The true origin of whisky and the birth of distilling is often shrouded in doubt, arguments and disputed claims of ‘it was us’. Some of the exact dates are poorly recorded or long forgotten (very apt for the subject matter). However, one thing that can’t be disputed, is the fact that whisky, since its conception, has marked some of the best, and worst moments in history.
How Far Back Can We Go?
Let’s try 2000 BC. Mesopotamia (think modern day Iraq) and the first evidence of the distilling process. Arguably.
Or maybe 100 AD – Greece. The first ‘recorded’ evidence.
Long story short: Explorers, traders, monks and a whisper on the wind helped to spread the method across the globe and eventually to Scotland and Ireland - where a lack of grape vines led monasteries here to fermenting grain mash. This resulted in early production of whisky. Arguably (and thankfully).
Fast Forward to WW1
Trench Whisky. Each frontline soldier received a ration of 2x7cl a week. It was purposely doled out to calm any battle fear, or to treat shell shock (it’s also where that familiar phrase ‘Dutch Courage’ comes from). Brands included Old Orkney, 9th Hole and the soldiers’ preference Johnnie Walker.
In addition, whisky was the go-to treatment for serious wounds, the effects of hypothermia and a standard medicine for the dreaded Spanish flu (are you thinking what we're thinking? Don’t pick that bottle up just yet – there’s more).
Remarkably, Arthur Bell & Sons gave a bottle of whisky to each distillery worker who left to join the fight. Their famous slogan ‘Afore Ye Go’ marks this very moment.
After 1939, the production and sale of whisky was severely restricted. Barley stocks were diverted for food purposes and malt whisky production virtually came to a halt until the latter part of 1944. Any whisky produced and sold within that time was deemed illegal, although quite a lot was still covertly produced (on behalf of our elders, thanks guys).
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) lobbied the government continually to remove restrictions to stop permanent damage to the industry. It wasn’t until 1954 however, that ALL restrictions were lifted. Sadly, vast numbers of smaller distilleries and their skilled workforce had already gone under or been forced to sell up to larger ones.
Don’t panic, just kidding (that doesn’t happen for months yet). My point is, the two most major events (so far) on the planet, and a myriad of others in-between, have been marked permanently in some way by Whisky. Whether in a positive way or otherwise. It’s been that way since Mesopotamia. Arguably.
Countless lives affected, an untold number of businesses impacted – and ‘marked’ moments in time that shaped every single one of us into who we are today.
Let’s Get More Personal
Births, marriages, deaths, wins, losses, romantic encounters, holiday memories – the list is endless. We guarantee you have your own special go-to whisky for your major life events so far (if not, you may need to find another blog. Just saying!).
You probably haven’t noticed it before. But that bottle you find so familiar. The one that fills your favourite glass. The one that fires your heart with a ‘I’ll never forget this day’ furnace of flavour. Is intricately linked to your life. It’s your constant.
Maybe you have different ones for different occasions? But I doubt it. We all have various bottles we enjoy from time to time. But, when the day is important. When it’s one to be remembered – you know the rest, right?