Scotland Celebrates Its Most Famous Liquor

Columbia Hillen

With National Scotch Day approaching on Monday (July 27), a Tartan army of whisky distillers throughout Scotland, including its islands, are preparing to celebrate the nation’s most famous liquor – including tasting parties.

More than 500 years old, having been first mentioned in 1494 tax records, Scotch has developed a worldwide market worth an estimated five billion pounds annually, its trademark protected under successive laws including the Scotch Whisky Act of 1988.

Around 42 bottles were shipped every second to 180 global markets last year, over 1.3 billion bottles, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

So what exactly is Scotch?

To qualify for the designation, first and foremost, the whisky must be made in Scotland. Secondly, it must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years and have an ABV of less than 94.8%. And thirdly, only malted barley can be used in the fermentation process, with no additives. There are five distinct categories of Scotch including single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain and blended.

Among Scotland’s 130 distilleries, here are two leading brands to savor.

Columbia Hillen


Its founder, John Dewar, reared in a humble farming community, became a wine merchant in Perth, central Scotland, in the early 19th century, then started to blend whisky.

In the 1890s, his sons, John Jr and Thomas built a distillery at Aberfeldy, two miles from where their father was born, on a site that had been a brewery. Fed by the Pitilie Burn river, where gold is still panned, Aberfeldy became the malt at the heart of the firm’s blends.

It is a classic, fruity whisky with a smooth honeyed sweetness, a result of its long fermentation process, with bottles aged for 12, 16, 18 or 21 years in oak casks. It has even created several cocktail recipes including Honey Highball, which incorporates chilled chamomile tea to highlight the floral notes of the scotch.

Once owned by Diageo, the Dewar’s estate was bought for 1.1 billion pounds by Bacardi-Martini, which invested heavily in an educational facility - Dewar’s World of Whisky.

Photo courtesy of Annandale Distillery

Annandale Distillery

Scotland-born Professor David Thomson cherished a vision and together with his wife Teresa Church, they turned that vision into reality, transforming derelict historic buildings of a 19th-century distillery in Dumfries-shire into a prized ultra-modern one. 

In doing so, they have reintroduced high-quality peated and unpeated single malt scotch whisky into the south of Scotland, a task achieved through precise sensory analyses of around 60 single malts by twelve professional assessors working for a sister company, MMR Research Worldwide.

The result: non-chill filtered single cask, single Annandale Malts, including the highly acclaimed, smoky-peated ‘Vintage Range’ ‘Man O’Sword’ as well as the fruity, unpeated ‘Man O’Words.’ The distillery has also created the ‘Founder’s Selection’ as well as a ‘Nation of Scots’ blend and a ‘Rascally Liquor’ in honor of national poet, Robert Burns.

Enjoy a dram or two this week in honor of the Scots. As author Mark Twain once said,  “I always take Scotch whisky at night as a preventive of toothache. I have never had the toothache; and what is more, I never intend to have it.

Sean Hillen

Sean Hillen has been an international journalist and editor for over 30 years and published author. His contemporary novel, ‘Pretty Ugly’ is an intriguing ride through the murky undercurrent of the lucrative cosmetic industry  Sean’s writing experience spans several continents - in Ireland, for the national daily The Irish Times and in England, as foreig...(Read More)

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