Would you like to up your knowledge of whiskey? We’ve compiled 101 facts that you can pull out at your next tasting session to impress the experts. Let’s get started!
Facts about whiskey
1. A blended whiskey will often comprise an astonishing 15-50 different whiskeys in one cask.
2. If we laid Scotland’s casks one after the other, the delicious, thirst-quenching chain would stretch over 18,000 miles. That’s almost the entire way around the world.
3. White dog is a term that refers to American whiskey that is un-aged.
4. Distilleries encourage generations of families to remain working in their facility to foster consistent styles.
5. Scotland has almost four times as many whiskey casks as it does people. That’s 20 million barrels and a population of just under 6 million.
6. Suntoryeus Lactobacillus is a unique yeast strain, specifically developed by Suntory for their manufacturing processes.
7. Macallan holds the world record for selling the most expensive cask in history. It reached a whopping $572,000 at auction in 2019.
8. The triangle shape of a Glenfiddich bottle represents water, air, and barley – the three whisk making pillars.
9. In 1998 Frank Sinatra passed away – he was buried with Jack Daniel’s at his side.
10. Scotland exports around 2,520 bottles of whiskey every minute of the day.
11. Kentucky proudly claims to have a greater number of bourbon barrels than people.
12. Most of Scotland’s whiskey that gets exported around the world is blended as opposed to single malt.
13. A common belief is that Bourbon Street, one of the biggest trading ports in the United States, is the origin of the name, bourbon whiskey. The legendary street is located in New Orleans, LA. But this is just one theory; others say that Kentucky’s Bourbon County is where the famous whiskey’s name came from.
14. The distilling market in Japan is incredibly competitive so they very rarely trade casks amongst each other, unlike other major whiskey producing countries.
15. Unlike his fellow cast, Humphrey Bogart avoided dysentery from the local drinking in Congo when filming The African Queen. Instead, his beverage of choice was whiskey which worked out quite well for him.
16. The whiskey producer Ardbeg took their testing of whiskey maturation to the extreme by sending a sample to the International Space Station. They were measuring the effect of zero gravity on the maturing process.
17. From 1757 until 1760, grain harvests were much lower than usual which resulted in the banning of Scotch whiskey production under.
18. Approximately 95% of bourbon whiskey production was be attributed to Kentucky. Source: Kentucky Distillers Association
19. Celebrities who own brands of whiskey include UFC fighter Conor McGregor and Sam Heughan, lead actor in the hit series Outlander. The rapper, Aubrey Graham (Drake), also is the proud owner of a brand.
20. To build three 60-gallon casks you’d need the timber from an entire large oak tree.
21. The Skyview Bar in Dubai served a Manhattan which used 55-year-old Macallan. At a cost of £4,632, it broke a world record for the most expensive cocktail.
22. Lowland, Highland, and Speyside are the three protected regions set by Scottish Whiskey Regulations, 2009. The two localities are Islay and Campbelltown.
23. In 1794, Pennsylvania experienced a whiskey rebellion due to tax. Eight years later the tax was repealed.
24. The second most popular tourist activity for Germans when visiting Scotland is to visit a distillery. An impressive 43% of visitors take a trip to one of the many whiskey producers who are open for tours.
25. In 2017, a bottle of 1862 Old Vatted Glenlivet was opened and drops of the whiskey were added to the inside of fifty Swiss watches. The bottle was produced in 1862 and is one of the oldest.
26. A common misconception is that single-malt whiskey comes from only one cask. In fact, it means the whiskey is all from the one distillery and may be the result of combining multiple casks. Check out our article on single malt vs blended whiskey to find out more.
27. Next time you take a photo, if the word “cheese” isn’t working, try “whiskey” instead. This is commonly used in Latin America to get that perfect portrait shot.
28. The highest selling spirit in France is whiskey which makes up 47.2% of sales. For comparison, cognac makes up a mere 0.7%.
29. The founder of Jameson’s whiskey is the great grandfather of Guglielmo Marconi, a pioneer of radio transmission.
30. Alabama’s official state beverage is whiskey.
31. The founder of Irish whiskey brand, Jameson’s, was actually Scottish.
32. Before founding the Johnnie Walker brand, John Walker was a tea blender who owned a grocery store in the town of Kilmarnock in Scotland.
33. Grange Distillery has the bragging rights for commissioning the first coffey still. It was eventually shut down in 1851.
34. From a nutritional perspective, whiskey has 64 calories which is less than a banana. Note: always drink in moderation.
35. Although there are more than 300,000 types of barley that exist today, only a few are considered to be suitable for the production of whiskey.
36. Although William was the original word for NATO’s phonetic alphabet, it was replaced in 1056 by “whiskey”.
37. In the 1800s, distilleries in Scotland used to have a bell that was rung through the day. Each time it rang the employees were allowed a ration of whiskey.
38. In 2019 the value of Scotch exports was a staggering £9360 every minute.
39. 1994 was a significant milestone for whiskey. It was 500 years since the first written reference of whiskey was made. Distilleries took advantage of this milestone by producing anniversary releases.
40. The Irish coffee was invented by in County Limerick by Joe Sheridan. In the 1940s, a group of American travelers arrived by plane in miserable weather. He gave them coffee with whiskey added and coined the drink Irish coffee.
41. Every day, Sir Nikola Tesla would drink whiskey because he thought that it would make him live to a very old age. He lived until the age of 86 which wasn’t a bad effort for someone born in the 1800s.
42. During distillation, gluten is removed from the grains which is why the producers can claim their drink in gluten-free.
43. The blending of Scotch was pioneered in the 19th century by Andrew Usher. He was the son of a spirits dealer, based in Edinburgh.
44. The sale of alcohol is prohibited in the county where Jack Daniel’s operates. However, the authorities have made an exception for this business.
45. In the United Kingdom, Scotch is big business for the economy with exports totaling £4.91 billion in 2019. To get that into perspective, that’s 20% of their entire food and beverage exports.
46. Raymond Chandler lived on a diet of whiskey for eight days to assist him in completing Blue Dahlia, a screenplay.
47. A rummager is a useful mechanism that pulls large copper chains around the still. Its purpose is to stop any scorching or sticking.
48. It takes four years before a cooper’s apprentice can work on their own barrel, unaccompanied.
49. Famous poet Robert Burns would often write about his love of whiskey and he even had a job as an exciseman at one stage in his life.
50. In 2018 Single Malt Fund was created for investors to invest in limited-edition releases of whiskey. It was a regulated investment fund that focused on rare whiskeys which would normally be out of reach financially for many investors.
51. Towser the Mouser is a famous cat from Glenturret’s distillery which is rumored to have caught almost thirty thousand mice.
52. The total number of whiskey distilleries that have a license to produce Scotch is currently 133.
53. Bourbon is required to have an age statement if it has aged between two to four years.
54. A “boilermaker” is a cocktail combining beer and whiskey. The name was coined by mine workers and was created as an energy-booster after a long shift of hard toil.
55. To make pot still whiskey, malted and unmalted barley is combined, fermented, and distilled in copper still pots
56. The Wild Turkey distillery has secret supplies of its live yeast across the country as it is a proprietary blend that is closely guarded. The same strain is used across all its production facilities to help produce consistent results.
57. Margie Samuels was the wife of the owner of Maker’s Mark and her claims to fame were naming the brand and also designing the recognizable bottle with the red wax seal. Its design was all about portraying a quality product that stood out in-store.
58. Those that make impressive contributions to the whiskey industry for over five years can be recognized by the Keeper of the Quaich award. The Masters of the Quaich is a coveted award for those who provide outstanding service.
59. In Kentucky, many individuals from the bourbon industry have been awarded the prestigious honor of Kentucky Colonel. This is awarded to those who have provided outstanding service to the community or country.
60. It took James Bean only 4 months to set up his distillery after prohibition. Not a bad effort for a 69-year-old.
61. Although bourbon is often associated with Kentucky, it can actually be produced anywhere in the U.S.
62. Although highly debated, Jack Daniel’s is not bourbon, it is Tennessee whiskey.
63. Monkey shoulder was a condition suffered by masters, a job that required the frequent turning of barley with a shovel. This repetitive process resulted in one arm hanging lower than the other.
64. In 2006, a bottle of Scotch was discovered in Antarctica which was left by Ernest Shackleton in 1896.
65. During the 17th century, some Scottish whiskey distillers would attempt to hide their barrels to avoid taxation. They were creative in their hiding spots which included funeral corteges. Speaking of distilling on the down-low, you may want to check out our guide on how to make moonshine. Although this term does have a chequered past, it is now legal to make in some parts of the world.
66. Masataka Taketsuru studied in Scotland before returning to Japan to become the first master distiller of the Suntory Yamazaki distillery.
67. The original plan for Mountain Dew was to develop and market it as a chaser for whiskey.
68. A Lutheran minister taught Jack Daniel to distill whiskey after he ran away from home at the age of six.
69. In Gaelic, the word for whiskey is “uisge beathe” which is translated as “water of life”. On the topic of terminology, check out our article on whisky vs whiskey to find out the difference.
70. Whiskey ran down Dublin’s streets like a river in 1875 due to a bonded warehouse fire. The flowing whiskey from 1900 casks was quite a sight as it was on fire. Sadly, there were 13 lives lost during this tragedy.
71. George Washington operated a commercial distillery at one stage in his career. He was the only founding father to be able to make this claim, even though the facility did burn down not long after opening.
72. One of the Queen’s footmen faced retribution for feeding the royal corgis whiskey for a joke at a party. He had a cut to his salary and was demoted in rank.
73. The oldest distillery in Ireland is Old Bushmills which is believed to have commenced operations back in 1276.
74. A whiskey distillery in Finland was also the producer of military Molotov cocktails for its country.
75. Until 1974 the combination of Irish whiskey and cream was known as Irish cream. It was then commercialized and branded Bailey’s Irish Cream.
76. The Chivas brothers ran a grocery store for almost 50 years before commencing their whiskey production.
77. A survivor of the Titanic claimed that the only way he dealt with the freezing sea temperature was due to the excessive amounts of whiskey he consumed as the ship was sinking. Charles Joughin was eventually rescued after treading water for three hours.
78. Research is being carried out to develop a method of detecting counterfeit alcohol, including whiskey. The researchers will use special dyes to map the origin and age of the bottle.
79. Although the ingredients that go into making whiskey play a huge role in the final product, many producers believe that the still’s size and shape are equally as important.
80. Distilling is such a complex process that it can be studied at a degree level.
81. Whiskey residue is capable of powering a biofuel car engine.
82. The first woman master whiskey blender was Rachel Barrie. Since then, many more have joined the ranks.
83. The only two distilleries in Iceland use sheep manure to kiln the barley in place of regular peat or coal.
84. The illustrator of the string man on the Johnnie Walker label was created by Tom Browne. He drew it on a menu during a lunch with one of Johnnie Walker’s company directors.
85. The “Perfect Collection” is a collection of 3,384 bottles of Scotch whiskey – the largest in the world.
86. Bourbon distilleries were used to produce penicillin and fuel during the Second World War.
87. Glenavon Special Liqueur Whiskey was bottled around 1851 and is the oldest bottle of whiskey in the world.
88. A tiny 1.3ml bottle of whiskey was produced by White Horse to create a new world record.
89. Famous Grouse filled a 1.7m bottle with 228 liters of whiskey to claim the record for the world’s biggest bottle.
90. Glenfiddich is defined as ‘valley of the deer’.
91. The tallest stills in Scotland are housed at the Glenmorangie distillery – they are over five meters tall.
92. A whiskey that is made from 100% rice is produced by Kikori in Japan.
93. The United Kingdom generates £5 billion each year for its economy from the production of whiskey.
94. Jack Daniels barrels are used to age the pepper mash that is used to make Tabasco sauce.
95. Over the space of 12 months, 2% of whiskey gets evaporated and is lost forever.
96. Bill Wilson requested whiskey on his death bed but those at his bedside refused. Who was Bill Wilson? The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
97. Angel’s share is the evaporated scotch that results during maturation.
98. Innovative whiskey producers are now looking at new ingredients such as quinoa to replace traditional grains.
99. 1644 marks the date when Scotland began taxing whiskey.
100. World Whiskey Day is celebrated on May 16th in around 47 countries around the world.
101. To be called Scotch whiskey, it must have been aged for over three years, and come from Scotland.
That’s our 101 whiskey facts on one page.
Do you have any extras you think should be included? Let us know in the comments and we’ll add it to the list.