What is Whisky?
It’s the most popular alcoholic beverage in the Western world, after wine.
A tradition sees the term “aqua vitae”, literally, “water of life”, as a translation to the Gaelic uisghe beatha, which the Romans encountered during their occupation of Brittany. The same term is encountered in many other languages: the French “eau-de-vie”, the Italian “acquavite” and the Danish “akvait”; all of the former term indicate an alcoholic liquor obtained by distillation.
Whisky was conceived and produced after the example of distillates introduced into Scotland by Christian friars, who brought both the Christian religion and the art of distillation into the British Islands.
The first references to whisky are in 1949 manuscripts, the — Exchequer Rolls, and are related to taxes. On these manuscripts one can read: “To Friar John Cor, by order of the King, to make aqua vitae VIII bolls of malt”. This King was James IV (1488–1513), the most beloved of the unfortunate Stuart dynasty. He was said to appreciate uisge beatha, as it was called in the Gaelic area of the Islay. John Cor was a Benedictine friar of the Lindores abbey in the Fife county. Another document, dated 22 December 1497, when the King was lodged in Dundee, reports a 9 shilling payments to a barber (that is, a surgeon) for the purchase of aqua vitae.
Strange as it seems, whisky gained circulation during times of economic crisis, and caused a number of episodes of social and political unrest. World doesn’t change much after all. Then as today people rebel more readily against gastronomic restrictions than against restrictions of their liberty. Scots are an exception, and throught Robert Burns, their national poet, they say that “Freedom and Whisky gang thegither”. Whisky, born long ago, is nowadays an essential part of contemporary drinking culture.