For you Whisky Historians Out There – Moss Water

In the course of my research for the book, I came across an article from 1939, found in the New York Times. I’ve downloaded it and have made it available (Be warned, it is a pdf file).

The article is a longer piece about the state of whiskey post prohibition here in the United States. It goes to explain what defines the various whiskeys available to the public at that time. The time frame of this article is notable in that it precedes the legal definitions set forth by America (which defined what constituted “bourbon” in the late 1940′s) and the United Kingdom (who defined Scotch in the early 1960′s I think – I’ll have to look it up – and then updated it in 1990).

So from a historical point of view, this article provides some insight into the industry at that time.

Now, the part that really caught my attention was the following:

Good Scotch whisky, according to good Scotch drinkers, owes its individual quality to four contributing factors: the moss-water with which the mash is mixed, the barley malt which makes the mash, the peat over which the barley is dried and the aging in the sherry casks.

The barley malt and the drying over the peat are well known processes for Scotch Whisky. But the other two activities are quite notable.

Aging in sherry casks is known today, but it’s not the prevalent standard. Typically, the Scotch whisky industry uses used bourbon casks to age their spirits. Only a minority of distillers use sherry casks anymore, some using them throughout the aging process, others only finishing the whisky in sherry casks.

But the real item that caught my eye was that the mash was mixed into moss-water.

I’ll let you all digest that for a moment.

There are several questions that this brings to my mind. What flavor component did using moss water add? When one considers the act of distillation, did moss water actually add any flavor? Why did they stop using moss water?

Any one have any hypothesis?