Scotch Whisky 101


Whisky of Scotland

scotch Single malt Scotch means a Scotch whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills. Single grain Scotch whisky means a Scotch whisky distilled at a single distillery but may contain other whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals in addition to malted barley and water. The majority of single grain whisky produced goes to making blended Scotch whisky. Blended Scotch whisky – types:

  • Blended malt Scotch – a blend of two or more single malt whiskies from different distilleries. Formerly called vatted malt or pure malt (now prohibited) is now uncommon. It is a blend of single malts from more than one distillery possibly with different ages. They contain only malt whisky, no grain whisky; do not contain the word “single” and the name of the distillery.
  • Blended grain Scotch – a blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
  • Blended Scotch whiskey – a blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one  or more single grain whiskies.

Whisky regions of Scotland:

Speyside Speyside is the region with the greatest number of distilleries. As with many of the Scotch regions, the particular distillery style is more important than the region. Abelour and Macallan are often sherry aged producing a nutty, fruity flavor. Balvenie has notes of honey and orange while Glenfiddich exhibits tastes of chocolate and raisins. Other Speyside distilleries are Cardhu, Cragganmore, Glenfarclas and Glenlivit.

Lowlands Only three distilleries remain in operation while a fourth is being readied. The whiskies are traditionally triple-distilled making them smooth and light. They are good beginner’s whiskies. Glenkenchie is light, rounded and flowery with a light peat presence. Auchentoshan is very similar with a hint of sweetness. Bladnoch is the third. Daftmill is preparing its first release.

Highlands The Highlands encompass a large region including some outer islands. The style of Highland whisky varies to such a great extent that it is difficult to generalize style. Glenmorangie, Dalmore, Isle of Jura, Highland Park, Balblair, Clynelish, Pulteney, Dalwhinnie, Oban, Edradour, Ben Navis, Dalwhinnie and others. Talisker from the Isle of Skye is a rich, smokier and heavier peated than other Highland Scotch’s.

Campbeltown The smallest whiskey region once had over thirty distilleries is now reduced to three: Springbank, Glengyle and Glen Scotia.

Islay All but one distillery in Islay peats its whisky. Bunnahabhain (unpeated) is sweet and nutty.  Bruichladdich produces a lightly peated whisky. Other distilleries produce varying degrees of peat in their whiskies. Ardberg is earthy and salty, while Laphroaig is iodine and medicinal. Bowmore, Caol Ila and Lagavulin are other well-known distilleries.

Independent Bottlers Most malt distilleries sell a large portion of their whisky by the cask for blending to private buyers and bottling firms. Such bottled whiskies are sometimes bottled as a single malt using the distilleries name but not with the distilleries trademark logos or typeface. Many independent bottlings are from a single cask and can be very different from an official bottling from the distillery. Gordon & MacPhail, Berry Bros & Rudd, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and Duncan Taylor are major independents.

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