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Crash Course: Scotch Basics

The Scotch was kept in the cabinet, you can see it and remember your grandfather fondly sipping it carefully. With its bold and fantastic taste, Scotch has a medley of textures that can be touched upon, it breathe life into the art of socializing and congregation. Let’s walk through a few of the crucial elements that present why Scotch is the drink of dapper gentlemen across the globe.

Let’s pretend you’ve never even held a bottle of Scotch in your hand. What makes your particular Scotch so special? Take note of the center of the label, it has succinct information that you can discern from it. Your label is bound to present the location where the liquid matured as well as bottling information, which are key in the tasting adventure. The distillery is usually featured in bold print underneath the name of the Scotch. This indicates what type of ingredients are utilized; as well as the quality of water used in the brewing. The water is crucial due to the flavor that is released when it is matured. The waters of Scotland are generally used as the golden standards due to their fresh spring-like qualities. These are best encapsulated in brands such as Macallan and Laphroaig. There are key phrases to be aware of, such as, what type of cask it has been matured in. That will give you an idea of what type of flavor profile to expect when the Scotch hits your lips.  You’ll also notice the center of the label will contain the trade name, that’s not to be confused with the distillery from which it was derived. The trade name is typically what you’ll ask for when searching for or ordering your Scotch. Sampling and tasting is all part of the exploration process.

Your eyes will of course set on the year of the Scotch, it’s the portion of the bottle that’s notable and pronounced clear as day. You’ll see numbers like, “10” or “12” year, and ask yourself what makes one product superior to the other? The maturation process of Scotch is both enticing and similar to fine wines. With the main difference being that wine ages in the bottle while Scotch ages in its cask. The years represent how long the batch of Scotch has been matured, absorbing the essence of their distillery as well as the cask (different casks unlock different flavors this about finding your taste and profile). This is what gives your Scotch the flavor and texture that makes connoisseurs salivate. At minimum a Scotch must be matured for at least three years. As you sample and branch out you’ll notice the older a Scotch is the bolder characteristics it has. Younger Scotches still carry a strong bite of peat to them as well as a smokey after taste. The longer your brand has matured and soaked in its cask, it will harness unique complex flavors. The taste of peat and smoke may still be present, but the older the brand, the more complex the profile becomes.

What’s going to capture your taste buds? Will a single malt provide the flavor you’ve heard so much about? Does the taste of a blended malt Scotch have the ability to grab your attention? The difference between these types of Scotch boils down to their graceful preparation process. The critical differences between single and blended Scotches are the ingredients used in their preparation. Single Malt is produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery. Blended malt scotch represents a mixture of two or more single Malt Scotch from different distilleries. What these different styles represent is the flavor profile that will occur. You’ll notice  blended brands will have a complex profile with unique “finishes”. Single Malt’s are bold and clean, they generally have a fantastic taste that is the classic standard of Scotch.

You’ve studied the cabinet, it’s time to build a collection that would make your grandfather proud. Scotch isn’t about being pounded down and rushing through the burn. That’s amateur hour, it’s not what your grandfather would do; nor would you. Taste and be bold in your selection, there’s no wrong way to enjoy or experiment.


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