How To Drink Whisky Some Facts
Scotch malt whiskies have a long tradition. For centuries, Scotlands people, both Highland and Lowland, produced uisge beatha water of life, long before it became an internationally-renowned drink.
Now, malt whiskies are one of the most important and characteristic Scottish exports.
There is still an element of mystery about the making of malt whisky from the simple ingredients of barley, water, yeast and sometimes, peat smoke.
And, its a mystery or mystique that is talked up and made much of by every whisky distillery in Scotland with a visitor centre.
Whisky or Whiskey?
If you already know that whisky is the stuff made in Scotland while whiskey is made in Ireland and in the USA, then you may also know most of the next few paragraphs but lets go back to basics for a moment.
Malt and grain whiskies
There are two main types of whisky malt and grain. Malt whiskies, which connoisseurs claim have a more sophisticated flavour and bouquet and hence fetch a higher price, are made with malted barley.
Malted barley is grain that has been allowed to sprout, then hot air dried. Maltings are the industrial plants which undertake this process, these days mostly away from the distilleries themselves.
Grain whisky also contains malted barley, along with unmalted barley and maize. Both types are used in the whisky blending process.
Malt whisky areas of Scotland
Malt whiskies are sometimes grouped as Highland, Lowland, Islay and Campbeltown .
Scotch Whiskey Single Malt With Ice
Adding ice to your drink will give you a chilled whiskey, which you can enjoy during summer days. We suggest you always put a large cube of ice instead of crushed ice. Small pieces of ice will dilute the drink more quickly, and you will not enjoy its flavours.
Adding ice to your single malt scotch whisky is a debatable topic. Some say using ice dilutes the whiskeys original flavour, and you will not enjoy the whiskey as much. These people will say that Whisky at room temperature will give you its most pungent taste as compared to drinking a chilled glass, whose coldness and water might numb your tongue to the real flavour.
Others argue that chilled whiskey gives better flavour and aroma. Whatever you choose, make sure that if you add ice, the water source should be pure, and the ice cubes should be as large as possible.
Best For Delicate Peat
Kilchoman Sanaig Single Malt Whisky 70cl, 46% ABV, £49.45
For more youthful, non-age statement supping, turn your tastebuds to Islay and the Kilchoman distillery, a relative whisky whippersnapper having been founded in 2005. The spirit that makes Sanaig has spent time in both oloroso sherry and bourbon casks, and this double-barrelled approach has delivered sweet peach and citrus flavours alongside some leathery dried fruits, with a light, peaty smoke that turns to ash at the finish. Give this one a chance and you wont be disappointed.
Dewars Aberfeldy 40-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky 50.1%, £2,325
40 years residing in casks has made this limited-edition release so smooth and mellow that it makes other perfectly decent whiskies seem like dodgy moonshine in comparison. It has an incredibly alluring aroma of sweet lillies and you can taste soft grain flavours throughout, while those four decades have relaxed the oakiness into soothing cinnamon and clove. To make it that extra bit special, you can even arrange to bottle your whisky at the distillery where theyll provide you with an extra dram to taste before youre ready to uncork your expensive purchase. To get a taste of Aberfeldys whisky without dropping a couple of grand, then its excellent honey-sweet 12-year-old and 16-year-old expressions are well worth exploring.
Old Pulteney 25 Year Old, 46%, £379.99
Laphroaig Quarter Cask Single Malt Whisky, 48%, £34.49
Tomatin 1977 42-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky, 49%, £2,895
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Start Your Own Ritual: What Next
So, there you have it: our guide to providing a proper experience when you serve single malt Scotch Whisky. As your experience and enjoyment progresses, youll find your own techniques and rituals to make Scotch even more special.
As mentioned in the beginning of this guide, now that youve learned to serve, consider reading up on properly tasting whisky as well as some of our other guides:
Where Does Single Malt Whisky Come From
The most famous Single Malt Whisky in the world is from Scotland, though Single Malts can be made anywhere Whisky is produced. Most Whiskies are blends, while a Single Malt is made from roasted malted barley, and it’s produced at one distillery.
Historians believe that Whisky-making started with monks in Ireland, who began distilling the beer they made. They shared this distillation technique with monks in Scotland in the 13th or 14th century. Most distillers were small operations, quietly making spirits in pot stills to avoid paying taxes to the English monarchy. In the early 1800s, many Scotsman were imprisoned for illegally making and selling Whisky. By 1840, it was cheaper to get a distilling license, so more distilleries opened. Scotland has plentiful freshwater with low iron content, a key ingredient for making a smooth distilled spirit.
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Should I Add Water To Whisky
and other agonising protocols. In Scotland, you may encounter good-natured discussion on how to drink whisky: that is, with or without water, or with various mixers.
Naturally, there is no absolutely correct way though many within the trade would suggest that the addition of a little water helps bring out the complex flavour.
Some enthusiasts prefer their whisky neat.
What About Ginger Or Soda?
The addition of ginger as a mixer either as aerated water or ginger wine is still with us, though not altogether approved of in some conservative whisky drinking circles.
In the UK, at least, whisky and soda has a clubby, cravat-wearing air about it. I actually like a blended whisky that way, except for the cravat bit.
Heres A Whisky Tip
A good tip on whisky protocol: if your host in Scotland offers you a glass of whisky, check, if you can, whether or not he or she is offering you an everyday blend or a more expensive single malt.
If a malt, recognisable by a single distillery name, eg Glenfiddich, Highland Park, Lagavulin etc, then your host may show slight annoyance or amusement if you drink it with anything other than water!
Whats Sweet Vermouth Exactly
Vermouth is a fortified wine, meaning that liquor has been added. Make sure to store vermouth in the refrigerator: it stays good there for up to 3 months. There are two main types of vermouth: sweet and dry . Heres a bit more about sweet vs dry vermouth:
- Sweet vermouth is subtly sweet and spicy, with a hit of bitter on the finish. It features in many classic cocktails like the Negroni, Americano, and Manhattan.
- Dry vermouth: Dry white vermouth is used in martinis, like the Classic Martini and Dirty Martini.
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Best Peated: Ardbeg Uigeadail
Region: Islay | ABV: 54.2% | Tasting Notes: Peat, Spice, Oak
If you like peated whisky, this is one of the best out there for sure, says Kurpinsky. Ardbeg is something of an Islay cult favorite, particularly appealing to true lovers of smoky whisky. The flavor of this Scotch comes from burning peat to dry out the barley and stop the malting process, which infuses the grain with smoke. This bottling, named after a local loch, has all the maritime salinity you come to expect from the distillery literally on the water, but also has one of the most satisfying finishes in Islay, adds Kurpinsky. You’ll get plenty of smoke, dried fruits, fresh coffee, dark sugars and that bit of sea salt.”
Region: Islay | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Black Tea, Smoke
McCoy is a big fan of Lagavulin, an Islay distillery that produces some nicely peated scotch. The 16-year-old expression, aged in second-fill ex-bourbon barrels, might be a little pricey, but its well worth the splurge. one of my all-time favorites from Islay, says McCoy. Big peat smoke, spice, sherry and notes of soft wood and black teadelicious all by itself while you’re unwinding next to the fire.
Enhancing The Scotch Drinking Experience
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Make Sure The Single Malt Has The Right Color
You can easily pour your whiskey in a transparent glass and thoroughly check the color of the single malt whiskey. The maturity level of your whiskey determines the darkness of the color. However, most drinkers think that color shows how many years have passed for your whiskey to mature in the cask.
This is not true and there are many analyses against that argument.
Tips For Learning To Love Single Malt Scotch
The Balvenie malt master David Stewart dilutes cask samples with water to enhance the Scotch… whisky’s aromas.
Single malt Scotch: its a symbol of style, class, and sophistication. Fine-suited gentlemen order it at the bar, and professors sip it alongside a cigar and a hearty fire. Its a go-to gifting option, and no bar cart is complete without a bottle or two. It almost feels like those who dont drink single malt Scotch are unrefined in a way, their palates not yet attuned to the nuances of this high-class beverage.
Upon asking several friends and colleagues some well-versed in the world of alcoholic beverages, some not what they thought about single malt Scotch, the responses were similar. I want to love single malt Scotch, they said, but I just dont know how! This seems counterintuitive if so many people revere single malt Scotch, why it it so difficult to learn to love? Luckily, Lorne Cousin, national brand ambassador for The Balvenie, a Scotch distillery in Speyside, was eager to share some of his tips for single malt Scotch newbies. As he demonstrated , any person can learn to enjoy single malt Scotch whisky.
All Scotch whisky must age for at least three years in used barrels, like these in The Balvenie’s… Speyside cellars.
Start with an unpeated Scotch.
Seek out single malts from Speyside or the Lowlands.
Know how to smell a Scotch.
Dont be afraid to add some water.
But try not to drink it on the rocks.
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Find Out How Old Your Scotch Whiskey Is
Many myths and legends will tell you that older scotches are typically the best kinds to drink, but dont believe everything you here. If youre a new scotch drinker, you may actually enjoy older ones more than others, as its usually smoother and a little more mild to drink. For those who are looking for a stronger and bolder scotch whiskey, go for a drink thats younger.
What Is A Single Malt Scotch
While whiskey is made all over the world, Scotch can be called Scotch only if it is made and bottled in Scotland alone.
Single malt scotch is made from a single distillery. It is made only from malted barley and water, and aged in Oak barrels, whereas whiskeys, can be made from barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, corn, and wheat and matured in Charred white oak.
Remember one golden rule: all Scotch is whiskey, but not all whiskey is Scotch.
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How To Make Honey Syrup
Honey syrup is simple syrup made with honey instead of granulated sugar. Its seriously easy to whip up a batch: and it adds a rich depth to cocktails of any kind. Heres what to do:
Pouring Single Malt Scotch Whisky
When you select your glassware, ensure beforehand that its cleaned and that there are no traces of lint. Bits of fluff in the glass after hand-drying can affect the flavour, which is why air drying is always the best approach.
When youre ready, simply tip the bottle and pour. How much is up to you.
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Visiting Malt Whisky Distilleries
Visiting whisky distilleries is a popular part of the Scottish visitor experience and they are great places to learn about the mystique of Scotlands national drink.
As explained below, at malt whisky distilleries, visitors are given the opportunity to learn about the industry.
Tours, audio-visual presentations and sampling the product are the essential ingredients. Many visitor centres at distilleries have a shop and a café or restaurant.
Sometimes the admission price to the tour is refundable against the purchase of a bottle of malt whisky.
Though the basic format involves a dram at the end, some whisky distilleries offer sophisticated tutored tastings not only of malt whisky of different ages, but also give an opportunity to learn about the different whisky regions of Scotland and the blending process.
At Glengoyne, for example, their range of tours and tastings includes a Master Blended Session that allows you to assemble a blended whisky according to your own individual taste.
You take away 100 cc of properly labelled whisky at the end of the session.
Glengoyne is also easily accessible from Glasgow, and is close to Loch Lomond and hence is popular with visitors based in the city but looking for an excursion that could take in Loch Lomond too.
Glenkinchie is the nearest or most convenient malt whisky distillery to visit if based in Edinburgh.
Tucked away in the rich East Lothian countryside it is a classic Lowland malt that follows the usual visit format.
Try An Unpeated Scotch First
Have you taken a drink of scotch or whiskey and felt there was too much smokiness? Thats called peat and is usually a defining characteristic of scotch. If youre still starting out in the scotch tasting game, try scotch that is only lightly peated or unpeated all together. This can be easier for beginner scotch whiskey drinkers to get started with to familiarize yourself with the taste of scotch whiskey as you eventually move up to bolder flavors.
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The Macallan 12 Double Oak
Macallan is one of the most well-known and highly regarded brands. They spend extra time on maturation and perfecting those flavors, often aging in ex sherry casks. So their drams have a spicy flavor. I wouldnt recommend it as your very first sip, but it should be required drinking for beginner scotch lovers. Try it after a few of the others, but do try it!
The Styles Of Scotch:
A beginners guide to scotch isnt much good without discussing the taste of scotch. Of course, scotch has such wide variety in flavor and style we dont have an easy answer.
The most common method for deciding which scotch style or flavor is most to your taste is to look at location. Like wines absorb terroir of a region, certain scotches from certain regions have similar characteristics.
This means if you want a particular flavor, your best bet is to find a location that matches your flavor profile and sample scotches from that area!
- The Highlands the largest region with huge variety in styles
- The Lowlands mellow, citrusy, and feminine
- The Islands heather and peat with honey and smoke
- Islay heavily peated, smoky, meaty scotches
- Campbelltown highly distinctive wet wool notes with salt brine and smoked toffee
- Speyside light with sweet notes, floral and citrusy with notes of honey
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Scotch : Start Your Education With These Whiskies
Macallan Double Cask 12 year old90 points, $65Macallan is one scotch that can intimidate drinkers on name and reputation only. However, theres a reason the Speyside brand became the quintessential luxury whiskyits consistently great quality. And although you arent likely to start with a $7,000 bottle of The Macallan M, the younger offerings hold plenty to love. This newish entry to the core lineupnumber 17 in Whisky Advocates 2017 Top 20shows how enjoyable a heavily sherried scotch can be, expressing itself with a pleasant earthiness and tons of cocoa notes.
Glenmorangie Original 10 year old87 points, $40It would be virtually impossible for even the most ardent scotch avoider to dislike Glenmorangies core single malt. Sweet and malty, it has a wide range of flavors: a ton of fruit, a little spice, and lovely floral notes explode on the palate. Never too aggressive in any one direction, this Highlands offering is definitely smooth, going down almost too easily.
Aberlour 12 year old87 points, $55Maturation in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks makes this Speyside single malt dessert-like in flavor. With notes of figs on the nose, more dark fruits enter the fray upon the first sip: raisins and dates, backed by caramel and milk chocolate. The lower proof ensures a finish that, while lingering, goes down easy and can thus be enjoyed neat by just about anyone.