Calling all Sassenachs with a thirst… Starz has just launched their big budget Outlander TV series based on the engrossingly bodice-ripping Diana Gabaldon books: a WWII era nurse is sent back to the Scottish Highlands of 1743.
Let’s raise a dram to the casting agents and location scouts!
Setting the stage for this very Scottish spirit, and let’s cover some Scotch 101:
Did you know Glen is Gaelic for “valley”? When you see Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, now you know it means Valley of …
To be called Scotch, it must be distilled and aged for a minimum of three years in oak within Scotland. Distillers are permitted to add caramel coloring (not all do), and can water down the cask strength to a minimum of 40% alcohol before bottling.
Single Malt vs Blended Scotch: Single malts are made solely from malted barley and are the product of a single distillery, though they can contain a blend of whiskies from that same distillery. A Blended Scotch whisky combines both malted barley and grains such as wheat and rye, that can come from several distilleries (famous blends: Chivas Regal, Johnnie Walker).
If you see a number on a bottle of Scottish, such as “20 Year Old”, that means the youngest whisky included in the blend is 20 (although a 20 year old can have some 25, 30, or even 50+ year old in the mix).
There are several main regions for Scotch: Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands, Islay, and Campbeltown. The largest number of distilleries are found in Speyside. Islay are famous for their smoky peat character.
Scots, Canadians and Aussies drink “whisk-y”, Irish drink “whisk-ey”, and Americans spell it both ways.
Scotch can be aged in old sherry, bourbon and port barrels, for extra deliciousness, which is called “finishing”.
If you see “Cask Strength” on the label, it means the whisky has been bottled without adding water. It can be a bit strong, so don’t be afraid to add some water to your glass to protect your precious tastebuds.
Thanks for reading, I'd love to know: what's your favorite single malt or blend?