WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO SOUND SMART ABOUT SCOTCH
posted: February 21, 2014
Scotch. What about it?
Scotch is a dram made from malted barley that has been created for generations and generations. The word whisky (spelled whiskey if you’re American) is simply an anglicized version of the Irish phrase uisce beatha, or ‘water of life.’
Each and every drop of scotch is handcrafted by master distillers who decide the temperature, method, grain and casks the dram will use. They can tell the type of grass apart just by smell. Pretty crazy.
You don’t need to worry about that, though. Here is everything you need to know in order to sound smart—or at least not clueless—about single malt scotch:
1) Scotch has to be made in Scotland, and aged for a minimum of three years there.
2) Single Malts are drawn from a single distillery, which only uses malted grain.
3) Blended Malts are made from blends of liquids from different distilleries.
4) Scotch is not always better with age. The age statement on single malts depict the youngest dram in that bottle.
5) Here’s how you get a dram: barley is dried (can be done a couple different ways) then malted. Sugars from the grain react with yeast to form alcohol, and that entire mixture is distilled, the aged. The result: a nice dram.
Choosing the perfect scotch
How you pick the perfect scotch is a lot like how you furbish your house or put together an outfit in that the combination between the actual product and your unique personal preferences intertwine. Terroir, however, is an extremely important consideration.
Terroir (loosely translated: sense of place) is the personality of a scotch, and includes the wind, soil, grass, location where the actual dram is distilled, aged and bottled. With terroir in mind, answer these two questions to get you started.
Do you like:
A) Citrus and floral
B) Big and smoky
C) Creamy and vanilla-y
Are you into:
A) Intriguing spices
C) I’m a savoury type
If you picked citrus, floral, sweet and aromatic, you’ll probably like Lowland whiskies.
If you’re into a complex taste with intriguing spices, try Speyside whiskies.
And if big and smokey and slightly savoury is your thing, head for the Isle of Islay. Constantly lashed by wind, sea and rain, Islay is famous for its bold malts.
The above are only three of eight different scotch- and whisky-producing regions, but generally represent a good spread for giving your palate a little workout.
Eveylyn Chick was born and raised in Hong Kong, found her way to Vancouver and began bartending at 19 years of age. At 25, she’s one of the youngest bar managers in Vancouver and can currently be found behind the wood at the elegant Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar. “It’s not just about slinging drinks, but creating an entire experience,” she says. A big fan of travel and all things food and drink, she’s planning to go global with her craft.