Nationwide panic sets in as the terrible truth is revealed!
Jings, crivens, help ma boab! Whit's this? The amber nectar, the uisge beatha, the aqua vitae, the water of life is rinnin' oot? Whit's a mon tae dae on a Setirday efter the gemme? Ye cannae droon yer sorries at yet anither mingin' show by yon showir o' numpties ye ca' a fitba' team wi a gless o' watter! No even ''Scotland's ither national drink'' will dae. Am tellin' ye it's a richt scunner so it is!
|Photo by Guinnog/Wikimedia|
Two stories which came to light recently have sent shivers up and down the spines of Scotch whisky lovers worldwide. The most worrying one concerns the Inner Hebridean island of Islay and the amount of peat to be found there.
Whisky buffs will know that those malt whiskys produced on Islay are noted for their distinctive smoky, peaty character - a feature of the water and peat to be found on the island. Any whisky enthusiast will also be able to tell you that Islay is regarded as the ''jewel in the crown'' of whisky production in Scotland. It's nine distilleries lie in one of the five whisky distilling areas of Scotland which have their identity protected by law - only malt whiskys produced on Islay are entitled to be called ''Islay malts''. Even using exactly the same methods and processes if it isn't distilled on Islay it isn't a genuine ''Islay malt''.
So what's the problem with Islay?
Well, it's to do with the amount of peat which lies on the island. In the 1980s there was a report published on the amount of peat available for distilleries to use in the distilling of whisky but, apparently, the report got it wrong! There was a serious overestimation of the amount of peat on the island which lulled everyone into a false sense of security over whisky production on Islay.
Recent work on the feasibility of building a new distillery on Islay revealed that the amount of peat there is far less than originally estimated. In fact, some authorities believe that the peat stocks on Islay will run out well within the next ten years putting an end to the smoky, peaty whiskys distilled on the island. ''So what,'' you may say. ''Get peat from elsewhere and use that''. Unfortunately, that one probably won't work. There is indeed plenty of peat elsewhere in Scotland (and worldwide come to that) but peat isn't the same from locality to locality and it is the distinctiveness of Islay's peat which makes whisky distilled there so unique.
|Photo by Wojsyl at the Polish Language Wikipedia CC-BY-SA 3.0|
This potential problem has been known about by the distillers for some years now and a couple of the more forward-looking ones have started to move away from using peat in the distilling process so it will still be possible to buy an Islay malt into the foreseeable future and of course there are many other fine whiskys produced in Scotland so we aren't really ''rinnin' oot'' of the uisge beatha at all - thank heavens for that! Still, the wise Islay malt devotee may want to consider stocking up on Laphroaig while we still can.
More whisky misery!
I don't wish to pile even more misery onto worried whisky enthusiasts but there is another problem about Scotch whisky which is looming on the horizon involving a shortage of the older and rarer single malt whiskys from all over Scotland (not just those from Islay). All Scotch whiskys take at least three years to produce (this is the law in Scotland) and, of course, the older, more mature (and more expensive) whiskys, almost all of which are single malts, can take considerably longer - they are matured for up to 20 years or more for some.
|Photograph by Oyoyoy/Wikimedia CC-BY-SA 3.0|
Demand worldwide is growing for Scotch whisky and that demand is greatest for the top-of-the-range aged products but because these take so long to mature distilleries can't simply ''open the taps'' and distill more to meet this demand. Experts say that this shortage is already being felt and as a result availability is becoming restricted and prices are shooting upwards.
Fortunately, this situation will not last forever. In 10-15 years the problem will be solved when those aged malts currently maturing in barrels all over Scotland will be ready to be bottled and exported (which most Scotch whisky is) to customers all over the world. Let's hope they hold some back for a thirsty hillwalker in his dotage!
Sources: Wikipedia, in-text links