All Scotch is whisky, but not all whiskys are Scotch. Simply put, Scotch whisky is a malt or grain whisky made in Scotland in a highly specific way—those are the rules.
It’s National Scotch Day (July 27), so consider this a quick primer to get your grown man drinking on. Whiskey (note the spelling), is usually the stuff (distilled alcohol from fermented grains) made stateside, usually in Kentucky, and can also refer to bourbon. To get even nerdier about it, it’s also a regional thing and the Irish also refer to their hooch as whiskey as well. We’ll get to that some other time, however.
When it comes to whisky, the good stuff is single malt Scotch whisky. Any proper Scotch whisky is made from malted barley and must be aged for at least three years in oak barrels. A whisky’s flavor can range from chest-burning rocket fuel to smokey and even notes of sweet caramel. How it gets made, its age, the wood barrel it’s aged in and other nuances alter a whisky’s flavor profile. You’ll ofter read about “peat” or “peatiness” in descriptions since the grains are traditionally dried over peat fires.
A fine bottle of single malt Scotch to get in the game is Laphroaig’s 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch. Other brands worth checking for are Highland Park, Balvenie, Lagavulin, and Glenfiddich.
A fine whisky should be sipped slowly and enjoyed neat. Adding a few splashes of cool water opens up the scent and taste. Ice? Chill on that. Adding a chaser like cola or ginger ale is unnecessary, but if you must go that route:
Laphroaig® Islay in the Sun
By NYC mixologist Ivy Mix
1 1/2 parts Laphroaig® 10 YO
1/2 part aged rum
3/4 part lime juice
3/4 part simple syrup
Barspoon pomegranate molasses
Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Truthfully speaking, Scotch whisky isn’t for those who don’t appreciate big, bold flavor in their spirits. But, with proper training of the palette and exploring the complexities of the spirit, you too can flex on your friends with a fine glass of the “water of life.”