Whiskey Wit, part two

Linda Pinto and Heather Prochnow

Last time we covered the history of whiskey in the U.S., but where does whiskey
really come from?
Distillation of Scotch whiskey can be traced back to the 15th century, when surplus grains were distilled solely for the clan’s chieftains by the ancient Celts, meaning that the head honchos of the time were really lucking out. At the time, this fiery liquid was referred to as the “water of life.”
The primitive equipment used at the time and the lack of scientific expertise meant that the spirit produced in those days was probably potent, and occasionally
even harmful. And you thought 151 and Prairie Fires had a kick to them .
Luckily, distillation methods soon improved, and in the 16th and 17th centuries
considerable advances were made. The dissolution of the monasteries contributed to this since many of the monks, driven from their sanctuaries, had no choice but to put their skills to use. Dear old Brother John went from faithful churchgoer to mass producer of Scotch. It doesn’t get much better than that, folks. Valued for its medicinal powers (hey, cough syrup contains a bit of alcohol; why not go all the way?) and made originally with different cereals and herbs, it is much unlike the Scotch whiskey we know of today.
After the Act of Union with England in 1707, taxes on goods increased enormously,
forcing the distillers to take their businesses
underground for a period of time. Smuggling emerged as a popular occurrence
until the Excise Act of 1823 passed and smuggling died out. The grandmother of a friend of mine recently smuggled a handle of Scotch onto her cruise ship in order to liven up the elderly folks, so maybe times haven’t really changed all that much.
The most highly prized Scotches are the single malts which are produced entirely from barley, double distilled, and made at one distillery. Some other varieties are made of mixes of several single malts, and we’re not talking Culver’s chocolate shakes here. Blended Scotch is made from a mixture of malt and grains. This encompasses
the largest market and is represented
by well-known names, such as J&B and Johnnie Walker, one of our favorite men.
You might want to try this snack using a shot of good Scotch, a glass of iced 7UP, and a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, right out of the oven. Eat a cookie. Sip the Scotch and savor it, letting the fumes carry the chocolate flavor into your sinuses. Wait a moment and wash it down with the 7UP. Pause and recover for a minute or two before doing it again. Good luck!

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