Whisky (or whiskey) is produced in various guises all over the world. Japanese Whisky, Irish Whiskey and American Whiskeys (including Bourbon) are challenging Scotch Whisky, with of them many winning notable awards and accolades. Meanwhile, whiskies from countries as diverse as India, Canada, Sweden, Wales, Taiwan and England are also becoming increasingly noteworthy in both quality and abundance.
The distillation process spread to Scotland and Ireland by the 15th century via Alexandrian Greeks, Medieval Arabs and Latin Europeans. The Scots and the Irish, who already had a well-developed tradition of farming cereal crops, used the technique to distil from a variety of fermented grain mashes to produce a spirit, most closely resembling today's new make spirits.
This spirit was used 'for medicinal purposes' for some time, but started to become widely adopted as a beverage of choice and a good way to use up excess grains, keeping them safe from the rats' clutches. Once the spirit started to be stored in oak barrels, it was noticed that this had the delightful consequence of providing flavour and colour, giving it a deeper and more mellow taste than the raw spirit. Today, whisky must be aged for at least 3 years in an oak Barrel before it can legally be called "whisky".
The process of distilling fermented grain mash and aging it in oak barrels to make Whisky (or whiskey) has spread the world and has resulted in a remarkable range of styles, including Single Malt Whisky, Blended Malt Whisky, Grain Whisky, Rye Whiskey and Blended Whisky (containing both Single Malt Whisky and Grain Whisky).