[Sca-cooks] Scottish cuisine (and now, blood dishes)

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Fri Nov 28 11:31:55 PST 2008

The stuff being made in the 15th Century was definitely unblended whiskey 
from malted barley, but there is no evidence for or against peat roasting 
the barley to give the smokey flavor common to modern single malts.  I 
suspect that peat may have been used to fire the malting kilns because it 
was readily available and that the modern injection of peat smoke into the 
kilns is to perpetuate the tradition.

Grains were distilled into alcohol well before 1831.  The 1831 date is 
questionable, but it was in the 1830's when Coffey introduced the continuous 
still, an improved version of Stein's columnar still.  What the continous 
still did was to permit single malt to be infused with grain whiskey during 
secondary distillation, easily producing blended whiskey.  Grain whiskey and 
blended whiskey are two distinctly seperate things.

I'm not too happy with the source you're using.  It gives the impression 
that alcohol could be distilled as early as 800 BCE, but the alembics 
capable of such distillation only start appearing about 1000 CE.  The actual 
record of such distillation occurs between 300 to 400 years later.  I would 
also question the 1500 bottles, as they do not specify the size of those 
bottles.  According to MacLean, Fifteenth Century distillation used a more 
primative barley and inefficient alembics or pot stills (which other 
research supports), so their yield would be less than today.  A boll is 
roughly 240 pounds, so eight bolls is roughly 870 kg, which is enough to 
modernly produce 350 liters of whiskey or about 466 bottles of 750 ml.  1500 
bottles implies they were roughly 1/2 pint.  My small stone crocks hold at 
least a quart (and no, I never had a chance to ask my Grandfather what he 
put in them).

MacLean, Charles, "Scotch Whiskey," 2005, seems to be a solid source for 
information about Scotch and its distillation.  Good footnotes.


> According to some research I did for a competition a few months back, it
> appears that single malt scotches were being made in Scotland in period
> (first mention of it being in 1494, according to www.whisky.com.  It would
> seem that these distillates were very strong, often to the point of being
> dangerous. It wasn't until 1831, when a method was invented for distilling
> spirits from grain was invented...and therefore brought about the blending
> of scotch and grain whiskies by Usher in 1860.  The 1494 date is the first
> printed mention...in an  Entry in Exchequer Rolls regarding Friar Cor 
> making
> aqua vitae by order of the King.  My source indicates that, as 1500 
> bottles
> were delivered, this indicates that distillation was already an 
> established
> process.
> My main source for this information is
> http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/jhb/whisky/history.html
> and what I found there is verified on several other web sites as well.
> Kiri
> On Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 9:28 AM, Terry Decker <t.d.decker at att.net> wrote:
>> As I recall, the last time the subject came up, I found a reference that
>> placed whiskey making in Scotland just within period.  But didn't find
>> anything to tell me how similar or dissimilar it was to modern Scotch
>> whiskey.
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