Once you find something perfect, you lock it up. But the Scottish government couldn't put a ring on the whisky they created. So they put a bunch of regulations on it. Each of the roughly 100 distilleries in the country must follow the rules of the Scotch Whisky Association. Those rules dictate that the entirety of production must occur within Scotland, the spirit must be aged for at least three years and one day and the result must be a minimum of 80 proof.
Many scotches use barely that has been dried using the smoke of peat. That gives it the earthy, natural finish so many people love. While most scotch whiskey is aged in used bourbon barrels, some distillers use old sherry, wine or rum barrels for flavoring.
Single Malt vs Blends:
Scotch comes in two varieties: single malt and blends. There's not a whole lot of nuance behind those names. Single malts are made from 100% barley at one distillery. Blended scotch combines single malts from multiple distilleries along with an aged grain whisky to create a new spirit that pulls together the elements of each variety. To discover the best scotch for you, try a combination of single malts and blends.
How to Drink It:
On. Its. Own. That's the best way to enjoy the peaty appeal of scotch. Adding a touch of water actually opens up some flavors and aromas. If anyone looks at you sideways for doing so, let them know that's exactly how most experts and master distillers choose to take their scotch.