Scottish whiskey, or scotch, is a malt or grain whiskey made in Scotland. Whiskey is over 500 years old and is now endemic to Scottish (and the world’s) drinking culture. Today, Scottish distilleries produce whiskey according to law-abiding guidelines set by the UK Parliament. However, that does not affect the taste, quality or experience. The art of distilling is Scotland has been perfected throughout the last several hundred years.
History of Scotch
Whiskey evolved from a Scottish drink known as, uisge beatha, known as “water of life.” The first written records of distilling Scottish whiskey date to 1494. On June 1, 1495, the tax record of the day, The Exchequer Rolls, noted, “Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae’ (water of life).” Eight bolls is equivalent to 1,500 bottles, which marks an established distilling process. Historically, whiskey used malted barley. In the late 18th Century, distilleries introduced wheat and rye whiskey. During the 17th Century, the Scottish Parliament began to tax whiskey, which created rebellious pursuits against the taxman.
Types of Scotch
Scottish whiskies are divided into five categories. Single malt Scotch whiskey, single grain Scotch whiskey, blended malt Scotch whiskey, blended grain Scotch whiskey and blended Scotch whiskey. The Scotch Whiskey Association clearly defines each category and whiskey. However, whiskey is only labeled “scotch” if its made in Scotland and aged for three years in oak barrels.
How to Drink Scotch Whiskey Like a Scot
The world has established universal tastes for how to enjoy whiskey. Some believe Scotch is best drank with soda where others believe “scotch on the rocks” is the perfect combination. There is no one “right” way to drink whiskey.
Most Scots drink whiskey solo or with a bit of water. Some Scots place a hint of water if the whiskey is too strong. For a Scotsman, ice is a “no-no” because it freezes the aromas and flavors. One “dram”, or serving, is about 0.25 centimeters or 2.5 grams.
For a Scot, consuming whiskey is a romantic process similarly called, “The Art of Manliness,” rather than slamming shots. Swirl, sniff and sip the liquid, holding the whiskey in your mouth for several seconds before swallowing. The after-taste will emit more flavors within 10 seconds depending on the brand.
Most Well-Known Distilleries in Scotland
Scotland is divided into four main categories: The Highlands, The Lowlands, Islay, and Speyside. Speyside contains the most distilleries. The region is small and distilleries are located a short distance away from one another.
Talisker (Highlands) samples single malt, peppery spirits with tours available during the day. The Glenlivet (Speyside) offers the region’s lighter and more floral single malt samples. Tours are free and operate March through September. Bladnoch (Lowlands) is a single malt Scotch whiskey distillery, which has been in operation since 1817. Lagavulin (Islay) is a single malt distillery and produces peaty, smoky whiskies since 1816. This distillery regularly releases special edition 12, 25 and 30-year old whiskies.
Best Scottish Labels
Whether you enjoy the occasional spirit or prefer the nightly beverage, drinking quality whiskey is important. The Independent, a United Kingdom online publication, rated the “10 Best Scotch Whiskies.” The updated list showcases the best whiskey from various regions and distilleries. Each bottle listed cost between 23 and 58 pounds, which signifies its one-of-a-kind and valuable taste. However, with thousands of labels on the market, one must taste-test whiskey to distinguish which type and flavor his senses prefer.