What Is Scotch Whisky
So what is Scotch whisky? Well, we could wax poetic about the water of life and so on, but instead, well stick to the basics. According to the official Scotch Whisky Regulations which were last updated in 2009 genuine Scotch whisky must meet the following criteria:
- It must be produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley.
- Should any additional grains be added to the mash, they must be whole grains.
- The distillery must perform the following actions to all of the grains:
- Process them into a mash
- Convert them to a fermentable substrate exclusively by endogenous enzyme systems
- Ferment them by adding yeast only
If you wanted to explain Scotch whisky to someone in a single sentence, weve put this one together Scotch whisky is a whisky thats made in Scotland using water and malted barley and is aged for a minimum of 3 years inside oak casks with an ABV of more than 40%.
Which Is The Best Scotch Whisky
There are far too many variables to denote an all-time best Scotch whisky. That said, statements such as Lagavulin 16 Year Old, The Macallan Fine Oak 21 Year, The Balvenie 21 Year Old Port Wood, and Highland Park 18 Year Old are cherished by seasoned drinkers worldwide. That’s not to mention highly sought-after releases such as the Bowmore 50 Year or The Macallan M, which occupy a category all their own.
Whats The Difference Between Whisky And Whiskey
Whisky without an e refers to Scottish, Canadian, or Japanese grain spirits. Whiskey with an e refers to grain spirits distilled in Ireland and the United States. Generally speaking, its only whisky aficionados who might pull you up on the spelling. The difference ends there at the country of origin of the spirit.
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The 12 Best Scotch Brands To Enjoy This Year
For the connoisseurs out there, you dont need an introduction to scotch whisky. But for the rest of us, there seems to be some confusion as to what exactly scotch whisky is.
Americans in particular , seem to confuse brandy and whisky. They are two totally different spirits, although to the newbie out there they might seem the same, so heres a little introduction to whisky.
To make it really simple, Scotch Whisky is a spirit which is made in Scotland using water and malted barley, aged in oak casks for at least three years. The Scotch Whisky Regulations, or SWR, are very strict and reinforced regularly.
Other grains different from barley can be used, but they must be whole grains. Also, no other substance other than water and caramel coloring are allowed to be added to the spirit, and the final ABV has to be 40% or more.
The five Scotland regions known for their distilleries are: Campbell Town, Highland, Islay, Lowland and Speyside. Each of the five regions has their own signature taste.
Although the regulations are very stringent, distillers have some room to play with the type of cask in which the whisky is aged, whether it is chill-filtered or non-chill-filtered or whether they decide to undergo additional maturation. It really depends on the distillery house, and there are over 100 of them in Scotland at the last tally.
A List Of The Best Scotch Brands To Add To Your Prized Collection
Talking of alcoholic drinks, if whisky is your coveted poison and if it is scotch that steals your heart, here are some of the best scotch brands, the names of which germinate a feeling of inexplicable fondness in the hearts of scotch enthusiasts…
Talking of alcoholic drinks, if whisky is your coveted poison and if it is scotch that steals your heart, here are some of the best scotch brands, the names of which germinate a feeling of inexplicable fondness in the hearts of scotch enthusiasts
The proper drinking of scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture, a manifesto of mans determination to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body and enjoy to the full the senses with which he has been endowed.~ David Daiches
Well, that explains it all! Adding anything else to this wonderful and metaphorically eloquent stand on the significance of whiskey as more than just an alcoholic paraphernalia of socialization and a crutch to emotional solitude would amount to the commitment of an unpardonable effrontery on my part! The first recorded mention of the distillation and consumption of scotch whisky has been found in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland which date back to the year 1495! Presently, scotch whisky is commercially available in any of the three forms single malt scotch, grain scotch, and blended scotch.
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Ballantines Finest Scotch Whisky
Were things really better in the old days?
Its hard to make an empirical observation about this. Of course, the old timers will tell you. When I was a boy However, as Im fond of noting in this space, the prism of reminiscence distorts our perspective and makes us unreliable narrators. Our personal favorites from days gone by will always have a special emotional resonance that will taint any attempt to evaluate them fairly and objectively.
For example, the lost distilleries are by their nature lost, and thereby occupy a hallowed place in our collective consciousness. We fetishize them, as Adam described in one of his sublime meditations, for reasons of nostalgia, as well as the oft-disappointing state of modern whisky. Even for those of us who didnt have a chance to taste them while they were in operation, the absorbed veneration and awareness that were drinking something special and rare can similarly thwart any honest assessment of a drams virtues and flaws.
The scotch in question is Ballantines Finest Scotch Whisky, their entry-level blend. The backbone malts of this blend come from Miltonduff and Glenburgie, acquired by then owners Hiram Walker in 1936. Ballantines was sold to Allied Domecq in 1987, after the first bottle here was produced. The company was acquired by Pernod Ricard in 2005, adding to their Chivas Brothers portfolio of blended Scotch. This is the regime which will have created the second bottle considered today.
Best Peated: Talisker Distillers Edition
Region: Islay | ABV: 45.8% | Tasting Notes: Iodine, Earth, Smoke, Dried fruit
A classic Islay scotch subjected to a Highland treatment, i.e. secondary aging in Amoroso sherry butts, this bottle is, at first, big, peaty, and smoky, says Shanahan, but then, you start to see this wonderful new balance created. You get these fruit kickers coming through without being too cloying, but theyre added to the peaty notes of the scotch from the isles.
The sherry-cask fruitiness softens yet also highlights the peat, reminding you of the earthy elements in the scotch, he concludes. Dont be afraid to pair this one with food. Those heavily peated, oily, viscous scotches love seafood or meat, says Tardie. One of my favorite pairings is oysters and peated scotch.
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National Scotch Day: Top 10 Scotch Whisky Brands
The saying goes, All scotch is whisky. But not all whisky is scotch. True. And not all scotch is great scotch. To make a scotch thats really something special, it takes more than dedication to the craft. It takes art, to distill that it factor. That je ne sais quoi. We bring you a list of scotch brands that do just that.
In honor of National Scotch Day, heres our Top 10 Scotch whiskies.
Best Under $: Bowmore Darkest 15 Year Old
Region: Islay| ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Toffee, Smoke, Brine, Dried fruits
Bringing together the best of Scotlands opposing traditions, this cherrywood-colored scotch from Bowmore, Islays oldest distillery, is made with heavily peated malt from island-grown barley. Its aged primarily in bourbon barrels, but its final three years are spent in oloroso casks, where the scotch takes on its sherrylike layers.
I love that it captures both, says Tardie. Its the perfect balance: salty but sweet. Toffee, dried fruit and swarthy smoke are finished with ocean-water salinity for what Tardie calls a multidimensional treat. Im not big on dessert, but if I were to have a dessert, this would be it,” he says.
Region: Islay | ABV: 43% | Tasting Notes: Smoke, Brine, Umami, Dried fruit
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How Man Of Many Chose This List Of Scotch Whisky
While Man of Many are sticklers for research and certainly know a thing or two about Scotch, that didnt negate the need for them to turn to the experts for this list. This list was compiled through personal experience and online research, plus through commentary from drinks critics and expert whiskey reviewers. They only looked at Scotch whiskies with a rating of 4.0/5 or higher through Dan Murphys reviews and took into account the major gripes and positives from the public. For the most part, theyre sticking with globally recognised names that you either know and love or should know and love, such as Laphroaig, Lagavulin, The Macallan, and Glenfiddich, but theyre also throwing a few curveballs your way courtesy of whisky expert, Emma Cookson , alongside The Whisky Lists very own Oliver Maruda and Crown Resorts expert Aaron Shuttleworth.
Best Scotch Whisky Brands
From the Highlands to the seaside, the best Scotch whisky brands hail from all parts of the iconic country, and its not a surprise. The regions themselves have become synonymous with different flavours, styles and practices, so much so, that even the lamen can generally tell a drams lineage via a few key characteristics. Similar to Champagne or Cognac, Scotch is a label that can only be given to whisky distilled within Scotland, provided it meets some specific requirements, including maturation time-frames, ABV% regulations and a host more. Truly, the remarkable history of Scottish whisky is responsible for putting modern spirit-making on the map and even now, centuries after it was first pioneered, were still learning new things about some of the worlds oldest distilleries.
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Our Methodology To Select And Rank The Best Whisky Brands In The World
A combination of well-loved favorites, classic choices, and a few left-wing options made up our list of the 15 best whiskies in the world. In order to choose which brand was the best fit for each category, we took into consideration a variety of characteristics and expert opinions.
Price, flavor profile, and unique qualities of each brand were compared to compile the list, leading to an overall top 15 that we recommend sampling.
Best New: Torabhaig 2017 Legacy Series
Courtesy of Total Wine
Region: Isle of Skye | ABV: 46% | Tasting Notes: Salt, Honey, Smoke, Bitter herbs
Want to get in on the ground floor with a new distillery? Only the second-ever licensed facility on the Isle of Skye, Torabhaig opened in 2017, and its first release, this single malt blended from 100 select barrels, is young but delightful. The heavy peat character is tempered by a brisk sweetness from the pure island spring water used to make it and the Kentucky bourbon barrels used to age it. The honeyed vanilla char of the wood mingles with isle seagrass and iodine for a whisky made for sipping or stirring into drinks.
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Best Under $: Aberfeldy 12 Year Old
Region: Highlands | ABV: 40% | Tasting Notes: Cherry cola, Bittersweet, Tannic, Bright
For a reasonably-priced option, look no further than this whisky from Aberfeldy, a Central Highlands distillery that started operating in 1898. The facility is situated along the Pitilie Burn, a lively stream whose churning, fresh water results in a clean, brisk scotch.
An everyday pour, this whisky offers cherry cola aromas with a mouth-coating, mid-palate sweetness that finishes in bittersweet, woody tannins. Easy to drink neat, on the rocks, with a splash of water, or mixed into warming cocktails, its light enough at 40 percent ABV for a midday tipple, yet flavorful for post-work happy hour.
Why Does The Regulatory Body Exist
We spoke to whisky expert Oliver Maruda to get to the bottom of why the regulatory body exists
In Scotland, the Scotch Whisky Association oversees distilleries to make sure good business practices are being followed, its a big reason why Scotch is such a highly respected product all over the world. Other countries have their own regulators for whisky, and Canada was actually one of the first, setting guidelines on age statements and casking to the point that at one point in time it became the number one spirit consumed in America because the quality was guaranteed, said Oliver Maruda, a whisky expert and co-founder of The Whisky List.
Unfortunately not every country has these guidelines, and in some parts of the world, you can find the word whisky stamped on everything from rum to aged rice wine. Having these purity laws in Scotland gives consumers the assurance that they are buying a bottle of whisky that is made with heritage, practice, and skill.
While the SWRs requirements may seem over the top, they still leave plenty of room for experimentation. For instance, Scotch whisky can be either chill-filtered or non-chill-filtered. Also, the type of cask in which the whisky is aged can vary, though the spirit is most often aged inside ex-bourbon barrels. After that, Scotch whisky can undergo additional maturation inside sherry casks, port casks, rum barrels, or whatever the distiller or producer has in mind. So what about the different types? Lets check them out.
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How To Taste Whisky
Ignore the shot glass approach youve seen on the big screen. When tasting whisky or drinking it neat, you should aim to keep it in your mouth for 12-20 seconds. Put it in the middle of your tongue, underneath, then back and in the middle. Hold it, then let it go down. Your first gulp primes your tastebuds, while the second is when the whisky shows you precisely what its going to say.
Getting it talking demands the right glassware. A heavy-bottomed tumbler is good, but best is this Perfect Measure Whisky Glass. Its stem keeps your hands away so the warmth isnt evaporating the whisky, and the tulip shape channels your drams aromas straight up your nostrils.
Half the tasting experience is in the nose, but whiskies have a lot of common flavours running through them, making this one easy to blag. Flavours that pop up a lot are vanilla, butterscotch, clove, cinnamon and orange.
The barrels the whisky has been stored in will have a big impact on the nose. If youre smelling a bit of smoke, chances are its been aged in an ex-bourbon barrel. If its richer, redder and smells fruity, you might have a whisky thats been finished by being stored in a sherry cask just before bottling.
Those scents are why youre best off serving your scotch at room temperature. Mature drops can be served straight. Younger ones respond to a drop of water to bring out more nuanced flavours.
What Should I Look For When Picking A Whisky
If whisky is all new to you, you might want to avoid the overly smoky, peated styles, which can be quite overpowering to the uninitiated. Instead, the best whisky for your palate will likely be an easy-drinking sweet and fruity dram, but if in doubt, our tasting notes should direct you to the perfect whisky for you.
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How To Choose The Best Scotch Whisky
Whether its your first time discovering this wonderful spirit or youre just on the lookout for your next dram, were putting together a list that promises a genuine treat because theres no shortage of quality statements here. And for all the seasoned sippers out there were talking with some of the top whisky experts in the country to curate our list and surely you can always use a refresher. Well be ticking off our list of the best Scotch first before taking a deeper look at why they made the list, including everything you need to know.
Check out the links below as we explain Scotch Whisky in-depth and help you make your decision.
We know what youre thinking and youre right, there can be no definitive list of the best Scotch whisky brands because a number of the smaller producers keep some of the rarest in the world right there at the distillery. Once you bring in limited-edition one-offs, experimental finishing programs, and other unique variabilities, searching for the ultimate becomes almost impossible but thats never going to stop us from trying. Take the following list of the best Scotch whisky brands as a starting point and not a final destination.
Image: The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak Cask