Whisky, like many other famous beverages, was produced by monks (this time in Ireland) starting with the 6th century. They called it “uisce beatha” (a direct translation into Celtic of the Latin phrase “aqua vitae”, the water of life). When the English troops occupied Ireland in the 12th century, they borrowed its beverage as well, but uisce gradually became whisky (whiskey), which, in turn, ended up being a generic term for several related spirits.
To boil it down to the bare minimum, whiskies are made up of water, cereals, and yeast and are distilled and aged in oak casks. The manner in which the ingredients are selected and handled determines the type and quality of each variety of whisky. This beverage is produced in many countries, yet in Ireland and Scotland it has been distilled ever since 1405 and 1496 respectively. In order to protect its whisky-making tradition, Scotland has patented the term “Scotch” (an English adjective meaning “Scottish”).
However, due to lacking technical know-how and precarious instruments, the results of the distillation process were quite rarely the same. Sometimes the whisky was too weak, other times it was too strong, and at times it even had a harmful effect on the health of consumers, ranging from ordinary headaches to blindness. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the distillation process was perfected, yielding the version still in use today.