When it comes to choosing fine malt whisky there are 4 things you need to know. In order of importance they are:
- the quality of the cask in which the whisky has been matured
- whether the whisky has been chill filtered
- the age of the whisky
- whether additives have been added
Whisky is stored in wooden casks, usually made of white oak. Presuming the spirit is being matured in a quality cask, there is complex interaction between the wood and the spirit. This interaction is a slow. The harsher flavours of the whisky are softened over time. The age of the malt whisky is an important factor in the quality of the final product though whisky doesn’t necessarily always continue to improve with age.
Generally you will be looking for a minimum of 10 year old whisky.
According to the Scotch Whisky Association, Scotch whisky evolved from a Scottish drink called uisge beatha, which means "water of life". The earliest record of distillation in Scotland occurred as long ago as 1494, as documented in the Exchequer Rolls, which were records of royal income and expenditure