The Whisky Ambassador Pt.2

The Whisky Ambassador Pt.2

I told you in my last blog that there were some really interesting trivia facts that came out in the course. Not wanting to do any spoilers but many of these are out there readily available, so here are some of my favourite whisky facts:


The History

‘Whisky’ comes from the latin term Aqua Vitae (Water of Life), from which we get the Gaelic “Uisge Beatha (pronounced washka bay) phonetically became “usky” and then “whisky” .

The first mention of Malt appeared in the Exchequer Rolls as long ago as 1494. It’s the earliest documented record of distilling whisky.

King James IV (1488-1513) has been documented as liking ‘ardent spirits’. He went to Dundee in 1506, where he paid the local barber for a supply of ‘Aqua Vitae’ for the king’s pleasure. Apparently barbers cooked up mean whisky.

King James IV of Scotland


In 1505, the Guild of Surgeon Barbers in Edinburgh controlled the distilling and manufacture of aqua vitae- reflecting the medicinal properties of the drink.

So, you could have a “Dram”, get your hair cut and get that pesky appendix sorted all in one place! Sign me up#Nosejob

The Distilling industry drew the attention of the Scottish Parliament.

Taxes! The first of many! They introduced the first taxes on malt and the final product you could make from it circa 1644. Ever increasing taxes were incurred right up until the Act of Union with England in 1707. The Distillers were forced into a secretive battle with the Taxman.

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much whisky is barely enough” Mark Twain

The exciseman as they were called by the illicit distillers, were the enemy, in a nation embarking on the struggle against a larger neighbour who controlled them, smuggling and bootlegging continued for a century and a half with most distilleries being a guarded secret.

As befitting a product with monastic roots, the church was often in cahoots.

“Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy” Frank Sinatra

Ministers stored whisky in churches and the illicit spirit was sometimes stored in coffins – naughty!!

“Freedom and Whisky gang thegither” ‘Authors Earnest Cry and Prayer’ Robert Burns

Robert Burns was the most famous of the Excisemen.

The 1823 Excise Act was passed allowing the distilling on whisky in return for a licensing fee of £10. Glenlivet was the first Distillery to take a license.

Smuggling gradually stopped and over the following decades the Duke of Gordon (aka Cock o’ the North) provided George Smith with the land to create the first legal distillery, on which the present day Glenlivet distillery is sited.  The Duke got very rich, the first of many to make a fortune from the amber liquid.

“Love makes the world go round? Not at all. Whiskey makes it go round twice as fast.”

I would highly recommend the Whiskey Ambassador Course. It it will be a proud moment framing my certificate and enjoying my conversations with industry professionals in the future. Sue and Jo are going to be launching their advanced whiskey course and their gin ambassador courses. I’m up for it!

Have a look at their site if you’re interested:

The Whisky Ambassador

Thanks for reading,

Slainte mhath!

Emma x