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All about scotch whisky
Scotch whisky is smooth, punchy and enticing. Savor this dark spirit by serving it over a large ice cube. Scotch is a delicious liquor that is often confused with rye whiskey. While people enjoy both of them in much the same way, they are in fact quite different.
How it's made
Scotch whisky is made in Scotland with malted barley and water. Distilleries age it for at least three years, but most of them age it for eight to ten years, creating an even smoother taste. So yes, some scotch is many years old and with every passing year gets even more complex. Scotch bottles will have the age of the liquor on the bottle either within the name or on the bottle. For example, The Macallan will say 'Macallan 10 year old single malt scotch whiskey.'
Scotch is made in a single distillery. It ferments with yeast only. It has to mature in oak casks in Scotland, and it shouldn't contain added substances or grains. As scotch matures, the beverage turns to a golden color. Even small changes during the maturation process affect the taste. For example, scotch that's matured in European oak will taste different than that which is matured in American white oak. People get a little confused at times thinking that scotch must be made with peat. Many scotch whiskies are made with peat, but it's not a requirement for scotch. Peat can be used during the kilning of the malt process. It ultimately gives scotch a level of smokiness that is unique to peat.
Getting to ABV, scotch can only be distilled to 94.8%. Similar to other whiskeys, it must be bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV. One loophole though - it can be bottled at higher "cask strength". This just means no water is added during the aging process to lower the ABV.
SCOTCH FLAVOR PROFILE
Scotch's color can range from pale straw all the way to an amber depending on its age. Since malted barley is a main ingredient, there tends to be a malty taste - no surprises so far. There's also unique flavors specific to each bottle. So some will have flavors of dried fruits or spices, while others may have a hint of vanilla. Single malt scotch tastes oaky and woody. When peat is involved in the creation of the drink there is also an additional smoky note brought by the peat. If you're tasting a scotch that has a hint of spice or butteriness - it's likely a blended scotch.
Single malt scotch whisky is made in a single distillery. Blended malt scotch whiskies are made by blending multiple single malt whiskies from different distilleries by a Master Distiller. Similarly, blended grain scotch whiskies are created from multiple single grain scotch whiskies. Finally, blended scotch whiskies are made by combining the above two types. Since each cask of whisky matures in its own way, blending lessens the differences and helps the producers come up with a consistent drink.
SCOTCH VS. RYE WHISKEY
Scotch whisky has a distinct smoky flavor that's derived from malting, a process in which distillers expose barley to a pungent smoke while drying it. The dried barley absorbs the smoke, resulting in the unique taste. While rye whiskey has a mildly spicy, almost peppery taste, while scotch tends to be either smokier or sweeter, depending.
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What are popular scotch brands?
A few examples of widely known scotch brands are brands such as Highland Park, The Speyside, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Glenmorangie and The Macallan.
What is a sherry cask?
Sherry casks are casks that were used to age sherry. Yes, like whiskey, sherry is aged in wooden barrels or casks as well. To extend the use of these casks, distillers began finishing scotch in their sherry casks. The residue from the sherry gave a sweet, fruit flavor to scotch.
What is Islay whisky?
An island off of Scotland, Islay, is sort of considered a whisky capital of the world. Which makes sense for an island with 8+ whisky distilleries with the nickname "Whiskey Island." So, as you may have assumed by now, Islay whisky is scotch made on the island of Islay. Scotch from this island is known for bold peaty and smoky flavors.