Monday, November 1, 2010

Scotch Cheat Sheet

They are all scotches, all different. Can you tell which is which?
I am in the process of writing up this whiskies 101.  The task is rather daunting, but I am eager to post something about scotch right now.

Scotch is made in Scotland.   Each individual scotch distillery has their own unique styles, but there are four main regional styles, because within these regions, the distillery tend to share certain common characteristics. Instead of chasing after brand names (which Scotch companies spends millions every year promoting), look at the finer fonts:

Single Malts: Meaning scotch is made from only one distillery and often aged for a considerable time before release.  Does this mean it's better? No, but it is sure more expensive.  Why? Blending allows more consistency from year to year.  It is very possible to get bad single malt whiskey. Exceptionally old whiskies are often single malt though, and they are usually pretty darn good!  Single Malts has become somewhat a catch phrase in scotch like single origin coffee.

Speyside: Scotches from here are very elegant and highly sought after, either as blends or single malts.  This area has the highest density of Scotch production in Scotland. The popular Glenlivet and Glenfiddich come from here.

Highland and Island is the most north of the regions. The region produces intensely flavoured malts with a nice floral and honey notes.  Whiskey from this region can be just as good as Speyside, but different.  The beautiful Glenmorangie is made from here.

Lowland is the most south of the regions.  This produces the lightest style of whisky.  This is not very common on the international market, because its often used for blending.

Islay is an island south west of scotland. Scotch from this place is a different beast.  They are super flavourful: smokey, seaweed, iodine, and tar. (This is due to the delay marine in their peat).  This is not something I would recommend to new scotch drinker.  Joe and Tracy bought a bottle of this and couldn't enjoy it.

Age: as indicated on the bottle, is the youngest component in the scotch aged in a barrel.  The high the age, the woodier the scotch, often with a hint of sherry or bourbon.

Color of the Scotch: I believe that's partially the color of the barrel.  However, to ensure consistency, most scotch uses caramel for coloring.  Organic, non colored scotch is available in the market, which I will blog about later.

Hope this helps.

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