5 Amazing Scotch Whisky Facts
Scotch has been with us for centuries, and judging by the industry’s current metrics (roughly 40 bottles exported per second, and some $5 billion in annual business), it will be with us for centuries to come. Thank goodness for that, because a world without scotch is far too terrible to imagine. Scotch is amazing, and in its roughly 600 years on the planet it has accumulated some truly astounding factoids and tidbits. Here are five of them to savor alongside your next dram of aqua vitae. (Bonus fact: aqua vitae, which means “water of life,” was scotch’s first nickname, dating to the Middle Ages).
There are more casks of aging whisky than there are people in Scotland.
With a population of 5.3 million, and more than 20 million barrels of whisky in store, Scotland has almost four casks of whisky per citizen. Not surprisingly, whisky is Scotland’s leading export—to put it mildly. It makes up 73% of the country’s export output, and 20% of the total food and drink exports of the entire UK (that’s England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales). There are more than 100 distilleries and four regions of whisky production in Scotland.
The world’s leading importer of scotch whisky is—wait for it—France.
When most people think of French drinking culture, they think of world-renowned vineyards, cognac, and classic liqueurs like Grand Marnier and Benedictine. Scotch does not immediately spring to mind. Yet France consumes more scotch whisky than any nation on earth (the UK is second, US third). The reason dates to the 19th century phylloxera epidemic that wiped out French wine—and brandy—production, causing France to develop a taste for scotch.
Unopened, a bottle of scotch can last more than 100 years.
Scotch doesn’t age—or change at all, really—inside the bottle; that magical process happens in the barrel. As long as the bottle is sealed, you can gift that special selection to your great-great-grandchildren. Once opened, a bottle can last up to two years, depending on how much liquid remains. The lower the level, the shorter the shelf life because the increased amount of air in the bottle will go to work oxidizing the remaining spirit.
Four bottles of Johnnie Walker are consumed every second
From a humble grocery store in Kilmarnock, Scotland, John Walker launched what would become the world’s most widely distributed brand of blended scotch, now available in 200 countries. In 1865, John’s son Alexander created several signature blends, including Extra Special Old Highland Whisky, which came with a slanted black label. After customers began asking for it simply by label color, the Walkers made the smart decision to change the name, and Johnnie Walker Black Label was born.
There are only 12 Master Blenders of whisky in the entire world
Talk about a rare skill set. With the exception of 6’ 11” NBA stars who can cover 60 feet in two dribbles (a class of one, currently residing in Milwaukee), is there a more elite group in the world? These are the people that choose which single malts and which grain whiskies get combined to form a particular blend, which can be composed of 20 or more whiskies. One of them recently had his nose—the Master Blender’s money maker—insured for $2 million.
The most expensive bottle of scotch ever sold went for $6.2 million
That is a pricey bottle—and in this case it was literally the bottle accounting for most of the astronomical sum. The vessel came encrusted with 8,500 diamonds and 300 rubies. Decoration like that tends to upstage the liquid inside.