Whisky or Whiskey – Do you know? Scotland showed us the difference
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The land of lush green hills, kilts and bagpipes and of course whisky… Yes this is SCOTLAND! One of Skye’s favorite countries of all time and a land yet to be explored by Jesper. We were both thrilled to be going to Aberdeen, Scotland and especially to the world renowned Glenfiddich Distillery and Grants Blending Room, both spectacular bartending destinations, and both located just out of Dufftown.
Luckily it was a short flight (in a slightly dilapidated airplane) from Dublin to Aberdeen, where we arrived and stayed in the Marriot Courtyard Hotel, a designated airport hotel. It was only a short one night stay before we were greeted by the video guys in a private transfer bus to head out to the Glenfiddich Distillery and Grants Blending Room. We were ultra-excited for both of these, as it was going to put to rest our questions about the difference between Irish and Scottish whisky. Not only did they live up to that promise, but the distillery itself was beautiful as well! Aesthetically it was “traditionally Scottish” with beautiful old cottage-like buildings surrounded by rolling green hills and a ton of warehouses filled with wooden barrels. It was here that we were also greeted by Ludo, Glenfiddich and Grants Global Brand Ambassador.
Ludo was like this little talking dictionary for Whisky. He knew absolutely everything about all of the products and exactly what they would be good for (we’ve planned an interview with him- coming soon). Ludo gave us a detailed tour around the Glenfiddich distillery and later on gave us our very own blending session at the Grants Blending Room. Concerning the difference between Irish- and Scottish whisky, he told us the Irish one is a little softer and commonly used in cocktails, whilst Scottish is a little more exclusive, has a sharper taste and is often consumed as a stand-alone drink. What’s more, a crucial difference is the additional “e” in the spelling, denoting the origin of the product: whisky usually signifying Scotch whisky and Scotch-inspired liquors, and whiskey denoting the Irish and American liquors (bourbon, Tennessee, etc).
To complicate the matter, ruthless marketing departments will sometimes try to capitalize on the perceived superiority of Scotch, and purposely avoid the “e” in the spelling of their product. A great way to remember how the world’s biggest producers spell their products is this simple rule though:
Countries that have E’s in their names (UnitEd StatEs and IrEland) tend to spell it whiskEy (plural whiskeys). Countries without E’s in their names (Canada, Scotland, and Japan) simply spell it “whisky” (plural whiskies).
Back to the Grants blending session, it really was one of these workshops full of surprising tidbits of information. And to make sure we really paid attention, Ludo added in a fun little quiz at the end. I think I never realized how many different types of whiskeys you can blend and how crucial a “master blender” is to a whiskey brand. So at the end of the session, Ludo allowed us to take on the role of “master blender”. For instance, we did this exercise where we smelled seven selected whisky types and then smell another blended one, where we had to guess what percentage each of the seven previous blends contained. Not easy at all, and I have to say Jesper outsmelled me by a lengthy margin; all of his scores were either 100% or just off the mark. I am seeing a bright future for Jesper as a master blender of exclusive whiskey, haha!
At the end of the day we were not only Glenfiddich whisky experts but excellent whisky blenders! Both of us now knew the difference between Irish and Scottish Whisky and had a new appreciation for the whisky-making process!
Now, what we haven’t mentioned yet is that we actually stayed in a castle while in Aberdeen , which was SUPER cool! I’ma big fan of castles and their history, so getting to sleep in a real one is awesome. Haunted jokes aside, waking up in a place which is so rich with history is something else. Adding to the experience were some activities added to our schedule like quad-biking and clay pigeon shooting. Jesper excelled again while I had never shot a gun before in my life. I secretly felt happy for Jesper though, as he hasn’t managed to win a single cocktail competition yet.
Scotland in general just deserves your visit. Everyone we met there was friendly, open and funny. The Scotts hugely appreciate their liquor, its tradition and well, consuming it of course. During one of our trips, we met this bartender in “The Copper Dog” whisky bar, Mark who had previously worked in high-end cocktail bars throughout central London. Mark said he wanted something a little different and then decided to head into the Scottish countryside. He was like a Gandalf-the-Grey of cocktails, teaching Jesper these refined little tricks on how to make the perfect Old Fashioned with a 15 year old Glenfiddich. That may been the best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting too.
In conclusion, Scotland was utterly breathtaking. Impressive countryside, populated by passionate patriots who will go off once you tell them you are a bartender on the road. Thank you Scotland – it’s been a pleasure.
Oh, a special mention goes out to Oscar from William & Grants who made most of our visits possible; you’re legend!
Have YOU visited the Scottish countryside? Where should Skye and Jesper go next? Let us know in the comments people!