Whether you’re a novice whisky drinker or a seasoned professional passionate about infusing just the right flavors into your brew, you can enjoy World Whisky Day on the third Saturday in May, or May 18, this year. The fact is, whiskey is a historical classic that’s been distilled with care for over 500 years. The beverage of kings and peasants alike for generations, whisky is easily poured between friends and can be the catalyst to make some great memories. If you’re a whisky lover, today is the perfect excuse to celebrate with a top-shelf glass and some pals!
History of World Whiskey Day
The ‘water of life’ has had a storied past. The first evidence of distillation — the essential process for creating whisky — dates back to Mesopotamia around 2000 B.C. It wasn’t until 100 A.D. that Alexander of Aphrodisias created the first recorded instance of distillation — he distilled seawater to make it into pure drinking water! Distillation techniques for whisky wouldn’t come around until around 1100, at the earliest, when monks traveling into Scotland fermented grain mash and created the first instance of the beverage.
However, the first year in which whisky was officially mentioned as a distilled product was in 1405. It’s written in a family’s history that someone in their clan died after drinking too much at Christmas. Over the next hundred years, whisky distillation became widespread in Scotland. Later, when King Henry VIII of England disbanded monasteries, many monks made their living by selling the whisky they distilled to the general public. Soon, whisky was available to all!
From as early as the 1600s, Scottish immigrants to the new American colonies brought distillation practices with them, and whisky was available quite early in North America. Around the same time, the first whisky distillery in Ireland was officially licensed, in 1608. Whisky made another notable appearance in the 1770s and 1780s, during the American Revolution, when it was so valuable that many distilleries actually used it as a currency.
To help fund Revolutionary War debt, the newly-formed American government imposed a whisky tax on the import and export of the product. This led to unrest between the government and the whisky farmers, eventually resulting in the Whisky Rebellion between 1791 and 1794. Though George Washington sent national forces to quell the Rebellion, the whisky tax remained a contentious issue until Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, when it was repealed.
Throughout the 19th century, there were many inventions and industrialization practices for whisky. For example, the ‘continuous still’ and the ‘Coffey still’ modernized the distillation process and allowed for much more cheap and efficient production of whisky. The beverage made it through the American Prohibition thanks to a loophole — it was allowed as a medicinal product and was still sold in drugstores! Walgreens profited greatly off of being able to sell the spirit. Bourbon became incredibly popular around 1964 and, even today, whisky is a historic and well-loved alcohol around the world.
World Whiskey Day timeline
The first written record of distillation is written by Alexander of Aphrodisias, the Greek philosopher, who distills seawater to make it into drinking water.
Monks bring whisky distilling techniques to Ireland and Scotland.
When monasteries are disbanded in England by King Henry VIII, many monks find that distillation is a way for them to earn their living — whisky becomes more accessible to the public than ever.
During the American Revolution, whisky is very valuable and actually used by many distillers as a form of currency!
Weaving through Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York, the American whisky trail is launched to celebrate and promote historical sites for whisky.
World Whiskey Day FAQs
Are there other holidays on May 15?
Yes! May 15 is also National Endangered Species Day, National Chocolate Chip Day, and National Pizza Party Day.
Are there other national holidays about alcohol?
Yes! National Margarita Day is on February 22, National Kahlua Day is on February 27, National Beer Day is on April 7, and National Vodka Day is on October 4 — there are even more!
Are there any World Whisky Day deals?
On the World Whisky Day website, there is merchandise for sale in honor of the holiday. Additionally, Jura Whiskey celebrates the day — check their website for World Whisky Day deals!
World Whiskey Day Activities
Taste-test fine whiskeys with friends
On World Whisky Day, treat yourself to a sip of an expensive, well-made whisky! Even better, invite your fellow whisky fanatic friends to sip alongside you. There’s nothing better than a drink with friends.
Post using #WorldWhiskyDay
This hashtag is well-used on World Whisky Day! Thousands of people participate in the holiday. Post a pic of your gorgeous glass or a shot of sipping with friends to boast your participation!
Read up on whisky
Do you know your tulip from your tumbler? Did you even know those were whisky glasses? There’s a lot to learn about this beverage of life, so read up on peated whisky, whisky glasses, whisky cocktails, and how whisky is made to celebrate the day!
5 Fun Facts About Whiskey
It’s from Gaelic’s term for ‘water of life’
The name ‘whisky’ is derived from the Gaelic word reading ‘uisge beatha’ — the term, that later became ‘uski,’ translates to ‘water of life.’
Beer becomes whiskey
Surprisingly, ‘wort,’ the distilled material for whisky, is essentially beer — it’s a mix of water, yeast, and malt.
2% is lost each year
Called the ‘angel’s pinch,’ the 2% of whisky that is lost from the barrels yearly is sometimes even a part of local customs.
Whisky can be over 150 years old
The oldest whisky in the world — bottled between 1851 and 1858 — is a 13.5-ounce bottle of Glenavon Special Liqueur Whisky.
Whisky exploited a Prohibition loophole
Unlike many of the alcohols banned during the American Prohibition in the early 20th century, whisky was considered medicinal and could be purchased at drug stores.
Why We Love World Whiskey Day
Whisky and alcohol distillation, in general, is incredibly complex and can yield subtle yet remarkable flavor differences. Today is a great day to teach your palate the subtleties of whisky flavors with a whisky flight, or tour a distillery to understand which flavors come from which processes.
For many, drinking a glass of whisky (especially with good pals) is an ideal way to relax. Take a load off on World Whisky Day and sip your problems away — it’s a great time!
Whisky is a timeless classic
Whisky has been beloved by anyone, from kings to commoners, for over 500 years. It’s a hobby, craft, and passion for many people who seek to brew the subtle flavors they love into it. It was even brewed by monks in the 1100s — whisky has clearly been a beloved classic drink throughout history.
World Whiskey Day dates