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Five Fun Facts to Carry You Through Trivia This World Whisky Day

We've answered your whisky questions so you can bluff your way through World Whisky Day — and get straight to the sipping.
By Orlaith Costello
May 02, 2023
By Orlaith Costello
May 02, 2023

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Ahead of World Whisky Day this Saturday, May 20, The Bottle-O is here to ensure you have all the fun facts needed to bluff your way to being a whisky connoisseur — even if you've yet to take a sip. Whisky can be intimidating for some, but it's a versatile spirit with a style that's guaranteed to suit anyone and everyone. You could enjoy a bourbon on the rocks or a scotch neat, a ready-to drink flavour-laden can or a shot topping up a citrusy highball (which we have a standout recipe for). Or, maybe you'll like it sweet and cinnamon-spicy. Guaranteed: there's a dram for you.

Now, where should your explorations start? What's with the barrels? Why are ice cubes called 'rocks'? And why, oh why, is it somehow correctly spelled both whiskey and whisky at the same time? Let's dive in.


world whisky day cocktails


Let's start with the basics. Whisky is a spirit made with grain, water and yeast that's distilled in massive copper stills (essentially kettles) and then aged in barrels. But you can't just use any grain. You'd be hard-pressed to find a tipple made with oats, for instance. In Scotland, whisky is made from malted barley, whereas in the United States, they use a combination of corn, rye, wheat and barley.



Did you know that when whisky comes out of the still it's totally clear and colourless? The colour of whisky comes from the oak barrels it's aged in. Oak barrels contain vanillin, which (as its name suggests) gives a vanilla flavour, but when toasted (literally charred on the inside with fire) the wood gives more caramel notes. As the temperature in the storeroom fluctuates — warmer in summer and cooler in winter — the spirit seeps into the wooden grain taking on the colours and flavours.

American bourbon distillers use virgin barrels (read: never been used before), while Irish whiskey and other producers use secondhand bourbon or wine barrels to age their spirit. The longer a whisky spends in a barrel the more flavour it gains. This is why you might get cherry notes on an Irish whiskey, after being aged in a barrel that used to have sherry in it, and more honeycomb flavours from a bourbon like Jim Beam. The year on a whisky label tells you the number of years it's spent in a barrel. So, Glenfiddich 12 Year has spent, yep, 12 years in a barrel before being bottled and sent to the shelves of your local The Bottle-O.



It's fairly common knowledge that whisk(e)y originated in Ireland and Scotland. The original Gaelic term — uisce beatha, pronounced ish-kah va-ha — was anglicised when the Brits took over, which resulted in the two different spellings. Simplified, Irish whiskey is spelled with the 'e' and Scottish without.

This little trivia tip will help you work out where a whisky's distilling method or style originated from. For example, we've got our exceptional drops Down Under usually missing the 'e', indicating we learned our trade from the Scots. The Yanks, however, were trading with the Irish — so whiskey it is (as is seen on classic bourbons from Kentucky).



Fun fact: freezers weren't always around, making it easy for you to grab a few ice cubes to both keep your sip cool and take the bite out of the booze. So, what did the highlanders do to make their scotch more palatable? Simple, they would take cold rocks (like stones from a clear stream or spring) and put them in their cup before adding their whisky and diving in. Nowadays, we've moved on from actual rocks — although you can find fancy fake ice cubes made from rock if you want to be clever about it — but the phrase has lived on.



Essentially, a whisky liqueur is a combination of a base whisky and other ingredients like herbs or spices. And flavoured whisky? It's made by adding ingredients to whisky during the ageing process. If you're in the mood for a sweet and spicy twist on whisky, one liqueur that fits the bill is Fireball. This Canadian spirit blends cinnamon and whisky for a fiery and flavourful drink that's perfect for sipping or mixing into cocktails.


Whether you're a whisky fanatic searching for your next favourite dram, or you've only admired from afar up until now, now you've got five fun facts in your pocket to bluff your way through celebrating on World Whisky Day, Saturday, May 20. Now's the time to pick a bottle from your local The Bottle-O and discover its deliciousness.

The Bottle-O is the independent store slinging your favourite boozy sips all over Australia — and a standout spot to nab your whisk(e)y of choice. Ready to dive in? Head to the website.

Top image: Choochart Choochaikupt (first)

Published on May 02, 2023 by Orlaith Costello
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