Aqua Vitae | About Dram Time

May 16, 2024
Bartenders Corner I about dram time, scotch whisky, Whisky

In “About Dram Time,” we delve into the fascinating history of Scotch whisky, examining the daily decisions confronting distillers and brand owners. These decisions wield significant influence over a spirit’s character, flavour, ABV, and DNA.

Our journey will traverse various Scottish distilleries, offering insights into their unique stories before embarking on another series, which ventures to Ireland. For our whisky enthusiasts seeking deeper education, this series promises to deliver a deeper level of knowledge.

We explore the origins and earliest mentions of Aqua Vitae in 1324, documented in the red book of Ossory. While this marks the first reference to distillation in Ireland, it’s noteworthy that the resulting spirit was initially derived from grapes rather than grains. Known as Aqua Vitae, it was believed to possess medicinal properties, aiding in the treatment of ailments such as stomach-aches, headaches, colic, palsy, and smallpox. However, its composition soon underwent transformation. In 1405, Aqua Vitae resurfaces, marking the earliest record of grain distillation in Ireland or Scotland. Unfortunately, its reputation suffered a blow when an Irish Chronicle reported the death of clan chieftain Ristéard Mac Grainnell from excessive consumption of Aqua Vitae on Christmas Day. This grim incident casts a sombre shadow over Ireland’s early history of distillation.

The earliest Scottish reference to aqua vitae dates back to 1494, involving a monk namedBrother JohnCor of Lindores Abbey. Commissioned by King James IV, Brother John Cor was tasked with converting eight bolls of malt into aqua vitae. This quantity of barley was purportedly sufficient to produce over 400 bottles of modern-day whisky or 1500 bottles of the era.

While some find these volume estimates peculiar, it’s important to note that early distillates were not separated into foreshots, middles, or feints but collected as a single stream. This distinction may account for the disparity between 1500 bottles and 400.From the origins of Aqua Vitae in 1324 Ireland to Brother John Cor’s pivotal role in Scottish distillation, we’ve uncovered the evolution of this cherished spirit. Despite occasional set backs and somber moments, whisky’s trajectory towards becoming a cultural icon is undeniable. As we prepare to venture into the distilleries of Scotland and Ireland, we invite whisky enthusiasts to join us in uncovering deeper layers of knowledge and appreciation for this timeless elixir.

In the following weekly blogs, we will explore the impact water, barley, fermentation and time have on the final whisky product.

Want to learn more about Whisky? Check out our ultimate whisky booklet – download it here and expand your whisky knowledge.

Get the latest on new releases, competitions, masterclasses, recipe ideas and more!

Are you of legal drinking age in your country of residence?

You must be of legal drinking age to enter this website. This website uses cookies.
By entering our website, you agree to our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

I am looking for