Not sure. Both Scotland and Ireland claim to have given birth to it. The verdict is still out and the debate ongoing !!! Neither can prove the date of the very earliest stills, in either country, as whisky making was carried out in farmers own homes.
According to the Scotch Whisky Association, Scotch Whisky evolved from a Scottish drink called, “uisge beatha”, which means, “water of life”. The very first distillation of Whisky, in Scotland, was recorded in the Exchequer Rolls for 1494. Malt was sent to, “Friar John Cor”, at Lindores Abbey, Newburgh, about an hours drive from Edinburgh, by order of King James IV, who commissioned him to make five hundred bottles of whisky.
But it appears references to Irish Whiskey can be found as early as the twelfth century. So they could have been making it for a hundred years before. However, there is some evidence that the art of distilling could have been brought to Scotland with the early Christian Monks and that Scottish farmers had discovered how to distill the whiskey and kept the secret to themselves. But there is one thing for sure, it was left up to the Scots to perfect it.
To be a single malt scotch, the whisky must have been distilled at a single distillery using a pot still distillation process and made from a mash of malted grain. In Scotland, the only grain allowed to be used in a single malt whisky is barley, and the best Scotch Whiskies are single malt.
The barley is soaked until it germinates, then gets dried out in a peat furnace. The malt is then fermented with yeast to produce the whisky. Scotch whisky is is left to age in wooden casks for at least three years, but generally eight to ten years is the norm. (sometimes it has been known to go as long as 25 years). As soon as it is bottled the whisky stops aging, so the year of the bottling determines the age, not how long you have kept in your cellar.
A blended whisky means, the malt whisky has been mixed with a grain whisky and the quality of a blended whisky depends entirely on the proportion of malt to grain. Despite attempts to legislate the trade, during the eighteenth century, illegal Scotch production of whisky increased. Eventually, an excise tax was charged on every gallon produced by the smaller operations and license fees on the larger ones, this then brought it, more or less, under control.
Scotch Whisky drinkers who pride themselves on knowing the better taste avoid adding anything to their whisky except a splash of water.
It can get very cold and damp in the rainy, blustery highlands of Scotland, but a wee dram or two of, “the water of life”, can warm your insides very nicely indeed.