November 8, 2018 by: Gabi
10 Fascinating Facts About Whiskey!
With over 220 whiskies to choose from at the Albion River Inn Bar, you might ask: how did Albion River Inn end up with such an ambitious whisky program?
Here is the short answer provided by our in-house sommelier, Mark Bowery:
"When I arrived at ARI back in 1991, we had the same dozen whiskies that virtually every other bar in the U.S. had. You know, the usual suspects: Jack Daniels, Glenlivet 12-year-old, Seagram’s 7, Bushmills, etc. Once I discovered the splendor of Scotland’s finest efforts, I embarked on a mission to create a destination for, at the time, specifically single malt lovers. The owners, Peter and Flurry, quietly let me do my thing.
However, for the first decade, no one seemed to notice or care. Undaunted, I kept on expanding. After all, “If you build it, they will come.” And eventually they did! Today, anchored by 220 whiskies, along with 250 other spirits and over 450 wines, our restaurant has become internationally known as “one of great places in the world to drink.” ~Mark Bowery
In celebration of whiskies all over the world, especially those at the Albion River Inn, we have put together some fun facts for you all to enjoy!
1. Water of Life
Believe it or not, the root of the word “whiskey” comes from “uisce beatha” which in Gaelic translates to "water of life." That being said, our next fun fact won’t be that surprising to you.
2. A Bottle Every 4.2 Days Keeps the Doctor Away?
If your love of whiskey has gotten out of hand, this will surely put your mind at ease. In 1830, the average person over 15 years old drank 88 bottles of whiskey per year. If that number isn’t shocking enough for you, that averages out to one bottle every 4.2 days! True testament to the saying “hard times call for drastic measures”.
3. One Man’s Trash is another Cow’s Treasure
If you notice that there are often dairy farms close to distilleries, this is not a coincidence. Dairy farmers love whiskey distilleries not only for the convenient happy hour but because the discarded pulp of corn and other grains used to make whiskey, give the farmers a nutrient-rich feed for their livestock. Better feed means more milk production. We love to hear that the whiskey industry isn’t leaving behind a big carbon footprint.
4. Single malt Debunked
Don’t be fooled by the word “single” when describing a malt whiskey. It does not mean that it comes from a single cask. Unless labeled as “single cask” the whiskey you are drinking is the product of a single distillery but may be a mixture of whiskey from many different casks therein.
5. The Perfect Blend
In order to soften the rather harsh taste of the original single malt whiskies (single malts have since become much smoother), many distilleries started creating blends. At first these blends were frowned upon and in some regions not considered to be whiskey at all. Blends consist of anywhere from 15 to 50 varieties of whiskey, depending on the taste the blender is trying to achieve.
What do you do when you don’t want to pay your taxes? You work at night of course. Following Scotland’s Malt tax laws in 1725, the majority of distilleries either shut down or took their business underground. By underground we mean, took to distilling whisky at night when the darkness hid the smoke from the stills. For this reason, the drink became known as “moonshine”. At one point, it was estimated that over half of Scotland's whisky output was illegal.
7. “Like a Bottle of Aged Whiskey” – Not So Much
Unlike fine wines, whiskies do not mature in the bottle, rather only in the cask. So the lifespan of a whiskey, as far as maturation goes, is between distillation and bottling. Old bottles of whisky are valued more due to their rarity but do not necessarily reflect a “better” or “older” product. That’s not to say that age is just a number, the longer the cask has interacted with the whisky, the more it changes its chemical makeup and taste.
8. Come On Baby Light My Whisky
According to Scottish legends, whiskey makers did not use the safest methods to test the alcohol content of their product. They used to light some of the scotch on fire and depending on the color of the flame, they could determine whether the alcohol content was correct. It is common knowledge that alcohol is highly flammable so it makes sense that if the whiskey burned too hot, there was too much alcohol. Lucky for the distillery workers, they got a great deal on any whiskey that didn’t pass the test.
9. Through Sickness and Through Health
During prohibition, the only way to get your fix of whisky was at a pharmacy with a prescription from your local doctor. Walgreens had no complaints, seeing that the pharmacy chain grew from 20 retail stores to almost 400 during the period, from 1920 to 1933, and there was a constant line out the door.
10. Work Hard, Party Hard
Based on receipts found at a tavern the founding fathers visited, two days before signing the constitution, they drank “54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.”
11. Bonus Fact!
Did you know that Monks were some of the first people to make whisky? They used the drink mainly for healing purposes but that all changed when King Henry the VIII got rid of the monasteries in England in 1536. By putting Monks out into the real world, he forced whisky production into personal homes and farms as newly independent monks needed to find a way to earn money for themselves.
After looking at the 11 fascinating facts about whisky, it is understandable that our in-house sommelier, Mark Bowery, is so devoted to the Albion River Inn's whisky program. Mark Bowery is armed with 35 years of tasting experience, is a judge at international wine and spirits competitions, and considered an authority on single malt whisky. He speaks as an expert when he says: "With 220 whiskies, along with 250 other spirits and over 450 wines, the Albion River Inn restaurant is one of great places in the world to drink.”
We hope that you can make it to the Albion Rive Inn Restaurant Bar to experience one of Mark's amazing whiskey flights! We are certain that you will enjoy all that the Albion River Inn has to offer and look forward to welcoming you soon on the wonderful Mendocino Coast.
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Until next time,
The Albion River Inn