8 Numbers Behind… Whisky


Everything you need to know about one of the world’s most popular and widely consumed spirits. Here are some numbers to help you to know whisky better.
8 Numbers Behind… Whisky

2 names are attributed to this spirit: whisky, if it comes from Scotland or Canada, and whiskey for those spirits produced in Ireland or the United States, even though the latter is more widely used. Then, we have Rey, which is a lesser-known spirit distilled in Alaska with a 51% rye content. The term Scotch whisky refers specifically to the product distilled in Scotland, while Bourbon is the United States whiskey made from fermented rye, malted barley and corn.

3 basic rules pave the way to becoming a true whiskey connoisseur. The first is to understand that bottle age is only of marginal importance. In fact, the figure indicated refers to the minimum number of years the spirit has to be aged. However, since whiskey is often obtained from blends of different casks it could be older, or even younger. The second thing you need to know is that whiskey, to be defined as such, needs to be at least three years old, bearing in mind that the older it is, the darker it will become. The third rule is that there is no such thing as the right type of chocolate to pair with whiskey but, to avoid mistakes, and barring any particular tastes or requirements, it is preferable to choose a 70% cacao dark chocolate.

4 phases are involved in whiskey production. First comes the fermentation phase, in which a sugar produces alcohol. It is made using malt and special yeasts, even though the method may vary. This is followed by the distillation process. Here, the product obtained from fermentation, which usually has a low alcohol content (8-10%) and is actually no more than beer (!!!), is concentrated by means of special recipients exposed to heat. In this way a “spirit” is obtained, which is nothing other than ethanol, that is to say, a highly concentrated alcohol. The third phase is the ageing process which takes place in special wood casks where the whiskey takes on its definitive flavour, aroma and colour. The end product, whose alcohol content is approximately 40%, now reaches the final bottling phase.

26.9% is the market share of Scotch Whisky, which is the most widely consumed in the world. It is followed at a distance by Whiskey (9.02%), then Canadian Whisky (5,39%) and Irish Whiskey (1.98%). The remaining market share (56.71%) is covered by all other types of whiskey.

37 million cases of whiskey are produced each year in the United States. Canada’s production amounts to 21 million cases, while that of Ireland is equivalent to 7 million. India stands in a category of its own: it produces as many as 120 million cases a year but this particular type of whiskey does not derive from grain fermentation, as tradition demands, but is a molasses-derived spirit. It is then aromatized and undergoes no ageing process. These characteristics make it unsuitable for importation to Europe.

46.69% of the world’s whiskey consumption is attributed to India, which would appear to have an unrivalled fondness for this spirit. The United States occupy second place with a percentage of 14.44%, followed by France (4.7%), Japan (3.39%) and the United Kingdom (2.5%).

100 A.D. is the period to which the origins of whiskey can be traced back with certainty, even though these were no more than distillation experiments carried out in Alexandria which, incidentally, did not involve alcohol at all. For any evidence of the introduction of this ingredient, we have to wait until the thirteenth century in Italy, when they started to distil alcohol from wine.

190 million 70 CL bottles of Scotch whisky are exported every year to France which, in this particular rating, stands ahead of the United States (119) and India (94). Followed by Spain (64), Mexico (58), Germany (53), South Africa (44), Brazil (43), Singapore (41) and Japan (30).