Whisky with Charlotte
With over 8 years experience in the drinks industry, Charlotte is a respected figure in the hospitality industry having worked both at some of the most prestigious and highly respected establishments across London, Paris and Barcelona, as well as her current role with Edrington UK as part of their Whisky Specialist team.
Where do you think the category originates from, and in what time period was this?
Whisky distilling has been around for hundreds of years, and it is said that Irish Christian monks brought their skills of distillation to Scotland in the 12th century, although it’s never really been proved that farmers in the Highlands didn’t teach themselves how to distil their surplus barley. The first known recorded mention of the term whisky is in 1494 in the Scottish Exchequer Rolls where it states “eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aquavitae”.
What is Whisky made from?
To make Whisky you need 3 ingredients; water, yeast, and barley.
In a nutshell, and imagining you’re talking to “Aunty Ann”, how is Whisky made?
The first thing you need is to malt the barley, a lot of distilleries will buy in their barley already malted, however there are a handful of distilleries that still use a traditional malting floor. What you are doing by malting the barley is activating the enzymes that will convert the starches in the grain into fermentable sugars. To do this you steep the barley in water and spread it out over your malting floor. You basically trick the barley into thinking it’s spring and it starts to germinate, and then you halt the process by drying it out in a kiln. This is where some whiskies, such as Laphroaig, will introduce the peat, this is where some of those smoky flavours found in certain styles of whisky come from.
Once your malted barley is dry it is put through a mill and ground up into what is called grist, think of it like flour, and sent off to a mash tun. These are big tubs that can be wooden or made from stainless steel, and in these you mix your grist with hot water in stages, each water at varying temperatures, creating a sugary liquid called wort. The wort is then cooled and sent to a washback where the yeast is added and fermentation begins. Once fermentation is complete the result is a type of beer called ‘wash’ which is normally around 8 percent ABV. The wash is then sent to the stills, made of copper and varying in size again depending on the style of whisky you are trying to make. It is distilled first in a wash still to separate the alcohol from the water, yeast and residue, and then goes through a second distillation in a spirit still where the more volatile compounds are distilled off first (foreshots), and the last runnings which contain the oilier compounds are cut off (feints) and are mixed with the next batch to be redistilled. The middle cut is what we want to take, known as the heart of the run, and what is put into oak barrels for maturation.
Why should everyone be drinking Whisky?
Whisky is so diverse in terms of flavour and styles. There are no 2 whiskies that are identical and the category is always changing and experimenting. Even if you aren’t sure about drinking it neat, it is also an incredible ingredient in cocktails and also in the kitchen!
Why should everyone drink your brand?
Laphroaig is the world’s favourite peated Scotch malt whisky, with a very interesting history including our pioneering use of ex-bourbon barrels in maturation, and the first female Scotch whisky distillery owner and manager. Although many people will associate it with its smoky flavours, once you get past the smoke it has an underlying sweetness to it, as well as a great core range showcasing the diverse flavour profiles that we have, whilst still maintaining the brands DNA.
Give us at least one of the biggest misconceptions, miss held beliefs surrounding Whisky.
That whisky can’t be mixed into drinks! Some of my favourite cocktails are whisky based.
Coolest story or anecdote about the Whisky category?
Something that I find quite cool about the category links back to the historical reason (supposedly) on why many whisky makers used to have small stills. Back when people were still distilling illegally, the reason that small stills were used is because they were easier to move and hide from the excisemen, making it harder for them to get caught!
Favourite cocktail made with Laphroaig?
A Smoky French Martini or an East 8 Hold Up with Laphroaig instead of vodka.
Anything else you want to tell everyone about Whisky?
Something that I love about Laphroaig that I don’t think a lot of people are aware of is that the brand probably wouldn’t exist without Bessie Williamson, one of the iconic figures in our history. She was the first female owner and manager of a distillery, and was an all round advocate for Scotch whisky as a category. She was a Glasgow native who originally came to the distillery to take a summer job as a typist, and ended up staying for 40 years, with Ian Hunter taking her on as his right and and ultimately bequeathing the entire distillery over to her before his passing. An absolute legend!
The history of alcohol and cocktails is not only fascinating, but it can be confusing and frustrating too. Especially as it can all change without notice as historians and researchers regularly unearth new pieces of information that up-end our favourite booze stories, muddle our understanding of different categories, and even undermine our most solid facts!
As always, don’t forget to show us what you made by tagging us!
@Candra_Drinks #MakeBetterDrinks #CandraDrinks