Becoming a Whisky Drinker: A Beginner’s Guide to Single Malt Scotch
For those who are not whisky drinkers, the world of whisky can seem like a minefield with so many different types to explore. From blended, rye and bourbon to Canadian, Irish, and scotch, the variety of whiskies available can seem overwhelming especially if you’re a newcomer and just want to find a type of whisky you will enjoy. Our beginner’s guide will focus on single malt scotch whisky and give you the lowdown on this brilliant spirit.
What does ‘single malt’ mean?
First thing’s first, lets get back to basics and explain what single malt means. Scotch whisky can come in a variety of ways, including single malt, a blend and single grain. Single malt scotch is a malt whisky that has come from a single distillery and it is for this reason that this spirit is so revered around the world.
Although single malt whisky only comes from one distillery, most of these whiskies are still made from a blend. This means that the whisky has been combined with whisky from different barrels and of varying ages to create a deep, rich flavour. This process allows distilleries to mix whiskies to create the perfect balance and most delicious combination of flavours.
Scotch Whisky Regions
Scotch whisky is exclusive to Scotland. Whilst single malt whisky can be created all over the globe, to be given the moniker scotch, the whisky must be made in Scotland. The climate, water and landscape of the country cannot not be replicated elsewhere, and it is this that makes scotch so unique.
There are five regions that produce scotch whisky in Scotland, with each region producing its own individual taste. Your preference of region will depend on what flavours you enjoy in your whisky, and if you’re not sure which you prefer then you’ll have to try them all until you land on your favourite!
The vast space of the Highlands means that there are sub-regions, northern, southern, eastern and western, with each having their own distinct flavours. However, one thing the whiskies all have in common are the deep and complex yet elegant flavours.
Flavours: malt, dried fruit, grassy and mildly smoky.
Whiskies from this region tend to have a stronger flavour which makes them more of an acquired taste. Expect flavours of seawood, peat, brine and smoke.
Whiskies from Campbeltown tend to be varied. Expect flavours of smoke and salt balanced with a sweetness from undertones of dried fruit and toffee.
Whisky from the Speyside region denotes flavours of apple, honey, pear, vanilla and spice. If you’re a new whisky drinker, scotch from this area may be a good place to start.
Scotch from the Lowland is characteristically soft and smooth. The flavours are suggestive of cream, toffee, ginger, grass, honeysuckle, cinnamon and toast, all of these flavours complement each other to give a lighter taste.
Single Malt Scotch Flavour
Single malt scotch cannot be categorised into one single flavour profile. As we’ve already mentioned, the flavour is dependent on which region of Scotland the spirit was made in, with each having such complex mix and blend of tastes and textures. So, whether you prefer fresh fruit and vanilla, malt and honey or rich and peaty, single malt scotch has a flavour to suit your tastes. There are eight flavour profiles that single malt scotch falls into, each with different mixes of flavours and textures. This might seem overwhelming; however, the best part is trying lots of different whisky samples to find your number one flavour!
What is a Dram?
The size of a whisky dram depends on who’s making the drinks… In reality, the fluid dram is a very tiny measure of 1/8 fluid ounce or 3.551ml. Barely even a sip! This small measure is from when whisky was a very rare indulgence, and the phrase has been used less and less since Scotland moved into the metric system in the nineties. These days, it is more casual language and if you order a ‘dram’ you will receive a standard 25ml or 35ml measure – a much more appropriate volume of alcohol.
How to Drink Single Malt Scotch
Now you know about the different types of scotch and its measures, you need to know how to serve and enjoy it. Scotch whisky is best enjoyed at room temperature and is traditionally served with spring water, which you can then add to your drink. Of course, if you prefer a cold drink, simply add a large ice cube to your glass (this will melt more slowly and give you more time to enjoy your whisky).
Make sure you resist the urge to swirl your drink as this can ruin the taste of the whisky. Swirling the glass can release alcohol which can overwhelm the real taste of the whisky.
Finally, the right glass can make all the difference when drinking whisky. Opt for an Old Fashioned whisky glass or a Glencairn glass. The Old Fashioned glass is a short tumbler with a wide mouth, short sides and thick base. This design is crafted so that the aromatics of the whisky is released on straight pours.
If you go for a Glencairn glass, you may be mistaken as a knowledgeable whisky drinker. This style of glass has been expertly crafted with aroma and taste in mind for optimum whisky enjoyment. The tulip shape of the glass is designed to guide the smell of the whisky to your nose as you take a sip.
So, whether you’re a first-time whisky drinker or a long-term whisky fan wanting to find out how to get the optimum out of your beverage, follow this guide to enjoy a single malt scotch in all its glory.