Happy National Scotch Day (or maybe? I’ve read varying reports that it is July 22 or July 25 or July 26 … can’t we all just agree on one date?) Well, rightly or wrongly, we here at Catholic Drinkie will honor the day on July 27.

Anchorman, one of my favorite movies, pays homage to this delicious liquor with some humor from star Ron Burgundy:
Ron Burgundy: I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly…

Thanks, Mr. Burgundy, for one of the most quotable movie lines about liquor. Always good for a laugh. And now … down to business.

So what is scotch? (Thanks to Wikipedia for this information)

Scotch whisky (often referred to simply as “Scotch”) is whisky made in Scotland.Scotch whisky is divided into five distinct categories: Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Single Grain Scotch Whisky, Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (formerly called “vatted malt” or “pure malt”), Blended Grain Scotch Whisky and Blended Scotch Whisky. All Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years. Any age statement written on a bottle of Scotch whisky, in the form of a number, must reflect the age of the youngest whisky used to produce that product. A whisky with an age statement is known as guaranteed age whisky. The first written mention of Scotch whisky is in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1495. A friar named John Cor was the distiller.

“To Friar John Cor, by order of the King, to make aqua vitae VIII bolls of malt.”Exchequer Rolls 1494–95, vol x, p. 487.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, no one knows exactly when the art of distilling was first practiced in Scotland; it is known that the Ancient Celts practiced distilling and that the liquid they produced — known in ancient Gaelic as uisge beatha (“water of life”) — evolved into Scotch Whisky. By the 11th century distillation first occurred in Scotland in the early Christian monastic sites.

The first taxes on whisky production were imposed in 1644, causing a rise in illicit whisky distilling in the country. Around 1780, there were about 8 legal distilleries and 400 illegal ones. In 1823, Parliament eased restrictions on licensed distilleries with the “Excise Act”, while at the same time making it harder for the illegal stills to operate, thereby ushering in the modern era of Scotch production. Two events helped the increase of whisky’s popularity: first, a new production process was introduced in 1831 called Coffey or Patent Still (see in section below); the whisky produced with this process was less intense and smoother. Second, the Phylloxera bug destroyed wine and cognac production in France in 1880.

I could go on and on about scotch or we could really get down to business and talk about what’s good and what’s, well, not. There are various brands of scotch made both in and out of Scotland with different creation and aging processes. I must admit full disclosure that I have recently over the last year started to get into tasting scotch. I have grown fond of Macallan, particularly the 18-year (high-rolling, I know). I’ve tried a few others like Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet and a few of the colors from the Johnnie Walker line, but haven’t found them to be as tasty.

What is your favorite scotch brand? What is a good more common scotch brand and year to drink? And what is your favorite celebratory scotch?

If you’ve never tried any scotch before, today is your day! Go out and try it! Cheers!