Jun 14

Bourbon Day

Whiskey & Bourbon
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Jack Daniels
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“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go.”

~ Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Both Scotch and Bourbon get their names from places – Scotch from Scotland and Bourbon from Bourbon County, Kentucky – but true Scotch is made only in Scotland, while Bourbon can be made in parts of America outside of Kentucky. According to those who like arguing these kinds of things over a glass of the "water of life" (Uisge beatha), Whiskey is the overarching category of spirits that Scotch and Bourbon fall under. In general, when speaking of distilled spirits for various whiskies, "whiskey" is the Irish spelling (used in Ireland and the US), while "whisky" is the Scotch spelling (used in Scotland, Canada and Japan). Cheers, Sláinte, and To Your Health! 🥃

If not an afficianado, have you ever wondered what the difference is between whiskey, scotch and bourbon?

Even connoisseurs enjoy arguing this common question, and regional prejudices reign.  

"Whiskey" can refer to any kind of whiskey - Irish, Japanese, Canadian, American - with Scotch and Bourbon being the main types. Aficionados and Irish drinkers may refer to Irish whiskey as simply "whiskey," whereas they might specify location when talking about other types.

"Whiskey" is the Irish spelling (used in Ireland and the US), while "whisky" is the Scotch spelling (used in Scotland, Canada and Japan).  Whichever spelling, the origin of the word goes back to both Ireland and Scotland. Uisge beatha or usquebaugh is Gaelic for "water of life". It was translated from the Latin aqua vitae, used to describe spirits.

Both Ireland and Scotland claim to have given birth to whiskey, the distillation of which dates back to at least medieval times from the Arabs to medieval Latins.  The art of distillation spread to Ireland and Scotland no later than the 15th century, as did the common European practice of distilling "aqua vitae", spirit alcohol, primarily for medicinal purposes, for complaints ranging from colic to smallpox.


Medicinal distillation eventually passed from a monastic setting to the secular via professional medical practitioners of the time, The Guild of Barber Surgeons.  The earliest mention of whisky in Ireland comes from the seventeenth-century Annals of Clonmacnoise, which attributes the death of a chieftain in 1405 to "taking a surfeit of aqua vitae" at Christmas.  In Scotland, the first evidence of whisky production comes from an entry in the Exchequer Rolls for 1494 where malt is sent "To Friar John Cor, by order of the king, to make aquavitae", enough to make about 500 bottles.

From the Scottish register and notes for this tartan:


"Alongside whisky, whiskey & bourbon deserve to be celebrated with a tartan. Like the Whisky tartan the Whiskey (Irish and American whisky) & Bourbon tartan tells a story about how these wonderful products are made through the colours and geometry of the sett.

For the production of various kinds of whiskey or bourbon different types of grain or corn are used. These are depicted in the yellow and light brown lines. The brown lines reflect the soil they grow on. Water is another important ingredient in whiskey and bourbon. This ingredient can be found in the blue bands. Third basic ingredient is yeast which is the light brown line enclosed between the fields of grain and corn and the water. The two light brown lines are the barrels that hold to mature the light blue lines, the new spirit. These barrels are layn to rest in the by the Angel's Share - the light blue line next to the water bands - blackened walls of the warehouses, the black lines on both sides of the barrels. The final product is the centre of the image: the white lines reflect the bottle and the yellow line the whiskey or bourbon in it. "

To meet modern doctors dedicated to the science of whiskey/whisky distillation, click the glass.   

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

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