The Fascinating History Of Whiskey
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Distillation was already known to the ancient Egyptians. They did, however, distil scent rather than alcoholic beverages. Did one of the priests have any information? Today, we don't know.

The knowledge of distillation was lost with the rise and collapse of the Greek and Roman Empires. Wine was the most popular alcoholic beverage at the time, and it nearly produced itself. Under the Mediterranean sun, grapes ripened beautifully, and the fermentation required little attention.

The Romans taught us how to make wine, but the alcohol amount was limited due to limited sunlight, which resulted in low sugar content. Instead, the acid content was extremely high, and many mediaeval knights and noblemen had numerous 'body stones' as a result of their excessive wine consumption. These stones, which may be as large as a fist, can still be discovered in mediaeval burials today.

During the Middle Ages, ancient knowledge was lost, and the achievements of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were only preserved in monasteries. The Celts were displaced as a result of Roman expansion. Originally from Bavaria, they were forced to submit to the Empire and retreat to the northwest. It's not strange, then, that on their lengthy journey to Ireland in the 11th century, Celtic monks took the art of distillation with them.

On this gloomy, stormy island, almost no wine was produced. People had no choice but to drink fermented barley beer. Barley is the only grain that has enough of the enzyme that breaks down starch into sugar, which yeast subsequently ferments. This was not achievable with the native oat.

The Origin of the First Whiskey

However, after a few hundred years of cultivation, the barley yielded well, and the first mention of whiskey in Scotland was in 1494. In 1608, Bushmills became Ireland's first known distillery. However, wine was distilled on the continent, with the French in the Cognac region being the biggest producers. Cognac was purchased from France by all royal dynasties, including those in Scotland and Ireland. At the end of the 18th century, the vine pest was brought to France. In just a few years, the disease grew inexorably, destroying more than half of the wine production in the Cognac region. Because blood is thicker than water, the Scots were shut off from the cognac supply in the years that followed. However, one ingenious Scot had a fantastic idea. Why not keep whiskey in repurposed sherry barrels, as cognac is kept? They were still available after the sherry casks had been filled. In the best-case scenario, the whisky's sherry scent would result in a taste akin to cognac.

The success was tremendous, and whiskey could begin its global success story with the advancement of industrialisation and the mechanical fabrication of the glass bottle. The ancient Egyptians, Celtic monks, and an unknown enterprising Scotsman are responsible for the whiskey bottle in our living room.