Scotch Whisky – Features and Categories
When you think about whisky, one of the first names to come to mind is Scotland. Place of birth of this beverage, is an unavoidable name of the global whisky production. Scotch Whisky is one of the most popular and well-known drinks worldwide. However, there are different types of Scotch whisky and, to be a real connoisseur, you should be aware of them all.
Continue reading and discover the types of scotch by categories and regions, as well as their most common flavours and aromas.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- What does it take for a whisky to be Scotch
- Through the Different Types of Scotch Whisky
- Aromas typically associated with Scotch Whisky
Like other famous beverages such as Champagne or Port, Scotch Whisky also has several rules that differentiate it from other similar beverages produced elsewhere. So to be authentic Scotch, it must be distilled and matured in Scottish territory. Moreover, the ripening process must have a minimum legally defined, 3 years in oak barrels. There are other rules that must be followed to receive Scotch designation:
- The fermentation process must only use yeast;
- The alcohol content must be at least 40%;
- In addition to malted barley it must only be added whole grains.
Of course it is perfectly possible to make versions of this type of whisky elsewhere. However, and like other popular drinks mentioned above, the specific characteristics of the place of origin produces a unique whisky that if not followed originates other different versions, and as such, it can’t be possible using Scotch denomination.
Within this designation, there are several types of Scotch Whisky and their features change regarding the grains they are made from or even the region where they’re produced.
Through The Different Types of Scotch Whisky
Scotch Whisky is available in several different categories, each of which is distinctive in its flavour. The classes are comprehensive but distinguish between the different types of scotch whisky that people want to drink.
This category of whisky is defined by law as ‘whisky distilled at a single distillery’. Known for its distinct taste and flavours produced from the cereal grains used during the malting process, Single Malt Scotch whisky can contain aromas of nutmeg, honeyed fruit and candied orange peel. Popular brands include Glenfiddich, Auchentoshan and Talisker.
Get to know more Single Malt Scotch Whisky Brands: https://www.whiskyflavour.com/blog/best-single-malt-scotch-whisky-brands/
How to drink a Single Malt Whisky
Due to the distinctive flavour profiles of the Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, they are best enjoyed in a curved whisky glass with a capacity of 8-9 ounces. The most popular way to drink this type of scotch is neat (without the addition of ice) and at room temperature.
As per its name, this category is defined by law as a blend of two or more single malt whiskies from different distilleries. It does not need to be produced exclusively in Scotland, which gives producers greater creative freedom. This category has increased in popularity because consumers want whiskies with unique flavors and styles – like those found only in blended malts – and has become a huge commercial success.
How to drink a blended whisky
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky can be enjoyed in many different ways – either on its own or as a blend with other liquids such as soda, fruit juice or even cola – but it is traditionally drunk neat. This type of scotch also makes for an excellent base for cocktails and highballs, especially those using dark spirits like bourbon, tequila or rum. It should be noted that enjoying blended malts on the rocks will overpower its subtle flavors.
A rare category that contains ‘whisky from a single cask’ means that no other liquid has been post distillation; this is the only category that can be bottled at cask strength.’ Popular brands include Port Charlotte and Auchroisk.
Features of single cask scotch whisky
Single Cask Whisky is typically consumed neat (without ice) as its intense flavors need to be savored; it should, however, be noted that this type of scotch benefits from a few drops of water, which brings out its complex characteristics without subduing them. This type of scotch can also make for a great addition to cocktails and highballs – especially those using lighter spirits like gin – and often finds itself added to sweet liquids such as cola or fruit juice.
Produced by many different distilleries, this category is defined by law as a blend of two or more single malt whiskies with one or more single grain whiskies. A commercial success due to its accessibility and affordability, it has become the most popular category. Brands include Chivas Regal, Bells and Teachers.
Features of blended scotch whisky
Blended Scotch Whisky can be enjoyed in many ways, but for those new to the drink, it is recommended that they are consumed either on the rocks (with ice) or with water – something that will open up their flavors and allow them to be thorou.
Types of Scotch Whisky by Region
Scotch Whisky is divided into five major regions: Highland, Lowland, Islay (pronounced “Ila”), Speyside and Campbeltown. Each of these regions produces whiskies that are different in flavor profiles, but their age makes them similar. Scotch whisky has to be aged for a minimum of 3 years which means that all scotches produced in the same region share many of the same characteristics (vanilla, oak, honeycomb etc.).
All whiskies produced in this area are light-bodied and almost resemble Irish or American whiskeys due to their triple distillation process, which removes most of the heavy oils that give whiskies their intense flavors. Many people enjoy this types of Scotch whisky because it is very smooth and not too smoky. Popular brands include Dalwhinnie, Glenmorangie and Oban.
This region only produces a small number of high-quality whiskies with great depth, despite being light-bodied. People enjoy these whiskies because they are very clean tasting with hints of citrus fruit, making them perfect for use in mixed drinks. Popular Lowland distilleries include Auchentoshan and Bladnoch.
This is one of the types of Scotch Whisky known for their strong smoky aroma and flavor due to the peat used to dry the barley before it is distilled. This process makes these whiskies perfect for those who enjoy cigars or strong tea, for instance. They have a similar earthy quality that helps neutralize the bitterness from these other types of beverages. Popular Islay brands include Ardbeg and Laphroaig.
This area produces the most amount of whisky in Scotland due to its ideal climate, which allows the barley to grow at a rapid pace producing fluffy grains that make it easy to extract sugars during mashing (this extracting process breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars required by yeast cells during fermentation). These whiskeys are light-bodied with hints of fruits such as honeydew melon and cinnamon, making them well suited for desserts or cocktails that require fruit flavors. Popular brands include The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and The Macallan.
Although not the largest region in Scotland, it is known for producing some of the best whiskies, especially those made at Springbank Distillery, rated as one of the world’s best whisky distilleries by Jim Murray (author of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible) in 2009. Like Islay, this region produces strong smoky notes due to its proximity to the sea, which helps give these whiskies their distinct saltiness. Many people enjoy these whiskies because they are very flavourful yet still light-bodied enough to be enjoyed neat or with a few cubes of ice. Popular brands include Springbank and Longrow.
Get to know more about all these whisky producing regions: https://www.whiskyflavour.com/blog/5-corners-of-scotch-whisky/
Aromas and Flavours typically associated with Scotch Whisky
- Sweet: Vanilla, Dried Fruit, Toffee and Caramel – this is a common characteristic found in scotches because of the distillation process, which leaves behind a concentration of sugars.
- Spicy: Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Cloves – this one of the types of Scotch whisky because that uses a wide variety of cereal grains during its production process.
- Peaty: Smoke and Oak – a very distinctive style that is mostly derived from the use of peat during its distillation process. For those new to drinking whisky, it’s best to drink something lighter with only subtle hints of this aroma so they can determine if it’s something they enjoy before moving on to more complex styles.
The three categories above of sweet, spicy and smoky are the main tasting notes in scotch whiskey. Still, due to the wide variety of distillation processes from different places worldwide, other unique characteristics help define each dram. These include honey, citrus fruits (especially grapefruit), peat smoke (derived from burning vegetation such as heather) and herbal hints (lavender or mint). This means that while many whiskies share some common characteristics, they are all very much unique.