Most drinkers hardly ask themselves ‘what is Scotch whisky’ and whether it is really important to know. Scotch whisky is a grain or malt whisky specifically distilled in Scotland and commonly referred to as just Scotch. Originally, Scottish whisky was distilled from malted type of barley with rye and wheat whiskies introduced just before the turn of the 19th century.
For it to be considered ‘Scotch whisky’ it must be aged for a minimum of three years inside oak barrels. The age of the whisky appearing on the bottle in numerals simply shows the age of the youngest type of whisky utilised in making the Scotch whisky. Age statement is important and any whisky that comes with it is considered a guaranteed age scotch. There are five clear categories of Scottish whisky. This includes Single malt and single grain types, blended malt, blended Scotch whisky and blended grain type of Scotch whisky.
There is something about scotch that gives a refined air, no matter the occasion. Typically, a good brand of scotch is brought out in situations requiring eloquent speaking, serious thinking, or celebrating. So what is it about this refined spirit that makes it so revered among drinkers all around the world? To answer that, we need to go to its beginning.
While many believe that scotch can be made anywhere, that is quite the opposite! In order to be true scotch, it must be made in Scotland. Scottish whisky is produced and labeled within three regions of Scotland, the Highlands, Lowlands, and Speyside according to the regulations put forth by the Scotch Whiskey Regulations in 2009. Scotch beings as one of two types, and from there they can be blended into masterful drams. No matter where the spirit will end up, it will be aged in a charred oak barrel for at least three years, although ten years is typical. Single Malt- Single malt means that there was only water and barley that went into your dram. It was made in singular batches using pot stills, which is a more old fashioned method of distilling spirits. Single Grain- The title in itself is a little confusing, because while it is made at only one distillery, in addition to water and malted barley, there can be other whole grains or unmalted cereals. What Defines Blended Scotch To have proper blended scotch, you take two different batches, flavors, or even casks from a different distillery all together and blend them together. You can even blend different ages of whisky as long as you put the age of the youngest whisky on the bottle.You may be confused by the name scotch. So, let us define it before we proceed. Scotch refers to distilled spirits made from cereal grains and malted barley. This type of whisky is native to Scotland and holds a significant part of the Scottish exports. The production of such whisky must meet certain legal standards plus it is also required that the Scotch takes at least three years in the oak barrels for it to be considered mature. These are the rules that define real scotch!
What Makes The Best Scotch While there are many theories about why each distillery can produce their own line, it comes down to simple aspects. Many of the times, these distilleries were handed down through the generations, so the tasks that need to be done will be completed differently from family to family. Other than that, it also has to do with the peat that is used to heat the stills where the barley ferments. However, one of the most agreed on factor is water. Since each region is located on various rivers, each has been able to pick up various minerals, salt, and so on. Top Shelf Drams When it comes to choosing your spirit, you need to think of the occasion. At one point, the liquor you had in your home was a part of your status, thankfully, we have come away with the standard, and now, we can have some of the most luxurious drinks on the market. Housewarming- Scotch is a well-known gift for new homeowners, new parents, and most occasions where a more lighthearted feel is desired. Johnnie Walker Red Label, Bell’s, and Label 5. Business Venture- If the mood is serious, your Scottish whiskey should be too. To stock your office, consider Johnnie Walker Black Label, Chivas Regal, or even Ballantine’s to be your drink of choice. Night-Out- Whisky is becoming more popular at bars, being mixed into cocktails. Although this is not a new practice, the Beatles used to mix their whisky with coke, it was typically just drank on the rocks. If you would rather not have a cocktail, you can still try Dewars Highland Honey, Grant’s or even the Bacardi-owned line, William Lawson’s. No matter the occasion, there is a scotch to match the mood and the environment you are looking to achieve. There will always be a quest for the best single malt...but it's truly a matter of preference.
Macallan on nosing and Scotch tasting.
The best way to drink scotch will always be the way that you enjoy the most. While some purists may suggest that you are required to enjoy your Scotch in a neat fashion, that is not always the case. Having your Scotch with a dash of water or an ice cub if it's what you prefer is completely acceptable. If you are enjoying something truly rare an exceptional perhaps try it neat first to see if it appeals to your pallet. When you have landed on the best Scotch whiskey for you it will most likely be one that requires little no water or ice and you will be able to sip it at your leisure.
Single malt Scotch whisky refers to a product that has been made in one distillery and does not refer to the product from a single barrel or batch but just a single specified distillery. A good example is a Lagavulin single malt that might contain various brands from various barrels distilled within the same distillery; the whiskies must have been produced within the same distillery. A blend refers to a mixture of two whiskies or more contained in a single bottle and sold as one. A good number of single malts are mostly blends, meaning that they have been mixed from various whiskies. Also note that a single barrel Scotch simply refers to a bottle produced from a single type of whisky barrel and hardly mixed with other types of whiskies. The color, aroma, flavor and other traits are different from one barrel to the next and thus any barrel release gives an original product. It means that a single-barrel scotch from one barrel is not the same as a whisky from another release. If you love Scottish whisky blends, you might want to know they fall mostly within the categories of blended Scotch whiskies, blended grain scotch whiskies and blended malt scotch whiskies. Blended Scotch whisky is generally a mix of grain and malt whiskies collected from a number of distilleries with such common brands as Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker and Cutty Sark falling within this category. Blended grain scotch is a product of single grains from diverse distilleries and famous for being mild and light although exceptional whiskies made from grain exist, such as Hedonism from Compass Box. Previously known as vatted malts, blended malt Scotch whisky is a single malt blend from at least two distilleries. What happens is that a company buys different malt scotch whiskies to blend and comes up with a unique product with specific characteristics such as the emphasized smoky, rich peat flavor of Peat Monster from Compass Box.
Different types of Scotch Generally speaking, Scotch whiskey has different variations depending on the ingredients. Due to such variations different types of Scotch whisky exist in the market. The two basic types of Scotch whiskey are: Single malt scotch This kind of whisky is more expensive compared to the other types. Single malt is produced from a single distillery and boost as a whisky with 100% malt. It is made of water and malted barley as the primary ingredients. Single grain whiskey This refers to the Scotch whisky distilled at a one distiller just like the single malt. However, apart from the water and malted barley as ingredients, cereal grains either malted or unmalted may be included. It is light bodied making less heavy for the consumer. Note that, the term “single” does not literally refers to a single grain or malt used rather it refers to one distillery used for a whole production process. There are three types of blended Scotch whisky derived from the basic types. They include Blended malt whisky (Vatted Scotch whisky): This refers to the blend of two or more single malt whisky from different distilleries. Blended grain scotch: This is a mixture of two or more single grain scotch from varied distilleries. Blended scotch: This is the most popular type of whisky as it composes up to 90% of the all the whiskey manufactured in Scotland. It refers to a mixture one or more single grain whisky with a blend of one or more single match Scotch whisky. The blend is made in such a professional way such that it gives rises to a consistent brand identity.
Glenlivet's pursuit of the best single malt.
Scottish single malt whiskies are regionally grouped, initially in four regions of Campbeltown, Islay, Lowland and Highlands. Today there are five scotch regions
of Islay, Campbeltown, Highland, Speyside and Lowland. It’s however important to note that while the regions might be just five, any locality in Scotland can be used in the description of a whisky in case it has been entirely distilled within that exact locale. A good example is Oban Single Malt, specifically distilled on Oban instead of describing it as a Highland whisky.
Scotch whisky Regions Traditionally, Scotland was divided into four different regions. They include the Lowlands, Highlands, Campbeltown and Islay. The Lowland produces gentle sweet tasting scotch. There are three functional distilleries including Bladnoch, Glenkinchie and Auchentoshan. The Daftmill is an upcoming distillery though it has not yet achieved a successful first release. The Highland region produces soft scotch which is a bit “smoky”. The soft taste is attributed to the type of water available in the highlands.It has a couple of distilleries including Ben Nevis, Oban, Aberfeldy, Glendronach etc. The Speyside region was once part of the Highland region but it has evolved to be a distinct region. So far it has the largest number of distilleries in Scotland. Its distilleries are The Macallan, Cragganmore, Glenfiddich, The Glenrothes, etc. Campbeltown region produces ozoney with fresh tasting whiskey.The region was once the leading region with over 30 distilleries. Over time, some have collapsed and only of three of those distilleries are still operational. They include Glengyle, Glen Scotia and the Springbank distillery. Finally, the Islay region produces Scotch with a unique pungency which is attributed to the peaty character of the Scotch. The region has eight working distilleries and includes Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, Ardbeg, Lagavulin etc.
Brands of scotch whiskey As mentioned above, Scotland produces different kinds of Scotch. The five different regions produce distinct types of whiskey. No matter the close vicinity of the two distilleries, the Scotch can never be similar. Simply put, two random whiskies cannot be identical. Here are some of the popular Scotch brands Johnnie Walker Balentine’s Whyte and the Mackay Chivas Regal Teachers Haig Black and white
Top scotch brands:
Impressing Scottish whisky lovers with certain brands of scotch today is not easy considering the huge selection of whiskies available. You will find quality blends and single malts from different areas in Scotland. The attention of the scotch enthusiast is everything to a brand and some of them are going for their preserved casks to sell the most precious bottles you probably have never tasted. A good example is Glenfiddich 50-year old. Chances of ever accessing this scotch gold is next to impossible considering only five of its bottles were in the entire United States by 2010. Another top shelf scotch is the Glenlivet Cellar collection of 1973, one of the few whiskies sporting Alan Winchester (master distiller)’s signature. Only 240 bottles of the Glenlivet were release for the whole of United State’s market. Other top shelf scotch whiskies are generally from ghost distilleries long gone and no longer in operation. This includes the Port Ellen and Brora 30-year-olds; Ellen is smoky and a bit sweet while Brora is rich right of the taste buds.
The best Scotch to look out for If you just walked into a store and you are not certain which whisky to go home with, then you need not worry.
Macallan searching for best Scotch whiskey.
Here are some
top Scotch whiskies
that stand out on the shelf and go easy on your pocket:
Gordon and MacPhail Scotch.
It contains an eight-year-old Bunnahabhain content. It is a soft, creamy with lemon and light fruit taste.
Balverine Caribbean Scotch.
This whisky matures in rum barrels with contributes to the easy mouthfeel of a matured rum. It also has hints of an apple right at the finish.
The Aberfeldy Scotch.
It has a super smooth, clean mouthfeel with hints of a fruit taste. It brings forward a bouquet of richness and originality from start to finish and has an
of maple and vanilla, a true classic.
It has a touch of vanilla and butterscotch . You will notice a smoky and soft taste that
for a bit before coming back to it's sweetness from the introduction.
The Ledaig Scotch
It is the cheapest on the list. This Scotch starts off with peaty to pepper then leather taste. It may be a bit much for the first timer, but those who enjoy a Scotch a robust and thick finish will appreciate it's efforts to bring out deep flavors.
Touch of the vintage :
There are all kinds of scotch malt whiskies out there some with a price tag way up there. However, the rule of the thumb is that a good scotch is one that meets your personal taste. You’ll definitely find a number of best scotch brands worth a mention, starting with the Talisker 25-year-old with a generous, full palate and balanced with hot spices, syrup and delicious shortbread notes launched in 2004. Another is the Ardbeb Uigeadail, whose sherry butt and bourbon barrel give it a smoky yet sweet finish for the most stunning malt. The Mortlach 1971 32-year-old is a vintage delight released after three decades and a Speysides distil mostly under-rated. For a real down memory lane taste, think of the Bruichladdich 40-year-old distilled back in 1964 and aged along the Islay coast slowly inside bourbon casks. Other tasty vintage malts include the 1964 Black Bowmore, Highland Park 40-year-old, Glenfarclas 1955 50-year-old and the Dalmore 50-year-old whose casks were spread some time in the 1920s.
Masterly of scotch:
Whisky is now being produced virtually anywhere around the world from Japan, Switzerland, Australia to India. However, the more than half a millennium history of Scottish whiskies production has reached a mastery level-most of the stunning drams are still Scottish productions. There are so many expressions, vintages and brand varieties to select your scotch whisky from that finding a blend or single malt that speaks to your personal taste might take a lifetime. This is why the best types of Scotch whisky will still remain very subjective and sticking to your personal tastes is the wisest decision you will ever make. Nonetheless, there will always be that bottle consistently appearing in many people’s lips as most exceptional.
The bottom line is some distillers label their products as Scotch so as to create an illusion that presents that their drinks are of high quality. Remember to keep off untrustworthy distributors and keep in mind that quality whiskey depends on personal taste. Some will prefer Scotch with over eight years aging period and vice versa. Others will prefer Blended to single malt. The point is there is no single way of proving to say that a certain scotch is better than the other. In fact, there is no wrong method of drinking Scotch.
Before anyone goes on and says there are typos in the word “whisky”. In Scotland, Canada, and Japan, it is spelled as “whisky”. However, American and Irish distilleries will tend to use “whiskey”. While for most it is just a difference in spelling, for connoisseurs, it could give you better insight into your favorite drink. As the weather is getting colder, it is time to start working on the holiday spirits or just something to warm your spirit for the coming months. Scotch is an excellent, refined choice that is great on its own, or mixed. From a Hot Toddy to a Rob Roy, the choice is yours. You may prefer adding mineral water to your contents other than tap water to avoid the Chlorine compound present in water diluting the distinct flavor and aroma of your whisky. If you are a beginner, just try out on the options and settle for what you like. Have fun, savor the workmanship if your drink, and as always, drink responsibly.
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