Let’s call it like it is… Scotch is intimidating. With phrases such as single malt, blended grain, and twice distilled being bandied about, it’s hard to figure out how to even begin enjoying Scotland’s signature spirit. And seriously, what fun is an event with all that stress? That’s why we’ve put together this quick cheat sheet to kick start your journey from Scotch newbie to connoisseur. The only question you should have to tackle at Seattle Scotch & Beer Fest is how many (tax-free!) bottles you should take home from the Celebrity Cruises Bottle Shop. Seriously – we recommend stocking up the liquor cabinet!
Let’s start you off with the basics… If you’re drinking Scotch there is a 100% chance it was distilled in Scotland. Whiskey is an overarching term to describe a broad category of spirits, while the Scotch Whisky (that’s right – forget the e) denotation is used to mark the specific Scottish spirit.
Scotch is aged for at least 3 years (typically much longer) and distilled twice – which is different from say an Irish Whiskey which is distilled three times (but we’ll get into more of that next week). Drop these tidbits of knowledge on your friend and color them impressed.
Diving in a little bit deeper (you’re ready, trust us)… There are 5 different categories of Scotch:
- Single Malt = Water + Malted Barley @ 1 Distillery
- Single Grain = Water + Malted Barley @ 1 Distillery
- Blended Malt = Multiple Single Malt Whiskies from different distilleries
- Blended Grain = Multiple Single Grain Whiskies from different distilleries
- Blended Scotch Whiskey = At least 1 Single Malt Scotch + At least 1 Single Grain Scotch
And now to the most important part of the lesson… How to Drink Scotch. While we recommend signing up for one of our Scotch 101 Seminars, taught by a certified Master of Scotch (hey Craig Vaught!) and featuring 10 different tastes of Scotch, here is a quick crash course in this complex talent.
Swirl: Give your glass a quick swirl and take a look at it’s legs. Single malts have more prominent legs, while blends are a bit runnier.
Sniff, Sniff, Sniff: Yep, that’s right, we literally mean sniff 3 times. The first is a quick one, more of a prep sniff. The second one is a little bit longer, to take in more of the aromas, but don’t linger too long or you’ll overpower your senses. The third and final sniff is where you’ll take in the most aromas.
Sip, SIP, Sip, Sip, Sip…: Like your sniffs, you’ll want to take multiple goes at it. The first sip is small and used to adjust your palate. The second sip is more of a gulp, where you’ll want to swirl it around your mouth and swallow slowly. The third sip and subsequent sips are simply used to enjoy.
There you have it! The very beginnings of Scotch mastery. There’s still a long way to go. Keep the lessons going by joining us April 14 & 15 for Seattle Scotch & Beer Fest! Don’t forget to add on the Scotch 101 Seminar. You won’t regret it!