Whiskey has a long and venerable history as one of the most recognizable forms of distilled spirits in the world.
The name for Whisk(e)y comes from the Gaelic language, where it was referred to as Uisce na Beatha, which means ‘The Water of Life’. It wasn’t long before the name was shortened to Uisce (Merely “Water”) and then the pronunciation slowly changed over time from Ish-Key, to Whiskey. And that pronunciation has remained ever since.
Now, it’s time to enjoy, share, and celebrate this day that is all about Whiskey!
History of International Whisk(e)y Day
The history of International Whiskey day is intrinsically tied to the history of the beverage, so that seems like a good place to begin. Whiskey is the result of a distillation process, a chemical/alchemical process known as far back in history as Babylon. While no one quite knows if they created a beverage quite as wonderful as modern-day whiskey, historians have confirmed that the process was available to them.
All whiskey starts with a ‘mash’, which is a mixture of grain and water that is slowly heated in order to break down the starch into sugars. The kind of grain that the maker uses will determine what kind of whiskey comes out as the end result. The result of this process is then known as wort and is just the beginning of this amazing drink’s life journey.
Aging in a barrel is usually part of the process as well. But the amount of time spent in the aging process is certainly worth it!
Here’s a quick rundown on the different types of grains that result in all of these unique types of whiskey beverages:
- Bourbon starts from a mash that is 51% or more corn base, though it becomes a Corn Whiskey once it reaches 81%.
- Malt whiskey is made from 51% malted barley.
- Rye is 51% plain rye.
- Wheat Whiskey, as one might suspect, is made from Wheat.
So where did International Whiskey Day come from? Well, it was first announced in 2008, and subsequently celebrated in 2009 at the Whiskey Festival in the Northern Netherlands.
This was all done in honor of a whiskey (and beer) connoisseur and writer, Michael Jackson. (No, not the King of Pop.) He was a man who was well known for his writings on Whiskey and who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. His whiskey-loving friends wanted to not only celebrate his love for whiskey but also help find a cure for this difficult disease. Since Michael’s birthday was March 27, the date is a nod to him.
So, the purpose of Whiskey Day isn’t just the raising of awareness of whiskey and its charms, although that is certainly a great reason. The purpose is also to spread awareness for Parkinson’s, a disease that whiskey aficionado, Michael Jackon, suffered from in his later years.
How to Celebrate International Whisk(e)y Day
The most obvious and practical way to celebrate this holiday is to either imbibe a favorite variety of Whiskey or to try a new one! Check out these ideas for celebrating Whisk(e)y Day:
Try a New Kind of Whiskey
Even better, get together with friends and introduce each other to your favorites, and maybe check out a few new vintages or styles. Look into these, for example:
- Irish Whiskey. Smooth, made from a mash of malt, caramel-colored, and must be distilled for at least 3 years in a wooden cask.
- Scotch Whisky (also called ‘Scotch’). Made with either malt or grain, must age in an oak barrel for 3 years.
- Canadian Whisky. Light and smooth with a high amount of corn, must be aged in a barrel for 3 years.
- Bourbon Whiskey. Made from at least 51% corn, aged in a new oak barrel, and must be 80 proof or higher. (Tennessee Whiskey is a sub-type of bourbon with special filtering step.)
- Japanese Whisky. Methods and taste are similar to Scotch, often used with mixed drinks.
Learn How to Spell Whisk(e)y
It seems strange, but there are actually two correct ways to spell this word, depending on the context. Originally, Irish Whiskey included the ‘e’ and Scottish Whisky did not. Ultimately that carried out so that Americans adopted the ‘e’ version for their whiskey, but Canadians and Japanese Whisky makers did not! Thus, the correct, inclusive spelling is: International Whisk(e)y Day!
Grab a Whiskey at a Pub or Bar
Many different bars and pubs have gotten on board with celebrating Whisk(e)y Day. They’ll often provide drink specials, food specials, and possibly even opportunities to win door prizes–such as a special bottle of whiskey. So grab a friend and head over to the pub for a drink of whiskey (or beer will do just as well)!
Introduce Whisk(e)y to a Newbie
What could be more fun than opening up the world (and a bottle) to someone who has never tried whiskey before? Although it might be hard to imagine, many people are out there who are new to whiskey and have no idea how to enjoy it. Grab one of them, open a bottle, and reveal to them the myriad of reasons why Whisk(e)y Day is absolutely worth celebrating!
Donate to a Parkinson’s Disease Charity
Don’t forget to make a donation to your favorite Parkinson’s charity while you’re at it! Team Fox, the charity created by actor Michael J. Fox, who lives with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease, often teams up with various Whiskey Day folks to build momentum for celebrating the day and raising funds for the charity.
While you’re at it, be sure that everyone gets home safely. The best way to celebrate International Whiskey Day is drinking responsibly, and making sure everyone can talk about it again tomorrow!