Scotch 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Scotland’s Whisky

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Varieties of Scotch Whisky

Just as in the wine world, where names like Burgundy or Napa Valley tell someone not only where a wine is made, but what to expect as far as variety and flavor, Scotch whisky has its own geographic intricacies.

  • Campbeltown — the smallest of the whisky producing regions.
  • Islay — known for heavier, more smoky Scotch varieties.
  • Highland — the largest geographic region for Scotch.
  • Lowland — the whisky of this region is generally considered to be more mild, mellow, and delicate.
  • Speyside — adjacent to the River Spey, this region has the largest number of distilleries in Scotland.

How To Drink Scotch.

The drinking of scotch should be enjoyable, not intimidating. And while everyone has their own opinions on how to drink Scotch, the following are some general guidelines to properly enjoy this storied spirit.

  • Glass — No, there’s nothing wrong with using a tumbler or low-ball glass, but many experts recommend using a tulip-shaped glass which allows the whisky to be swirled and, more importantly, captures the aromas at the neck of the glass.
  • Water — Water is not a must, though many scotch drinkers will splash a little water in with their scotch to simplify the taste, which is often masked by its well-known “burn.”
  • Ice — putting ice in your scotch is generally frowned upon. It lowers its temperature, which can hide the flavors and aroma. If you really want ice, go ahead, but you may be pleasantly surprised if you decide against it.