The perks of being a monk Credit: Joseph Haier, Wikimedia Commons
The perks of being a monk Credit: Joseph Haier, Wikimedia Commons

The best medicine? How whiskey became the cure for what ails you

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As Homer Simpson observed, alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems. At Scotchwhisky.com, Kirsten Amor examines the roots of whiskey as a miracle cure. 

It all began in Scotland, where records from the 1400s refer to aqua vitae, Latin for water of life. Local monasteries had learned distillation techniques via European scholars who got their skills from Arab and Moorish teachers. “The distillation of grain and fruits led to the discovery of alcohol and, given its roots in alchemy, this was viewed as a potential panacea for human maladies,” Amor notes. 

Drink two and call me in the morning

Starting on the island of Islay, one booze-savvy order of monks, the Beatons, became so-called masters of medicine to Scottish royalty. People soon figured out that aqua vitae could get them loaded, too, but it remained more popular as a cure-all.

 In 15th-century Scotland, if the doctor or folk healer mixed a medicinal cocktail to combat deafness or soothe a sore shoulder, chances are they added whiskey. And when duties on Scotch after the country’s 1707 union with England sparked a trade in moonshine, the farmers that produced it relied on a dram to treat colds, rashes and other hazards of their harsh lifestyle. We think we feel a cough coming on…🥃

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