Something that began centuries ago as a way of using up rain-soaked barley after a wet harvest, the whisky industry has now grown into one of the country's biggest earners, bringing billions of pounds into the economy every year.
Scotch whisky is whisky made in Scotland. In the United States, it is often referred to as "Scotch". In Britain, the term whisky is usually taken to mean Scotch unless otherwise specified. Scotch Whisky is divided into five distinct categories: Single Malt, Blended Malt, Single Grain, Blended Grain, and of course Blended Scotch Whisky. The most popular whiskies you are likely to try are either blended whisky or a single malt whisky.
Like wines - and many other drinks - the single malts of Scotland are grouped by region. As with wines, these regions offer a guideline rather than a rule. Within Bordeaux, a particular Pomerol, for example, might have a richness more reminiscent of Burgundy; similar comparisons can be made in Scotland.
The regions in Scotland, the Lowlands, the Highlands, Speyside, Campbeltown and the island of Islay have their origins in the regulation of licences and duties, but they do also embrace certain characteristics.
More than 30 great whisky-related events took place during 2009 as part of Whisky Month in May. This unique month-long celebration of Scotland's famous national drink meant that whisky lovers from across the world were spoilt for choice in 2009.