Saturday, July 27, is National Scotch Day (seriously, this is a holiday that we can get behind). For many, Scotch remains a mystery, reserved for dads, Mad Men characters, and heavy drinkers. Wanting to dispel the myths and open up Scotch to a new breed of drinkers we compiled some basic facts about Scotch and a beginners guide on how to drink it. Bottoms up!
1. What Is Scotch? Scotch is whiskey produced in Scotland (bourbon meanwhile is whiskey produced in the US). It’s the alchemical combination of water, malted barley, and other whole grains, distilled at an alcohol by volume somewhere between 40 and 94.8 percent and rested in oak for at least three years.
2. The Flavor. Scotch gets its flavor from a combination of barley, barrels, and from stills used to distill it. The precise shape of the copper apparatus used in distillation is specific to each distillery, and actually alters the taste of the whiskey. In other words, whiskey from different distilleries is bound to taste different.
3. The Varieties. This is a lot to take in, so pay attention. Single-malt Scotch whiskey is distilled at a single distillery in pot stills from 100 percent malted barley. Single-grain Scotch whiskey is distilled at a single distillery from malted barley and other whole grains. Blended Scotch whiskey is a blend of one or more single-malt Scotches and one or more single-grain Scotches. Blended malt Scotch whiskey is a blend of more than one single-malt Scotch from more than one distillery. Blended grain Scotch whiskey is a blend of more than one single-grain Scotch from more than one distillery.
4. “Blend” Doesn’t Mean “Bad.” The flavor of a good blend is just as carefully calibrated as that of a single malt, so don’t be put off by a blend when you are scouring the liquor store shelves. A single malt Scotch is made from 100 percent barley, comes from a single distillery, and is traditionally double distilled and aged for at least three years. A blended whisky is a blend of single malt and grain whiskys (made from wheat or corn), the youngest of which must be aged for at least three years.
5. The Older It Is, the Weaker It Is. The age on Scotch bottles refers to the youngest whiskey included in the blend. Alcohol evaporates faster than water in the mild Scottish climate, meaning Scotch doesn’t get stronger as it ages, it actually mellows.
6. Shake It Up (Seriously). Shake a bottle of whiskey before you buy it because the bubbles show its alcohol content. The larger the head of bubbles that forms and lingers on the surface of the liquid, the more potent the whiskey.
7. Whiskey and Water. True whiskey drinkers drink whiskey with water. Water actually opens up the flavors of Scotch, which is why seasoned Scotch drinkers add in a few drops before tasting.
8. Ease In With a Cocktail. Drinking Scotch neat is definitely not for everyone, and luckily there are great cocktails out there that incorporate the beverage. One of our favorites is the Honey Apple Highball.
Honey Apple Highball (pictured above)
1.5 oz. DEWAR’S Highlander Honey
2 oz. pressed apple
1 wedge fresh lime
Top with Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer
Method: Squeeze wedge of lime over cubed ice in a small tumbler glass, add DEWAR’S Highlander Honey and press apple juice and top with Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer.
Have a favorite way to drink Scotch? Share in the comments!