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The word “whisky” has its roots in the Gaelic language of Scotland and Ireland, where it was originally spelled “uisge beatha”. Image: 123RF

World Whisky Day – Celebrating “The Water Of Life”

Every year, on the third Saturday in May, the world celebrates World Whisky Day. That’s right! A day dedicated to the beloved and iconic spirit steeped in rich history and culture. So, grab your Glencairn glass and pour yourself a dram, as we dive into the backstory of this special occasion, the varieties of whisky and where to enjoy “the water of life” in Singapore.

Whisky is typically aged in wooden barrels. | IMAGE: UNSPLASH

What is whisky?

Whisky is a type of distilled spirit that is made from fermented grains, such as barley, corn, rye, or wheat. The exact recipe and production process can vary depending on the country of origin and the distillery, but the basic steps involve mashing the grains to create a sweet, liquid mash, fermenting the mash to create alcohol, and then distilling the alcohol to increase its strength and purity.

Whisky is typically aged in wooden barrels for a period of time, which can range from a few years to several decades. This ageing process gives whisky its distinctive flavour and aroma, with different types of barrels and aging conditions resulting in different flavours and characteristics.

Enjoyed by people the world over for its complex flavour profile, which can range from sweet and fruity to smoky and peaty, the spirit is often sipped neat or on the rocks, but can also be mixed in cocktails or used in cooking.


What’s in a name?

The word “whisky” has its roots in the Gaelic language of Scotland and Ireland, where it was originally spelled “uisge beatha” or “usquebaugh”. The term literally translates to “water of life”, which refers to the belief that whisky had medicinal properties and could help to cure various ailments. (For those of us dealing with horrible bosses… #truth)

The idea of whisky as “the water of life” is thought to have originated with the ancient Celts, who viewed it as a sacred drink with healing properties. In medieval times, whisky was often distilled by monks and used for medicinal purposes, including as a painkiller and a treatment for various digestive disorders.

Over time, whisky became more popular as a recreational drink, and its reputation as “the water of life” grew even stronger. Today, many people still view whisky as a special and even spiritual drink, with its complex flavours and rich history adding to its allure.

Also, “whisky” or “whiskey”?

Both spellings refer to the same type of spirit, but they are used in different regions. “Whisky” (with no “e”) refers to Scottish, Canadian or Japanese grain spirits, while “whiskey” (with an “e”) is used to refer to grain spirits distilled in Ireland and the United States.

World Whisky Day origins

The first World Whisky Day was celebrated on 20 May 2012, and founded by Blair Bowman (pictured above), who first came up with the idea for World Whisky Day in 2012, when he was a student at the University of Aberdeen. The then-21-year-old Scottish whisky enthusiast wanted to create an event that would bring people around the world together to celebrate whisky and all that it represents - tradition, craftsmanship, and conviviality.

Since its inception, World Whisky Day has grown into a global phenomenon, with whisky lovers in more than 140 countries participating in events and tastings. Bowman has become a leading voice in the whisky industry, advocating for greater transparency and education around the production and consumption of whisky.

In addition to his work with World Whisky Day, Bowman is also the author of several books on whisky, including “The Pocket Guide to Whisky” and “The Whisky Dictionary”. He has been recognised as a rising star in the whisky world, and his contributions to the industry have earned him a loyal following among enthusiasts and experts alike.


Different kinds of whisky

Scotch Whisky: Made in Scotland, Scotch is often considered the king of whiskies. It can be either single malt, made from 100% malted barley and distilled in pot stills, or blended, made from a combination of single malt and grain whiskies.

Irish Whiskey: Irish whiskey is known for its smoothness and sweetness. It is distilled three times and can be made from a blend of malted and unmalted barley.

Bourbon: Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is made from at least 51% corn and aged in charred oak barrels. It has a sweet, vanilla-like flavour and is often enjoyed in cocktails.

Canadian Whisky: Canadian whisky is typically a blend of corn, rye, barley, and wheat, and is known for its smoothness and light flavour.

Japanese Whisky: Japanese whisky has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. It is made using traditional Scottish methods and has a distinctively clean and delicate flavour. 

Whatever your preference, have a happy World Whisky Day and, as they say in Gaelic, sláinte!

6 places to enjoy whisky in Singapore

1. The Auld Alliance

Situated in the Rendezvous Hotel, The Auld Alliance boasts an impressive collection of over 1,500 whiskies from Scotland, Japan, Ireland, and more. They are known for their extensive selection of rare and vintage whiskies.

2. Quaich Bar

With three locations – at Havelock Road, South Beach Avenue, and Middle Road – this modern whisky bar offers over 500 different varieties of whiskies from around the world. They also offer whisky tasting events and workshops.


3. The Single Cask

Located in Chijmes, The Single Cask is a popular spot for whisky enthusiasts. They offer a wide range of independent bottlings, rare finds, and limited editions from various distilleries around the world.

4. The Swan Song

Located at 41A Boat Quay, The Swan Song is a speakeasy-style bar with a great selection of whiskies, cocktails, and live music. They are known for their signature cocktails made with whisky and other spirits.

5. The Wall

This Tanjong Pagar Road gem is a favourite for its cosy atmosphere and impressive selection of whiskies. They offer over 300 different varieties of whiskies from all over the world.

6. The Writing Club

This elegant bar in Palais Renaissance is a popular spot for after-work drinks and celebrations. They offer a curated selection of over 700 hand-picked labels of whiskies, including rare and hard-to-find bottles.

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