Scotch Whisky – The Right Way To Enjoy It
Scotch whisky is one of Scotland’s major exports and it is sold to countries all over the world. The drink has a history that stretches back more than 500 years. It is an iconic drink; a beverage steeped in tradition, history and legend, and one that contributes a great deal to Scotland’s culture and economy.
Whisky is not merely an export: the presence of more than 100 distilleries brings tourists and whisky enthusiasts to Scotland by the tens of thousands, greatly bolstering the national economy. So what is it about Scotch that captivates so many, and how is it best enjoyed?
Scotch – The Basics
Scotch whisky has just three ingredients: water, cereals and yeast. For a whisky to be a true Scotch, it must be distilled in Scotland and matured there for at least three years, although most whiskies are matured for much longer than this, eight to 25 years being the norm.
Following maturation, the liquid is bottled and from that point it does not develop any further – whisky matures in the barrel, not in the bottle. Some whiskies will be bottled and sold as single malts, which means that the bottle contains only whisky from the named distillery, but most are sold as blends. Blended whiskies are combinations of complementary whiskies, from different distilleries, that are mixed and bottled together.
Although it is often believed that single malt is superior to a blend, this need not always be the case. Some blends are exceptionally good and may exceed the quality of an inferior single malt. Indeed, some keen whisky drinkers buy single malts and use them to create their own blends, at home.
Just like wine, whisky is profoundly affected by the surroundings in which it is created, and the very particular qualities of Scotland’s whisky regions draw in visitors, just like the world’s great wine chateaux. Many tourists base themselves in one of the five whisky-producing areas, so that they can visit the local distilleries and sample its various malts. Some areas, such as Highland, are very large and so produce whiskies with a wide variety of aromas and flavours. Consequently, whisky fans base themselves in the area and travel across it in order to savour the many varieties of scotch.
Scotland has five key malt whisky-producing areas: Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown.
Many hotels and guest houses in these areas now offer information and assistance specifically for whisky enthusiasts, and there are several ‘distillery tours’ available.
The way in which Scotch is enjoyed varies widely across the world. In some countries it is heavily diluted and enjoyed as a long drink, in others it is most frequently used as part of a cocktail. In Scotland itself, whisky is generally drunk in small amounts and savoured straight, or with a very small amount of water. Although scotch is often served in tumblers, experts agree that the perfect whisky glass is a squat, tulip-shaped glass, because this allows the aromas to be held in a small area at the top of the glass (a tumbler allows the aromas to escape, which reduces the quality of the drink).