Scotch whisky, originally made from malted barley, evolved from a Scottish drink called uisge beatha, Gaelic for "lively water" or "water of life". Though nobody knows when or how whisky first came to Scotland, according to the Exchequer Rolls (records of royal income and expenditure) of Scotland, Scotch whisky was first legally distilled in 1494. There is an excellent history of Scotch whisky here.
Scotch whisky is made from malt or grains, is distilled as either single malt, single grain or blended whiskies, must be made in Scotland and must be aged in oak barrels a minimum of three years.
There are three categories of Scotch whisky. Single malt (only water and malted barley made at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills), Single grain (made at a single distillery but, in addition to water and malted barley, may involve whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals), and Blended. Blended Scotch whiskys are defined by whether they are Blended malt Scotch whisky (a blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from different distilleries), Blended grain Scotch whisky (a blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies from different distilleries), or Blended Scotch whisky (a blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies.)
What's the deal with whisky versus whiskey? It's all a matter of geographics, the Scots prefer whisky while we Americans and the Irish use whiskey. As for bourbon versus whiskey that's another mash-up.
For those of you who don't drink their scotch neat, on the rocks or with a bit of water or soda here are my riffs on some Scotch cocktail classics:
National Scotch Day is July 27th, International Scotch Day is held in February.
"Set up another case bartender! The best thing for a case of nerves is a case of Scotch.”
- W. C. Fields