While whisky may have been drunk in Ireland as far back as the 12th Century, it’s believed that it made its way to Scotland by the 15th Century.
Of course it didn’t take long before the English government – as it did in Ireland with Irish whiskey – begin taxing it by way of a duty imposition. This “unjust imposition” on the Scots by an English government led to widespread tax evasion and illicit distillation – as it did in Ireland with Irish whiskey – which became something of a Scottish national pastime throughout the 18th Century.
But tax or not, Scotch whisky became a widespread global success story which is now worth £3.85 billion a year in exports albeit down 2.5% from 2014’s £3.95 billion figure. The total figure for sales of Scotch whisky (including that consumed in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales) tips a shade short of £4.2 billion.
The UK government is also happy that it introduced duty all those years ago. It’s now worth £1 billion to the Exchequer there.
Like Irish whiskey lately, Scotch has always enjoyed phenomenal growth down the years with exports now earning the country £125 a second, not only through sales across the UK but also from shipments of neatly 100 million cases to 200 markets worldwide. This overseas trade works out at 38 bottles exported every second despite suffering an 11% decline in exports for the first time in 2014.
Even so, two years ago, sales of Scotch were running at some 90% more than they did in 2004. And so at £11.5 million-worth of sales a day, Scotch distillers aren’t exactly wasting away.
What’s more, being the canny Scots that they are, they’ve put away some 20 million casks to mature quietly in the countryside’s widespread network of warehouses.
Far from shrinking, Scotch whisky distillers are expanding operations, opening 30 new distilleries to accommodate projected demand into the future and spending some £2 billion in so doing.
And with good reason, for despite the boom in Irish whiskey sales, it would be a strange world indeed where a consumer couldn’t go into a good bar in any part of the world and be able to view a selection of Scotch whiskies from which to order.
Any top-end bar worth its salt should have a relatively broad Scotch offering for its clientele who these days tend to be young, relatively affluent and more than interested in trying out something new – an ‘old’ Scotch, for example.
Like Irish, Scotch whisky can be made from blended or single malts or from blended or single grains.
Scotch can be distinguished by region: Highlands, Islands, Islay and Lowlands. Perhaps to cover everything one should offer a whisky from each of these whisky regions.
But as with so many other spirit types, the world of Scotch is changing with the times as a younger demographic seeks that something different from the standard line. Thus the producers have come to expect demand along the lines of Scotch flavoured with lime, honey or even cherries from the younger generation of drinkers, a prospect most likely held in relatively low esteem by the more traditional Scotch drinker but the trade must move with the market.
Scotch in Ireland
These days publicans here who don’t stock a wider range of Scotch whiskies than tradition dictates or aficionado customers care to hold them to are missing out.
Direct imports of Scotch whisky accounted for £2.3 million-worth of sales.
And then there’s the female market still largely to go after both here and in the UK. While Scotch whisky has always had more of a male appeal, more women are getting interested in the spirit.
Former UK Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher is perhaps the most well-known advocate, who enjoyed a glass or two of Scotch herself at the end of a hard day’s night while Dennis stuck to his G&Ts downstairs.
In getting Scotch sales going in the pub initially, it might be worth drafting in the expertise of your local off-licensee in helping set up a Scotch-tasting session for one of the quieter Monday or Tuesday nights.
That way both off-licence and publican could benefit from the interest acquired in Scotch as a result. And there’s a huge selection of different styles of Scotch to choose from.