A HISTORY OF SCOTCH WHISKEY. Seth Porges has an article at the Popular Mechanics website (link via Instapundit) which gives an explanation for how Scotch whiskey arose in poor and remote places. Porges attributes much to happy accident. The drink used barley because the farmers had spare barley. They used peat to dry malt because it was available in the bogs and because the purchase of large amounts of coal could call attention to an illegal activity. The peat provided a distinctive flavor. The wood barrels were used because they were available for reuse. Reuse was important because the barrels are estimated to provide 70% of the flavor and the previous contents of the barrel (sherry, say) have a big influence on that flavor.

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