wine and it’s known for its very good wine. There are four vineyards within Scotland that produce grape wine, and this is expected to grow as future wine produces. So watch Scotland and its growing market and thirst for home grown wines.
There are grape wine producing in Scotland and its further north than you may think, sitting near the tip of Isle of Lewis, where Poly Croft, a small farm using Black Hamburg grape, a reliable black grape with excellent flavour, performs well in an unheated greenhouse producing an almost sweet red wine. The winery produces around 20 bottles a year. So go visit have a taste and enjoy the Isle of Lewis and everything it has to offer, like the beautiful scenery, great food and wonderful people. Lewis, the larger of the islands two sits as part of the Outer Hebrides, alongside Harris sitting on the Atlantic coast, the white sands of Bosta and the Victorian style streets of Stornaway.
Lewis is everything you want, if you want quiet, relaxed or if you want adrenalin fuelled excitement in and out the water you can have it. The people of Lewis are proud of their culture and their way of life, with Gaelic spoken in most places with locally cooked food. Travel around the island till you arrive at Ardroil sands for an extreme kite flying, kite karting or windsurfing, with the high waves and the strong winds it is ideal. End of the day sit watch the sunset with locally made sea food and a whisky from the local distillery Abhainn Dearg Distillery – the only legal producer of scotch whisky in the islands, where workers follow time honoured traditions to produce this well-loved “water of life “.
One winery without using the grape that is doing very well is Cairn o’ Mohr. This winery doesn’t do a grape wine; it uses instead what nature gives them and the wide range of wines, including sparkling and ciders as well as a range of non-alcoholic types. In the way of wineries, Cairn o’ Mohr is a very young producer, but the product they do produce is a range and with the café at the centre, with walks and talks and of course the tastings.
It sits just outside Errol in beautiful fertile lands of Perthshire, the river Tay stocked with salmon making their way upstream for egg laying can be seen at various point and during periods during the year leaping up waterfalls and making their way through Pitlochry dam to the spawning grounds, the best time to see this is in the autumn, it’s a spectacular sight especially is you there at peak times.
Growing grapes in Scotland is still in the experimental stage and the with growing populations of the Poly Tunnel which many of the soft fruit growers as using now it increases the growing temperature so the grapes can grow. One experimental grower is Dalrossach Vineyard Aberdeenshire set-up to find which the best grape types to grow, outdoors and using a polytunnel. The grapes that they are using at the moment are a white grape named as Muscat St.Vallier, also a red grape Golubok. Wine will be made once the yields increase, maybe in a year or two, but the commercial viability at the moment is quite a few years off as commercial as such a large amount of grapes would be needed . The main focus is plants for the home gardener and article/book writing which many home wine makers are enthusiastically waiting until a home-made grape wine from home grown grapes.
What is Craft Beer or Craft Keg?
Well according to Google and it’s the simplest meaning without getting to heavy into meanings and ways and where how they say “Craft Beer noun
A beer made in a traditional or non-mechanized way by a small brewery.
But isn’t that just a beer kit you buy from EBay or Amazon and produced OK tasting ‘real’ ale and sometimes suffered a nasty hangover. But opening a tin of syrup, mixing it with water and yeast is of course not the same as an expertly putting together a chemistry kits. So Craft Beer or Craft Keg used to describe the beers served under pressure from kegs rather than casks and delivers full flavoured beers.
Today in Scotland is a great range of Craft Ales which are on the market and new ones are joining the growing market and it’s not just the trendy city bars it’s being enjoyed around the pubs and clubs, festivals and country shows, it is becoming a fast alternative to commercial beers and larger.
Many brewers call their beers ‘craft’ and it doesn’t matter how it comes to the drinker keg, bottle or cask.
Many people who drink craft beers do say that many of the beers have deeper tastes than just the main ingredients but some taste apple, other chocolate it really depends on ones palate. Many brewers are experimenting with flavours including adding ingredients such as coffee ground, nettles, oranges even chillies and the use of wild yeast which sets those asides from the large commercial brewers.
There will be those who will be stuck in their ways and see the influx of craft beers as a flash in the pan but with the growing demand for an alternative to commercially brewed beers and larger to the more interesting and flavour managed and many with unforgettable named ales such as Don’t Worry Bee Heavy, from Weird Beard Brewery.
Finishing off this part of the article for Scotland National Drink is 2017 awarding winning brewers Stewart Brewing of Edinburgh:
In the Taste categories, they won:
Radical Road – Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards Brewing Winner 2017
Jack Back – SIBA National Champion Keg 2017: Standard Bitters & Pale Ales
First World Problems - Experimental Beers - Silver
Ka Pai - New World style IPA – Bronze
Elysium I achieved a UK Silver in the Wood Aged category.
In the Design & Packaging categories, they were awarded:
Stewart Brewing Core Range (Embra, Edinburgh Gold, St. Giles & Hollyrood) - Product Range - Bronze
You cannot get better than that, along with the award winning they have a visitor’s centre and UK firsts.. Stewart Brewing, founded in 2004 by Steve and Jo Stewart, is Edinburgh's local, independent brewery. With a wide range of multi-award winning beers, Stewart Brewing has situated itself in a very competitive market but is recognised highly for their top quality beers. It has fantastic, custom-built premises which are very much catered to the public. There is no shortage of incredible facilities on-site at Stewart Brewing, including their experimental brew-it-yourself Craft Beer Kitchen (U.K's first!); an 18 tap Growler Fill Station; or indoor and outdoor seating area to enjoy a beer flight poured straight from the tank. Highland Scene Adventures would highly recommend a visit the Brewery shop opening times: Mon-Sat 10-6pm, the Dockside Tap (Leith) is open: Thurs-Sun 12-8pm (9pm close on Fri/Sat). and of course a must if you wish to learn more about the art then UK first Craft Beer Kitchen (housed at brewery) is open Tues-Sat 10am start with last session at 3pm (sessions last 2-3 hours). More information can be found on their website https://www.stewartbrewing.co.uk
Finally for all you young and teetotallers visiting Scotland there is Scotland’s other National drink and that is Barrs Irn Bru, Irn Bru has been selling for well over 100 years and it’s still as popular today as it was at the beginning when Robert Barr started a cork cutting business in Falkirk and 1830 and his son also called Robert added a soft drinks or aerated waters as it was called then in business in 1875 after a few years he extended the businesses and thanks to growing population of the industrial towns in Scotland which led to poor sanitation and poor cleanliness of the drinking water soft drinks were a popular choice of which at that time there were many factories produced a range of drinks. The poor diet at that time was boosted by the clean water and the high sugar content in the drinks
On Monday 15th April 1901 the fruit drink of Iron Brew was launched with at that time a 1901with a popular Highland sports man by the name of Adam Brown from the town of Shotts was used to promote the drink. Over the years many Scots sports personalities were on the labels one being Benny Lynch, a Glaswegian, became World Flyweight Champion in 1935 and is widely regarded as one of the finest boxers that Britain has ever produced.
There were even cartoon characters such as Ba Bru & Sandy which was in the Scots newspapers and they were the longest running advertising feature in history even to this day, it ran from the 1930 until the 1970’s.
In 1942 Iron Brew was taken off the market as the raw materials which was used to produce it was removed and Barrs was only allowed to produce only six standard drinks such as Lemonade. In 1947 Iron Brew was re-launched as Irn Bru due to new labelling regulations there might have been a problem and before being told to change it they did the drink did contain iron but it wasn’t brewed as you would beer so the name was changed to Irn Bru, this new trade name was registered in 1946 but didn’t enter the market until 1947.
Barrs had a few well known earlier adverts and famous tag lines for selling their Irn Bru, but their famous one “Made from Girders” then as advertising restrictions were lifted on TV the advertisers started playing with Scottish humour and the language including the slang to produce memorable and funny adverts which can be found on YouTube the famous one being the Christmas advert using the song and characters from Raymond Brigg – The Snowman and the song ‘Walking in the air’ which can also be found on YouTube. If you wish to read more about Scotland’s other National Drink you can see the rest of the drinks history by visiting their website at http://www.agbarr.co.uk/about-us/our-history/timeline/
Lastly bottled water - Scotland beautiful, clean, soft water. Most of the area in Scotland has a business that supplies bottled water and some even have the Royal Seal and supplies bottled water to the Royal Family, you cannot get much better than that.