First off, Scotch whiskey is spelled without the “e”: whisky.
The best way to describe Scotch is to the list the standards of the Scotch Whisky Order of 1990 (UK), which mandates that the spirit:
- Must be distilled at a Scottish distillery from water and malted barley, to which only other whole grains may be added, have been processed at that distillery into a mash, converted to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems, and fermented only by the addition of yeast.
- Must be distilled to an alcoholic strength of less than 94.8% by volume so that it retains the flavour of the raw materials used in its production.
- Must be matured in Scotland in oak casks for no less than three years and a day.
- Must not contain any added substance other than water and caramel colouring.
- May not be bottled at less than 40% alcohol by volume.
Peat, an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter found in wetlands and bogs, is an important component in the production of Scotch. Peat fires are used to dry malted barley for use in Scotch whisky distillation. This gives Scotch its distinctive smoky flavour, often called “peatiness”.
There are two major categories of Scotch, single and blended. Single means that all of the product is from a single distillery, while blended means that the product is composed of whiskies from two or more distilleries.
Traditional practices define five types of Scotch:
Single malt: A 100% malted barley whisky from one distillery, distilled in batches in pot stills.
Single grain: Whisky distilled at a single distillery from water and malted barley, with or without whole grains of other cereals; it must not meet the requirements of a single malt whisky.
Blended malt: (formerly called Vatted malt): Whisky that is a blend of single malt whiskies, from more than one distillery.
Blended grain: A whisky created by mixing grain whiskies from more than one distillery.
Blended Scotch: A mixture of single malt whisky and grain whisky, distilled at more than one distillery.
While the market is dominated by blends, the most highly prized of Scotch whiskies are the single malts.
Our pick: Macallan 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch
Scotch Whisky Basics at Marty's Liquors
Scotch...what is it? Well first off, it's not as mysterious as some people make it out to be...it's just whisky that is brewed and aged according to a few long standing...well...Scottish...rules. In this segment at Marty's Liquors in Newton, Justin Canofaro of Famous Grouse Scotch takes us through these rules, the tasting process (pay attention here!) and an excellent example of Scotch. This is only part one of the segment. In part two (coming soon), we sample quite a few different types of Scotch and learn about how much flavors can vary from one to another.