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A Wee Dram:

Five Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know About . . .

Scotch Whisky

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EMG Scotch Whisky Notes

Our host, Simon Majumdar, is a particular fan of the whiskies of Scotland. So much so that he actually spent time on the island of Islay learning how to make it. In this episode, he shares “five things you didn’t know you didn’t know about” the finest distilled spirit in the world, including the origins of the name, the differences in styles of Scotch Whisky and some of its most famous drinkers.

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TRANSCRIPT

EAT MY GLOBE

A WEE DRAM: FIVE THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT . . . SCOTCH WHISKY

SIMON:

So, April…

APRIL:

Yeah, Simon.

SIMON:

What’s the definition of a balanced diet?

APRIL:

What?

SIMON:

Scotch Whisky on both hands.

APRIL:

Oh.

SIMON:

[Laughter]

They get better and better and better. That’s good. I like that. Oh.

[Liquid pouring sound]

Okay. Let’s begin.

INTRO MUSIC

SIMON:

Hi Everybody.

I’m Simon Majumdar, and welcome to another episode of Eat My Globe: A Podcast About Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Food.

And on today’s episode, we’re going to be looking at one of my favorite nightcaps. A drink that generated over $4.7 billion in 2018 in worldwide sales. It’s also a drink that I have been fortunate enough to spend time actually making in one of the most beautiful places on earth, the island of Islay in Scotland.

Yes, of course, on today’s episode of Eat My Globe, I am going to be talking about the history of the “wee dram” itself, Scotch Whisky.

BREAK MUSIC

As I mentioned before the break, I have been fortunate enough to spend time making whisky, so can speak firsthand to the care and attention that goes into its creation. In 2007, when I was writing my first book, which bears the same name as this podcast – as they say, waste not want not. Well, for the Eat My Globe book, I was invited up to the beautiful and rugged island of Islay off the West coast of Scotland. An island that is famous for its distinct, but often polarizing, peaty whiskies.

The owners of a distillery called Kilkhoman invited me to join them as they made some of their earliest releases.  I spent the next week learning all about all of the processes involved in making whisky from the malting of the grains through the sampling of the end result. It was not a week I shall ever forget and something I always remember whenever I sip on a nighttime glass of whisky.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

NUMBER ONE

[Chime sound]

What is Scotch Whisky?

Well, first of all, I guess we should decide what whisky itself is?

So our pals… our good chums at Merriam Webster define whisky as,

Quote

“A liquor distilled from a fermented wort (such as that obtained from rye, corn or barley mash).”

End quote.

The word whisky itself, both with an “e” or without -- and we’ll talk about that later -- is derived from the Irish term, “Uisce Beatha,” and the Scottish Gaelic term, the same, “Uisge Beatha,” which in turn is a translation of the Latin, “Aqua Vitae,” which means “water of life.”

So whisky is the water of life.

As the name suggests, whisky is a distilled spirit that, at its origins, was considered to have medicinal properties.

Legally speaking, according to the Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009, Scotch Whisky must have been produced and distilled – at an alcoholic strength of at least 94.8% -- in Scotland from water and malted barley, and matured in Scotland in oak casks for at least 3 years, with no other substances added – although water, plain caramel colouring or water and plain caramel colouring are okay – and it has a finished alcoholic strength of at least 40%.

Also, to clarify, for those of you who might get confused by the different spellings of the word: in Scotland, whisky is spelled W-H-I-S-K-Y -- there is no “E” used in the word.  I’ve never really found a truly convincing reason why Scotland, and other countries such as Japan, Canada and even India -- who produce some rather good single malts by the way -- spell the word without an “E,” and Ireland and the United States, on the whole, add the “E.”  However, the best explanation is that the Irish distillers added the “E” primarily to differentiate their drink from its Scottish counterpart and, Irish Whiskies were popular in the United States pre-Prohibition and the spelling stuck.

[Ed. Note: Other countries of course make terrific whiskies such as those mentioned above. Some may well be distilled from malted barley (and some of my favorites of those come from Japan). Others may be made from corn (such as Bourbon) and even oats. But, for this episode at least, let’s concentrate on Scotland.]

NUMBER TWO

[Chime sound]

How was whisky in Scotland invented?

Now, I have spoken at some length about the history of distillation itself during an episode in Season 1 of Eat My Globe on “The History of Gin” – so if you would like to find out more in depth about how distillation was developed and first found its way to Europe, do go and check out that episode.

In brief, however, the art of distilling spirits was a remnant of the invasion and trade with parts of Europe by the Arabs around the 9th century.

[Ed. Note: Distillation is a process of separating components from a liquid by a process of boiling and condensation. This could result in many preparations including such things as distilled water. However, in this case, we are talking about the distillation of alcohol.]

They had developed the techniques to create perfume, cosmetics and therapeutic waters from herbs and wine known as “aqua vitae.” These techniques had been picked up by those in Europe, because across the continent, there were those who wanted to produce the “Al – Koh’l,” as it was known in the Arab world.

It is possible that whisky distillation first arrived in Ireland and Scotland when physicians who worked in both countries translated Arab texts describing distillation methods. It’s also possible that the church, who began to allow monasteries to house distillation devices to produce “Aqua Vitae,” eventually took their knowledge to Ireland and Scotland probably during their travels to promote Christianity.  We don’t really know how it reached them.

But, we know that there is much heated debate about if Scotland or Ireland were the first to produce “Aqua Vitae.”

[Ed. Note: In both cases these were areas that had an abundance of barley and sources of water that were fundamental to the making of “aqua vitae.”]

In Ireland, they point towards the text called, “The Annals of Clonmacnoise From the Creation to A.D. 1408,” which was originally written in Irish and first translated into English around 1627.  In an entry from 1405, it reflects that

Quote

“Richard or Risdard maGranell, chieftain of Moyntir-eolas, died at Christmas by takeing a surfeit of aqua vitae, to him aqua mortis.”

End Quote.

There you go. That’s some 17th century trolling right there with the words “aqua mortis.” [Ed Note: “Aqua Mortis” means “water of death.”]

In Scotland, the first written mention of distillation can be found in 1494, where the Scottish Exchequer Rolls or tax records reflect that

Quote

“payment made to Brother John Cor by precept of the comptroller, as he asserts, by the King’s command, to make aqua vitae within the period of the account, eight bolls of malt.”

End Quote.

Apparently, Father John paid the tax to make Aqua Vitae for King James IV. A “boll” was a form of Scottish measurement used during the 14th through to the 19th century, and 8 bolls would have weighed over half a ton and would have made about 1,500 bottles of Aqua Vitae. So, this was a significant amount of malt and King James IV probably had a raging party. I know I would’ve done.

It is unlikely that the “Aqua Vitae” that was produced either in Ireland or Scotland bore much resemblance to the whisky that is so beloved today. According to the Johnnie Walker website,

Quote

“The earliest whisky was fairly bracing stuff, distilled almost exclusively by monks. It was never allowed to mature and tended to be very raw, as befitted a drink that was seen primarily as medicine.”

End Quote.

However, it definitely does offer up proof that by the 15th century distillation of spirits was well established in Ireland and Scotland.

In 1534, Henry VIII of England, infuriated by the fact he was not granted a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, created the Church of England. He declared himself the supreme head of the church and in the Act of Supremacy he separated it entirely from the Roman Catholic church.

As part of this process, Henry turned his attention to the monasteries of the Catholic church. By destroying the monastic system, he would receive the double benefit of both destroying the Papal influence of the Catholic church and also acquiring all of their considerable wealth. This “dissolution” of the monasteries took place between 1536 and 1540. Over the next half century, Scotland too moved rather violently from being a devoutly Catholic country to one that was predominantly Protestant. Which again led to the closing of the monasteries.

The impact of this on our story of whisky is that clergymen, including those who were skilled in the art of distilling, were forced to leave and seek new employment. Soon enough, the general public learned how to make whisky from the monks and started making them themselves.

In 1644, the first taxes were imposed on the distillation of whisky. This was set at two shillings and eight pence per Scots Pint, which equated to about half a gallon. Inevitably, and think of the moonshiners in the US, this led to a huge growth in the number of illicit stills. Much of the next century or so was dedicated to a battle of unlicensed distilleries and the tax officials known as “excisemen” or by the slang term “gaugers.” The smugglers had the upper hand for many years but excisemen ended up closing 14,000 illegal distilleries by the 1820s.

The first distillery to have been officially founded in Scotland is believed to have been Glenturret, in 1775. It received its license in 1818 after operating for many years before its official founding as an illegal distillery in a private farm. Although its status as the oldest distillery is contested by others.

Despite the closing of thousands of illegal distilleries, very little of the whisky produced in Scotland was being done so legally in the 1820s.  In 1823, the Duke of Gordon, who was also known to distill some rather fine illicit whisky, proposed an excise act as an act of the British parliament. In effect, this was because, like other producers, they saw that it was possible to create far more profit by selling whisky legally than illegally. The Excise Act proposed that small scale distilling of whisky was permissible for a license fee of £10 and a payment per gallon of proof spirit.

The impact of this act was pretty immediate and meant that over the next decade, even the most recalcitrant of illicit distillers and the smuggling operations that accompanied them had died out and the number of legal distilleries began to grow. It would be fair to say that by the beginning of the 19th century, the Whisky story was well underway and the Scottish love affair with whisky – one I definitely share – was definitely in place.

There were two major occurrences that helped make whisky the most popular drink of the period.

The first came in 1830, when an Irish inventor by the name of Aeneas Coffey patented the design for a “continuous still.” This was a form of still that was far more efficient than the traditional “pot” or “alembic” stills that had pretty much been in use since the time of the Arabs. Again, please do check out our episode on The History of Gin for more background on the alembic stills.

By beginning to use the Aeneas Coffey style of distillation, the Scottish distillers were able to produce a purer, lighter spirit that they blended with a little malt. This big scale production made possible by the Aeneas Coffey style of distillation also allowed for Scotch Whisky to become widely available to everyone.

The second major event began in the middle of the 19th century when a disease brought on by a “Phylloxera” insect began to attack the vineyards of France. This had a devastating impact on the grape production of France with more than 40% of French vineyards being destroyed by 1875. But more importantly for our story, the vineyards in areas such as Cognac, one of the key areas for Brandy production, were also severely impacted. This meant that the Brandy so popular in Britain began to become more scarcely available and only then at an exorbitant price. Scotch Whisky was far more readily available and was perfectly placed to fill the gap in the market.

The rise in popularity of Scotch Whisky continued, not only in Scotland, but around the world. Scotch Whisky is now sold in 175 countries and, as I mentioned in my introduction, responsible for a business that’s worth nearly $5 billion.

Given the length of this podcast, this is of course a brief history. And there is a lot more to be told between that first blossoming of the distilling industry and today’s successes. However, I think that’s for another episode, as I would love to share now a few more fun facts about Scotch whisky.

NUMBER THREE

[Chime sound]

What are the different regions of Scotch Whisky? 

So, we’ve chatted about what the word whisky means and how Scotch Whisky came into existence. So now let’s look at the regions of Scotland and the different styles of whisky that they offer.

So let’s begin with my favorite region of whisky. One I just mentioned in the introduction.

Islay

This is one of the earliest areas of whisky distillation in Scotland, and it’s believed that the art was brought to this small westerly island by monks from Ireland.

There are nine distilleries on the island, the most famous distilleries include Laphroaig, Ardbeg and one that will be familiar to those of you who love the character, Ron Swanson, from “Parks & Recreation”: Lagavulin. It also includes the distillery at which I was lucky enough to make whisky for a week, “Kilkhoman.”

The whisky from this area is known for its distinct aroma and taste, which is derived from the peat fueled fires that are used to dry the malted barley. The smoke from this peat releases the compounds, “phenols,” ”Cresols” and “guaiacols,” which are absorbed into the barley and give the resulting whisky a taste that has been described as

Quote,

“iodine, bonfire and tar, and diesel.”  

End Quote.

You either love them or you hate them. I love them. My wife, not so much.

The Highlands

This region of whisky production includes the Highlands and Islands. It includes some of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, including Glenturret, that has a claim to being the oldest distillery in Scotland.

There are many different styles coming from the 47 distilleries there, but my own particular favorites comes from Oban.

The Lowlands

There are eighteen distilleries in this region of Scotland. And being situated in the central and southern parts of the country, they are often some of the most visited by those on a distillery tour. And I do recommend, if you ever go to Scotland, you must do a distillery tour. It’s quite a thing.

The whiskies produced here are often triple distilled and unpeated. That tends to make them lighter bodied and more mellow. This often makes them an easy access point for those who want to try Scotch Whisky for the first time.

For those of you who want to try a piece of history, the “Lindores Abbey Distillery,” is located in the Lowlands. Some say that it is the abbey where Father Cors first made “aqua vitae” from 8 bolls of malt for King James IV. It reopened in 2017 and started casking – is that a word? It is now --  6,000 litres of whisky in 2018, which apparently were all spoken for in a month. Although note that others also say that there’s no definitive proof that Father Cors bottled whisky at this place. So you take your choice.

Speyside

This area in the northern part of Scotland plays home to 50 distilleries. It has the most distilleries in Scotland probably due to fertile land, warm weather and abundant water.

It is said that in 1822, when many whiskies were being produced illegally, King George IV visited the region of Speyside and requested whisky from the district of Glenlivet, which immediately gave a boost to whisky produced in this area. Glenlivet, the brand, would be founded two years later.

The whiskies produced here are of many different styles. Unsurprising as there are so many different distilleries.  Some of the most famous distilleries here include Aberlour, Balvenie and The Macallan. And one of the bestselling single malts in the whole world, Glenfiddich.

One distillery you might not have tried of which I am quite fond is Glen Moray. Definitely worth a try.

Island Whiskies

Strictly and legally speaking, the Island region is not its own specific region and, as I mentioned earlier, are part of the Highland region.  However, I do think it deserves its own attention for producing some of my favorite whiskies.

In this region, I would include islands such as the Isles of the Orkneys, Mull and Jura. Interestingly, Orkney was one of the islands under the control of various Norse rulers until about the 15th century.

Famous distilleries here include Jura, the Isle of Arran and Highland Park. So I do recommend you try those.

Campbeltown

Campbeltown is the smallest region of whisky producing in Scotland with only three distilleries. However, at one time in history, it had over 30 distilleries in operation in one small town.

Unfortunately, as the trend moved away from the smoky, peat style whiskies they tended to produce here, as well as other economic factors, distilleries had to shut down. Soon, only two remained, Glen Scotia and Springbank.  A third distillery, Glengyle restarted production in 2004.

NUMBER FOUR

[Chime sound]

What are the different styles of Scotch Whisky?

One of the things I am most asked by folks is: what are all the different styles of whisky in Scotland and what do those labels mean. So, for our next question, now we have found out where Scotch comes from, let’s have a look at what types of Scotch there are.

There are five official types of Scotch Whisky according to the Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009.

The first category of Scotch Whisky is Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

Single malt is perhaps the first style of whisky people imagine when the word “Scotch” is mentioned.

To quote the Scotch Whisky Association,

Quote

“A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery from water and malted barley without the addition of any other cereals, and by batch distillation in copper pot stills. Single Malt Scotch Whisky must be bottled in Scotland.”

End Quote.

People often think of Single Malts as the “Ne Plus Ultra” of Scotch Whisky, although I really think it’s a shame to miss out on the other categories. They all have their own unique delights. It might surprise you to know, however, that before the 1960s, Single Malts as a category were, for the most part, unheard of outside of their homeland, with most people’s experiences of Scotch outside of Scotland coming from another category, Blended Scotch, which we’ll talk about in a moment.

Around 1963, William Grant & Sons, owners of Glenfiddich, were so pleased with the single malt of that whisky that they produced that as well as using it in blends as before, they began to offer it as a single malt on its own. Other distillers took note of their success and began marketing versions of their own single malts and the boom had begun.

Although, it’s worth noting that Single Malts still only represent about 10% of the global sales of all Scotch Whisky.

Oh, and if you see an age statement on a bottle of single malt such as 10 year or 12 years, that means that the youngest whisky in the bottle must be no younger than that age statement, although the rest may be older.

The second category of Scotch Whisky is Blended Malt Scotch Whisky.

This is described by the Scotch Whisky Association as,

Quote

“A blend of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery.”

End Quote.

Meaning, that although the contents of the bottle of Scotch are all single malts, they can come from many different distilleries.

In many ways, I think this is the most interesting category of Scotch as the work of the master blender really comes into play and they can be a mix of malts from across Scotland.

Famous Whiskies in this category could include bottles like Monkey Shoulder, which draws its name from the hump that used to be developed by men who would turn the malts while floor malting. Interesting fact. And my own favorite whisky of all, Compass Box “The Peat Monster.”

The third category of Scotch Whisky is Single Grain Scotch Whisky.

Again, according to the Scotch Whisky Association, these Scotch Whiskies are,

Quote

“A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery from water and malted barley with or without whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals, and which does not comply with the definition of Single Malt Scotch Whisky.”

End Quote.

In effect, these whiskies are blended whiskies where every ingredient comes from one distillery. They tend to be lighter and more alcoholic.  They are definitely worth checking out for a very interesting experience.

The fourth category of Scotch Whisky is Blended Grain Scotch Whisky.

These whiskies are quite simply, as the Scotch Whisky Association puts it,

Quote

“A blend of Single Grain Scotch Whiskies, which have been distilled at more than [one distillery].”

End Quote.

If you are looking to try one on its own, again I would point you towards one of my favorite whisky makers, Compass Box, for their “Hedonism” expression.

And finally, the final category of Scotch Whisky is Blended Scotch Whisky.

All of the categories I just mentioned only equate to about 30% of the Scotch Whisky market. The rest is taken up by blended whisky, which again referring to the Scotch Whisky Association is

Quote

“A blend of one or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies with one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies.”

End Quote.

These whiskies can often get a bad rap. However, such brands as Chivas, The Famous Grouse, Johnnie Walker, etcetera etecetera are known for their consistency and also provide essential capital for those distilleries who provide single malts for blends.  In fact, there are even those who argue that without Blended Scotch Whisky, there would be no single malts at all.

Andrew Usher, a wine and spirit businessman, is often given credit for being one of the first blenders of whisky from different distilleries in the mid-1800s. However, I think the origins of blended whisky could be found back at the beginning of the 19th century when distillers sold whisky in casks to local stores, who, in turn, tended to blend them themselves for their customers. A lot of the merchants, John Walker being a very well-known example, yes, John Walker of Johnnie Walker fame, started to create their own blends in-house to create consistent quality whisky for their customers. 

Whoever was the first, the resulting blends were some of the first big spirit brands including Chivas, Ballantine and Johnnie Walker.

So, those are the five categories of Scotch Whisky. And, while I can totally understand the attractions of Single Malt Whisky, if not the fetishism it sometimes promotes, I do hope that hearing about the other categories will inspire you to go and give some of them a try. I genuinely believe you’ll be missing out on the true beauty of Scotch Whisky if you don’t.

BREAK MUSIC

[SIMON ADVERTISING: Hi everybody, if you’re enjoying this podcast, you may want to check out a fun series of videos I did with my friends at Pureflix dot com. In “Simon Says,” I cook dishes from around the world and give a little bit of history about how they were made. It’s a lot of fun. So do go and check them out. Streaming exclusively on Pureflix dot com.]

SIMON:

Now, let’s finish with…

NUMBER FIVE

[Chime sound]

Five of the most famous whisky drinkers in history. So who are some of the most famous whisky drinkers in history?

The first one, we’ve already talked about a little bit . . .

King James IV of Scotland

As I’ve mentioned earlier, King James IV of Scotland was not just well known to be a fan of whisky, but the first mentions of “aqua vitae” in Scotland relates to a tax on a lot of malts to make a whole lot of alcohol for him.

In 1506, he issued a monopoly for the production of “Aqua Vitae” to the Guild of Barber Surgeons in Edinburgh. Since he made the Guild a “favoured distiller,” he likely bought a lot of Aqua Vitae from them.

In his article about King James IV on www dot Scotch Whisky dot com, Iain Russell said that The Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland refer to

Quote

“Ane Flacat (flask) of aqua vitae delivered to the king…that night, at Dernway, for the king to play at cartis.”

End Quote.

That shows that, as well as its use for medicine, it was already a drink that was being imbibed for pleasure.

King James was to meet a bloody end on the battlefield during the battle of Flodden against the English in 1513. A sorry end, but perhaps it would be fairer to remember him as the world’s first famous whisky drinker.

Next. Number two.

Robert “Rabbie” Burns

Robert Burns, or “Rabbie” as he is called in his native land, is arguably Scotland’s most beloved poet.  Certainly, he’s the only one to have a night of celebration named after him that I’m aware of anyway. Burn’s Night takes place every January the 25th. And Burns Night is a celebration of his life -- he died in 1796 at only 37. Burns Night celebration includes some of the most polarizing dishes, Haggis, of course, but also includes lots of whisky. 

Burns was very fond of a few drops of whisky -- who isn’t? -- and wrote about it in a number of poems including, “The Deil’s Awa Wi The Exciseman” in 1792 -- which means “the devil’s away with the exciseman” in case you needed a translation from my horrible Scottish -- and “Scotch Drink” in 1758, which contains the lines,

Quote

“O Whisky! soul o’ plays and pranks

Accept a bardie’s gratfu thanks.”

End Quote.

So he was very grateful for a drop of Scotch, was Rabbie Burns.

Burns Night was first held in the Burns’ family house by nine of his friends some five years after his death in 1801. The celebration then was very similar to those that are held today. Today, the running order includes piping in the guests, a toast to Burns himself, a liberal dashing of the haggis with whisky.  The food and the entertainment are accompanied by rather vast amounts of ale, wine and whisky, and I know I’ve been to a few. If you have never been to a Burns Night, I do heartily recommend it. Although, I would probably suggest you do what I do and take the next day as a holiday from work.

Next up  . . .

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria, by all accounts, had quite voracious appetites, which many historians put down to the fact that she had endured quite a rigid diet during her childhood. She was known to eat very quickly and had an exceptionally sweet tooth. She was also very fond of tea and more than a drop of whisky.

She was a fan of whisky before the Royal Family purchased the Scottish estate of Balmoral in 1852. While staying on the then-leased Balmoral estate in 1848, she and her husband, Albert, and their children accepted an invitation from John Begg, the owner of New Lochnagar, to visit the distillery, which was and still is about a mile away from the royal estate. After their tour, they were impressed with the whisky they tried. So much so that she issued the distillery her royal warrant. Now, it is called Royal Lochnagar.

John Brown who had already been employed at Balmoral when the Royal Family moved to the estate, worked as a “ghillie,” which in effect, is a fishing and hunting guide. And he became a very close companion of the queen particularly after her consort, Prince Albert, died in 1861.

John Brown was known for his love of whisky and was well known to top up the Queen’s tea with a liberal drop of Scotch Whisky.

Next. . .

Mark Twain

Mark Twain is the pseudonym for one Samuel Langhorne Clemens. As Mark Twain, he became one of the United States’ and indeed the world’s most beloved writers. By his own admission, in July and August 1908, he said,

Quote

“I drank Scotch whisky once in every twenty-four hours; and always after I was in bed, and ready for sleep. . . . I probably consumed a quart of Scotch whisky in a fortnight. . . .”

End Quote.

He had such a passion for whisky that he once noted about a Scotsman,

Quote

“He hadn’t a vice, unless a large and grateful sympathy with Scotch whiskey may be called by that name. I didn’t regard it as a vice, because he was a Scotchman, and Scotch whisky to a Scotchman is as innocent as milk is to the rest of the human race.”

End Quote.

What might surprise a lot of people is that such an American literary icon has such an affinity for Scotch Whisky.  But that’s probably why I like him a lot.

And finally, the greatest Englishman of all time . . .

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was the former Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II, and his capacity to drink alcohol has become the stuff of legend. It was a capacity he was very keen to promote himself. He famously quipped,

Quote

“I have taken more” . . .

I’m going to do my Winston Churchill impression now, I think.

APRIL:

Do it.

SIMON:

“I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”

End Quote.

That’s horrible. Sorry, Winston.

Although many of the myths of what we hear about his ability to drink all day from breakfast to bedtime, are just that, myths. He was rarely seen drunk and actually disliked that characteristic in others. However, it would be impossible to argue that he was not fond of a drink. It is rumored that he drank 42,000 bottles of Champagne during his life.

No idea if that’s true but I’ve done a lot of research. He definitely drank a lot of Champagne.

As a young war correspondent in South Africa, he brought with him a large supply of alcohol that included 18 bottles of Scotch Whisky, where he added whisky to dirty drinking water to prevent the disease and hide the taste. He developed a taste for it. His favorites were Johnnie Walker Black and particularly Johnnie Walker Red label.

Later in life, he would always have a glass of whisky and water served to him with his breakfast, which he would sip through to lunch as he worked. Although, what was dubbed by his daughter as the “Papa Cocktail” was, in reality, a large glass of water with just a splash of whisky in it. It was, what Jack Colville, one of his private secretaries, described as a mouthwash more than a cocktail, and it would not even qualify as

Quote

“scotch and water.”

End Quote.

Churchill’s biographer, William Manchester, noted, that, in the evenings, Churchill was capable of drinking

Quote

“…two or three scotches, several glasses of champagne, at least two brandies and a highball.”

End Quote.

Whatever his own personal capacity, Churchill never doubted the importance of whisky to the British, both in terms of the morale and the economy.  At the beginning of WWII, he allowed for a slight relaxation of the grain rations that had threatened the Scotch Whisky industry. This allowed the production of whisky that could be exported to the United States in return for much needed export revenue.

So, Winston Churchill’s role in the history of Scotch Whisky is vital -- whether you believe it’s because he drank so much of it or because he allowed it to be produced during a time of rationing.

So, there we have it.  Five things you didn’t know you didn’t know about Scotch Whisky. Now, this is the point at which I normally say “well, that’s it for this week, and I’m going off to eat or drink ‘X,’” relating to whatever ingredient or dish I’ve been whittering on about for the last half hour or so. 

But in this case, I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve been sipping on good’s . . . glori. . . I’ve been . . . In this case, I’m not going to lie to you. Cuz you can say it, tell it. I have been sipping on glor. . . Globs?

[Laughter]

You can tell I’ve had too much whisky. But in this case,

[Sound of ice dropping on liquid]

I’m not going to lie to you, I had been sipping on God’s glorious Scotch the whole way through recording this episode.  So there.

See you next week.

[Laughter]

OUTRO MUSIC

SIMON:

Do make sure to check out the website associated with this podcast at www dot Eat My Globe dot com where we will be posting the transcripts from each episode, along with all the references and resources we used putting the episodes together, in case you want to delve deeper into each subject. There is also a contact button, so please do let us know if there are any subjects that you would like us to cover.

And, if you like what you hear, please don’t forget to subscribe, recommend us to your family and friends and give us that all-important good rating on your favorite podcast provider. That really helps.

Thank you and goodbye from me, Simon Majumdar, we’ll speak to you soon on the next episode of EAT MY GLOBE: Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Food.

CREDITS

The EAT MY GLOBE Podcast is a production of “It’s Not Much But It’s Ours” and “Producer Girl Productions”

[Trumpet sound]

and is created with the kind co-operation of the UCLA Department of History. We would especially like to thank Professor Carla Pestana, the Department Chair of the Department of History and Nicole Gilhuis for their notes on this episode. Also, a huge thank you to Sybil Villanueva for her help with the research and the preparations of the transcripts for this episode, which can be found on the website.

Published Date: October 28, 2019

 

For the annotated transcript with references and resources, please click HERE.