Whisky Magazine Issue 13
This article is 15 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.
Copyright Whisky Magazine © 1999-2015. All rights reserved. To use or reproduce part or all of this article please contact us for details of how you can do so legally.
The fires of summer have been extinguished, the clocks have gone back and the winter solstice approaches. The season of ‘mists and mellow fruitfulness' it may be, but today a chill, damp wind cuts to the bone and the depressing prospect of months of short, dark days looms large in one's mind. What's needed is a toddy, the most ancient of Scottish pick-me-ups and cure-alls that's legitimately taken at any hour of the day or night, alone or in company. Let us reflect upon it.
The origin of the word is obscure. Allan Ramsay, the poet, wrote of “kettles full of Todian spring” in 1721. Tod's Well on Arthur's Seat (the mountain which rises at the heart of Edinburgh) was one of the city's early water supplies, though the ‘spring water' he was referring to was whisky toddy. His readers clearly understood the euphemism, so it may be, as Ramsay believed, that the term ‘toddy' derives from Tod's Well.
The drink, which is simply hot, sweetened whisky and water with lemon (if spices are added it becomes ‘punch'), was the most common way of drinking whisky in those days. Most of the whisky produced then was coarse and fiery: ‘compounding' made it palateable.
Sir Walter Scott loved it. His son-in-law and biographer, J.G. Lockhart, reveals that “he could never tell madeira from sherry.” In truth he liked no wines except sparkling champagne and claret: but even as to the last he was no connoisseur and sincerely preferred a tumbler of whisky toddy to the most precious “l...