A Beginner's Guide to Scotch Whisky
The Scottish-Gaelic word for whisky is uisge-beatha, literally meaning ‘water of life’. And just as every life is unique, so too is every Scotch. The whisky-producing regions of Scotland each have their own individual styles and appeals, driven by the natural resources of the area, the intensity of the elements, and of course the distillers’ own innovations. Understanding the Scotch regions is crucial in discovering the perfect single malt whisky for you.
Known for producing light, dry, and easy drinking whiskies. Because Lowland barley is dried with hot air as opposed to peat smoke, the finish is cleaner and lacks a smoky aroma. Distilleries here follow the tradition of triple distillation often found in Irish whiskeys, which contributes to their iconic smooth mouthfeel and delicate flavour profile.
In perfect accordance with the Lowland style, Glenkinchie 12 year is a light golden whisky with a delicate flavour profile of fresh citrus and lemon cheesecake and a smooth, creamy body. Excellent served over ice or straight from the freezer.
The largest of the whisky-producing regions, Highland whiskies are as diverse and varying as the rocky, mountainous area they hail from. They are bound by their common traits of sweet, floral flavours and smooth mouth-feel. You’ll typically find caramel, toffee, and vanilla notes with a somewhat smoky finish.
Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old
A great introductory scotch. Simple flavours but a strong representation of what makes the region great. Sweet notes of manuka honey and walnuts, mild spice and a distinct but not overwhelming smokiness.
The tiny Speyside region boasts over half of Scotland’s active distilleries. Once categorised as part of the Highlands, Speyside has developed its own unique flavour profile; a sweet, subtle complexity, without the smokiness or salinity of the nearby regions. A young Speyside whisky will exhibit flavours of fresh fruits and honey, but when matured is known for a sweet spiciness.
An iconic distillery and a true benchmark for Speyside whiskies. An oily mouthfeel, with floral, oaky flavours. No burn in the finish, but possesses a pleasant warmth. Serve with ice to bring out more fruity notes.
Balvenie is aged in both American Oak barrels and European sherry casks, which allows it’s flavours to develop and deepen, bringing out the strong bourbon character of dried fruits, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Coastal West Highlands
Caught in the middle of two regional influences, the Coastal West Highlands is something of a happy medium between the sweet malts of the Highlands and the dry smokiness of the Island regions. Strong, full-bodies preside, with a distinctive essence of peat smoke accompanied by a fruity nose and mild salinity.
The whiskies which originate from the nearly 800 islands that make up this region are bound by one overarching ideal: balance. Distillers here take their influences from the sweetness of the Highlands and balance with the intensity of Islay. The local sea breezes bring a natural salt and seaweed flavour.
A complex single malt, Talisker opens with intensely sweet notes of dried fruit and caramel, moving into a strong peppery kick and finishing with a powerfully smoky, burnt-sugar aftertaste.
Pronounced ‘Eye-Lah’, Islay boasts some of Scotland’s most pungent whisky aromas. The high natural acidity of the island’s water helps bring out a powerful smoky character and the rough sea spray which permeates the coastal towns ingrains itself in the oak casks, leading to a strong saltiness in the matured product.
One of the more delicate malts on Islay, Caol Ila 12 year nonetheless packs a powerful punch. Subdued vanilla and toffee notes give way to an impassioned smokiness which lingers on the tongue.
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