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Scotch Whisky and Storytelling

February 18, 2020 5 min read

Balvenie Distillery, Speyside

Whisky and Storytelling

Stories tell us who we are, where we come from, and our connection to one another, and to the land.

The ethos of Scottish storytelling is defined by its spirit of generosity and openness, is instilled with the belief that stories, above all, are gifts to be freely given and passed on.

In the deepest sense, these stories, speak to the heart and are an education for living. In gathering and forging new stories, storytellers honour the conviction that they are passing on precious gifts and the art to make them as beautiful as possible while sharing and fashioning them carefully to the listeners.


The History of Whisky

In Scotland Whisky is more than just a mere spirit to be enjoyed with family and friends, it is a passion and a tradition infused with history, stories, and the presence of true human lives

The term ‘whisky’ derives originally from the Gaelic ‘uisge beatha’, or ‘usquebaugh’, meaning ‘water of life’ (Gaelic is that branch of Celtic spoken in the Highlands of Scotland).

Understanding the Difference Between Whisky and Whiskey

The main difference between whisky and whiskey is, of course, the spelling. This reflects the original Scots and Gaelic derivations of 'Uisce beatha', with each variation being carried through to modern use. Irish immigration to America in the 18th century means that we also refer to American 'whiskey' spelled with an e.

In order to be officially called Scotch whisky:

  • The spirit needs to mature in oak for at least three years
  • Production and maturation must take place in Scotland.
  • Single malt Scotch whisky must be made from 100% malted barley.

Balvenie Core Range

Balvenie Single Malt Whisky

Scotch Whisky & Its History

 The story of Scotch begins as early as the 15th century. The earliest documented record of distilling in Scotland occurred in 1494 in the tax records of the day, the Exchequer Rolls.  An entry lists “Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae.”

Friar John was in luck – this was enough malted barley to produce almost 1,500 bottles of a potent spirit that would be refined and improved in the years ahead.

By the 1820s, as many as 14,000 illicit stills were being confiscated every year, and more than half the whisky consumed in Scotland was being enjoyed without the taxman taking his cut.

Scotland's most famous tax collector was, of course, Robert Burns - Scotland's bard.  He trained as an exciseman before turning his attention to writing some of Scotland's most loved poetry and storytelling. 

Robbie Burns

Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.


In 1920, prohibition was introduced in the United States. Whisky was exempt, as long as it was prescribed by a doctor for medicinal purposes.  Some famous faces used this to their advantage... I'm sure one of our current politicians with a similar name would encourage the same diagnosis!

Winston Churchill Whisky Prescription

 Whisky in Recent Times

For 20 years William Grant nurtured a dream to make the ‘best dram in the valley’. With the help of his family, he finally achieved that vision. In the summer of 1886, with his seven sons and two daughters by his side, William set out to fulfill a lifelong ambition. Together they began building his Distillery by hand, stone by stone. On Christmas Day in 1887 the first spirit ran from the stills.

Grant named it Glenfiddich, Gaelic for Valley of the Deer and where the famous logo comes from. Glenfiddich is one of the few single malt distilleries to remain entirely family-owned and is now the World’s Most Awarded Single Malt Scotch Whisky, a true reflection of its founder’s innovative nature, passed down through the generations.

In 1892, William Grant & Sons bought a second neighbouring Distillery called Balvenie. In 1898, the two distilleries started blending their whiskies and Grant's Whisky was "born".

While on the one side very traditional, the company has also been very innovative. The company was allegedly the first to market Scotch whisky abroad and was the first to open up its distillery to visitors.


The Balvenie Distillery is built on the stories that are told from each generation of craftsmen to the next. Indeed, it is their lifeblood and how they pass on what they know, how they process experiences, and how new ideas are created.

Balvenie Distillery

Balvenie Distillery 

The Balvenie is unique among single malts due to its natural alchemy and centuries-old craftsmanship, The whisky-making process is dedicated to maintaining the ‘Five Rare Crafts’ as it is the only distillery in Scotland that still grows its own barley, uses traditional floor maltings and keeps both a coppersmith and a team of coopers on site.

Balvenie Stories Range of Whisky

The Balvenie Stories range is a collection of single malt whiskies representing tales of character, endeavour, and craft. Each whisky produced by The Balvenie tells a human story, evolving with the protagonists and developing unexpected twists through years of maturation.

Each whisky is accompanied by an audiobook which brings to life the story behind each expression, through a series of conversations between The Balvenie’s craftsmen and The Balvenie Global Ambassador Gemma Paterson.

These conversations were recorded at locations significant to the narrative of each tale, including at The Balvenie Distillery and as far afield as Kelvin Cooperage, Kentucky. Each audiobook concludes with David Stewart and Kelsey McKechnie sharing a dram of some of the very first bottles of The Balvenie Stories with the craftsmen who created them.

Find and enjoy the Balvenie stories at https://www.thebalvenie.com/balvenie-stories/?url=/balvenie-stories

The Balvenie Story Range is characterised and distinguished by the following:

  • It is mellowed over time for a warming, distinguished finish
  • It is matured in fine Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks for 18 years
  • Only the most exceptional casks are hand-selected to nurture the whisky
  • Married in large wooden tuns for three months for the rich flavour to develop
  • The rich taste with notes of orchard fruit, dates and oak

See more below about our evening that showcases the Story Range with Ross Blainey.

Slàinte Mhath!

Raising a glass is common practice in many pubs, bars and gatherings, whether it’s for celebration, commiseration or simply because it’s the end of a long week. There are so different ways to say "cheers" in many countries all over the world, however, in Scotland, it’s Slàinte Mhath!

The term Slàinte Mhath (Pronounced Slanj-a-va) is actually both Irish and Scots Gaelic. The way the phrase is pronounced is the same for both dialects, however, the way it is spelled differs subtly. The Irish spell it Slàinte Mhaith. The phrase translates to "Good health" in both dialects, and if you want to respond to this using Scots Gaelic, you would say, "do dheagh shlainte" meaning "to your good health."

So, whatever you call Scotland’s national drink, and whichever Scotch you discover, you know that it is a product of quality, crafted in Scotland, with a unique heritage stretching back more than 500 years and integral to the art of Scottish Storytelling.

 Join us for the first of our exclusive Scottish events with a Night of Stories & Whisky on the 4th of March 2020 at the Kingsland Social in Auckland.

We are thrilled to be joined by Ross Blainey - The Balvenie Brand Ambassador, for Australia and New Zealand who will take us on a fascinating journey that captures the best of Scotland and the Whisky we love! 

Ross Blainey Balvenie Ambassador

Ross Blainey.

Ross will also be showcasing in the range, a Whisky from Balvenie - not yet seen in New Zealand and you will enjoy the deliciousness of nibbles created by Phil’s Kitchen. Tickets are limited so get in now to ensure you don’t miss a fabulous night. Tickets and further details are available here. 








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