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To Scotch or Not to Scotch?

todayMarch 4, 2016 3

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By Helen Wang
Blog Content Contributor

Photo by Helen Wang
Photo by Helen Wang

When you think of scotch, most people tend to associate it with an extremely masculine drink that their taste palate just can’t handle. Make no mistake, Scotch whisky is very hard to get into, but think of it as a wall you are trying to overcome. Once you get past that wall, you will start to truly appreciate scotch and all its different flavors – smoky, sweet, oaky, nutty, the varieties are endless. So why should this amazing drink be only associated to something that masculine old men drink? Crossing it off without giving it an honest try results in missing out on something you could truly come to enjoy.

Getting into scotch is the same concept as picking out your flavor in an ice cream store. My best suggestion is to go to a bar with an extensive scotch selection and just start trying away. Most people think drinking it neat, room temperature with nothing else added is the “cool” way to do it but it really is all up to your own preference. I enjoy drinking it over ice but it’s also suggested to drink it with a few droplets of water in the glass to reduce the alcohol content and to decrease the numbing effect scotch can sometimes leave on your tongue that hinders you from truly tasting it. The water will also allow many distinct flavors of the spirit to come out. The only time the cork should be out of the scotch bottle is when you are pouring a glass; Air will ruin the taste and aromas of scotch.

Now that you know the basics, it’s time for the fun stuff. One thing you need to know is “angel tax,” or “angel’s share”. This is just a cute name for the amount of spirit that evaporates in the barrel at a rate of about 4% per year. Generally speaking, the older the whisky, the darker the scotch.

The next thing you need to know is the difference between single malt and blended. Single malt scotch comes from malted barley grains from a single distillery whereas blended is a result of different single malt and grain whiskies blended together to make one exceptional flavor. Most of the time, you will see the price for a single malt scotch that’s been aged for many years to be a lot more expensive. Now don’t be fooled because that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “better” or of higher quality, it just means there is less of that batch left because it’s so old; purely supply and demand.

Scotch whisky must be aged at least three years while bourbon whisky has no minimum aging period. Bourbon is also made of at least 51% corn so it’s a lot sweeter than scotch. Irish whiskies are made using pure-malted barley as the grain that are dried in closed ovens; so never describe Irish whisky as “smoky” if someone were to ask you how it tastes, because the grain is never exposed to smoke. Most whiskies have an age statement on the bottle; this means all of the content in the bottle must be at least that old. For example, if a distillery combines 12, 15, and 18-year-old barrels of whisky, the age it states on the label can’t be more than 12 years old. So a bottle of whisky that’s been aged for 12 years can actually be a lot older.

Now the next thing to do after reading this article is to just pick up that first glass of scotch, give it a nice whiff to smell the aromas, take your first sip and start enjoying!

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