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Issue 10 - Liquid assets

Whisky Magazine Issue 10
June 2000

 

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Liquid assets

Malcolm Greenwood digs beneath the surface to discover how water works to make Scotch so special

I read recently that nine hundred billion litres of rain falls on Scotland every year and, from this, nine million litres of whisky is produced.

The Scotch Whisky Association can of course verify the latter. The former, well anyone who has visited Scotland will confirm – the country is wet, wet, wet.

Water drills down here like a power shower, sheets across the horizon in westerly gales, or saunters as in a misty drizzle. The Scots have the best word – dreich – to describe it, and is explained in the Concise Scottish Dictionary as ‘persistent, tiresome, hard to bear'.
Regardless however, of the amounts, or how it arrives, the overwhelming consensus is that this H20 is special.

Not merely a “clear colourless, tasteless liquid that falls as rain and forms rivers etc” (Collins English Dictionary). But what actually makes water so special in Scotland, indeed so special it makes Scotch?

The relationship between water and Scotch is hard to define, in fact often only lyrical metaphor will serve. So bear with me when I say that water is the vessel that conveys malts on their journey to greatness. It is the artist's canvas without which no creative work can appear. Its purity is essential to the whisky-making process.

By far the majority of distilleries are found in the countryside, away from large-scale manufacturing and intensive farming. Traditionalists will maintain that water is the key to whisky making because it features in all stages of production; malting, ...

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