The Wonderful World of Whisky
Those familiar with whisky love it for its rich taste and luxurious feel. But how much do you actually know about this Scottish drink? Discern fact from fiction in this short quiz that we’ve put together with the help of whisky masters William Grant & Sons.
Alcohol has been around a long time—since around the 13th century, in fact. Different countries can proudly lay claim to certain liquors—the Russians have their vodka; the Koreans, their soju; and the Scottish, of course, their whisky.
In 1887, William Grant founded William Grant & Sons, now known as a luxury spirits company that is currently run by the fifth generation of Grant’s family. Deep in the Scottish highlands, they hold the key to making some of the world’s leading brands of Scotch whisky, but here in 79 Robinson Road, William Grant & Sons’ Singapore office gives a peek behind the curtain with whisky tasting sessions, guided masterclasses, and other events.
Think you know your whisky? James Ting, the Head of Direct to Consumer (SEA) of William Grant & Sons will put you to the test—see if you can discern fact from fiction in the quiz below.
Fact or Fiction:
Whisky is purely made from fermented barley mash.
Whisky is made from fermented grain mash, which can include various types of grains. Barley, corn, and rye are some examples, and may go through a drying process known as malting before they’re fermented. Whisky is typically aged in oak casks, which are often old sherry casks, Bourbon Barrels, or made up of charred white oak.
Fact or Fiction:
Scotch Whisky Regulations dictate that if whisky is not made up of at least 70% barley, it cannot be considered a malt whisky.
Malt whisky is whisky that has been made using higher percentages, or even 100% of barley as the base grain. The percentages range in the legal definitions from country to country, but almost all are at least 70% and above. Scotch whisky is further defined with stricter rules for inclusion in its category, with the highest level of strictness reserved for single malt scotch whisky, such as The Balvenie. “Some of these rules include that single malt scotch must be made from a mash of only malted barley,” James says. “It must also be distilled at a single distillery in Scotland using a pot still distillation process, and matured in oak casks for at least three years.”
Fact or Fiction:
The secret to making good whisky relies on both the right people and the right weather conditions.
While the fermentation process is affected by nature and the environment, having the right team can make or break a whisky. “Truthfully, each barrel is different and develops differently. Some whiskies mature faster while some may take many decades to reach their full potential,” James says. “However, having the right team with the right capabilities to predict the potential of different barrels is one secret to making a good whisky. The team must nurture the whisky over the years, under the watchful eyes of nature and the bated breath of distillers everywhere. This may be my own view, but I compare the whisky makers to school masters!”
Fact or Fiction:
Just mash up fermented grains, store them, and you have whisky. It’s quite easy.
Ageing whisky is a complex craft in itself, a strategy game of time and nature involving several considerations such as which direction the flavour of a cask might take, or which casks will survive and which might be lost due to evaporation of the whisky. While there have been improvements with technology and efficacy in the production process, whisky making is still a very much a hand-crafted process. James says that this human touch is especially important, as William Grant & Sons strives to preserve the house styles, tastes, and legacy of the generations before them.
Fact or Fiction:
The Highland environment is extremely conducive to making and storing whisky.
The Highlands are, geographically, the largest whisky region in Scotland and home to many distilleries. As the largest whisky-producing region, the variation of flavours and styles found here are also the most versatile, ranging from the sweet, dry finish of whiskies from the Western Highlands, to the light-bodied, spicy, and sometimes salty character of the North Highland whiskies. “Our distilleries for Glenfiddich and The Balvenie are situated in a more specific region called Speyside, nestled in the Highlands. Speyside whiskies are typically characterised as the sweetest of scotch whiskies and most complex; with age, they often turn rich and heavy, delivering dried fruit flavours and spicy notes,” James says. “Despite its small area, Speyside is currently home to around half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries. While I am not a scientist, there must be something in the air there that led to this outcome!”
Fact or Fiction:
The production process is what makes the luxurious range of whisky a notch above the usual.
Answer: Fact and Fiction
James attributes four main factors that make the luxurious range, well, luxurious.
The Production: This consists of the efforts that the whisky team has invested into making the whisky, and the whole package—it could be the usage of innovative or lost methods, or premium materials for the bottling or packaging. This may also involve collaborations with designers or artists.
The Whisky: The age and development of the whisky are key here. It could be a whisky that has laid down for more than 50 years before realising its potential, or a single cask that has exceptional development amongst thousands of barrels ageing in the warehouse. “Either way, it must be identified as one of exceptional quality and development,” James says. “It could also be ultra-rare and of limited production.”
The Demand: The rating and impressions by consumers and experts alike who have tasted it might affect the whisky’s valuation, and consequently, the supply and demand ratio, and the price.
The Connection: If the said whisky resonates with the consumers, this emotional connection will almost always be an element that further drives the perception and enjoyment of the whisky.
“My advice would be to keep an open mind; there’s no right etiquette to it,” James says. “Take your time to savour and experience the taste, and see if you are able to identify the elements that you like. Education is definitely important in this aspect as well, as the more we understand something, the more we are able to appreciate it. This applies to whisky tasting sessions, which should never be stifling, but a platform to interact and share opinions.” However, it’s best to drink whisky from a whisky glass, which will help a whisky breathe just right without evaporating too fast, and have the correct form that helps taper the aromas and flavours gently to its taster. James personally recommends either a Copita or Tulip shaped glass or a Glencairn Whisky glass. For the more adventurous drinkers, try pairing your whisky with chocolate. “The way that whisky and chocolates react and explode in flavours on the palate are like fireworks,” James says. “You can play around with the wide range of chocolate flavours—savoury to sweet, dark to creamy—to match different whiskies.”
Fact or Fiction: Sources have speculated that there might be a secret room in the company.
James’s exact response when we asked him were, “Shh! Where did you get this information?”
It’s true—tucked away in the William Grant & Sons office is an invite-only space that is home to some of the brand’s rarest and most precious spirits. “Rare single malt whisky is one of the most coveted objects of desire today, and we wanted to create a private space where connoisseurs and collectors can discover, immerse in, and experience our most exclusive Glenfiddich and The Balvenie expressions and cask drawings,” James says.
What can you expect if you’re lucky enough to be invited? Gaze at the cask drawings specially flown from our distillery, or enjoy whiskies that haven’t been on public sale before. “We also do various events such as guided masterclasses, or virtual “live” distillery tours, which will take you on a journey through our distilleries with our distillery team and craftsmen,” James adds. “As to how to get invited, being a fan and collector of our brands is definitely a big plus in your favour!”
How did you fare in this quiz? Are you a whisky connoisseur like James, or a budding drinker like us? While we were set straight on a number of facts, the making of whisky is still very much a mystery that eludes us, but one that intrigues us nonetheless.
If you have any enquiries about William Grant & Sons (or their secret room), you can reach out to James at James.Ting@wgrant.com.
Subscribe to our e-newsletter your Workplace Community to receive content around
- Hacks and ideas to enrich your work-life experience and well-being
- Community stories and features
- Upcoming events and promotions for the CapitaLand Workspace community and more!
You might also like...