Scotch happens to be a difficult drink for most North Americans. Whether it is due to complex sounding names, or the perceived notion that it is a serious man’s drink, there is a fairly bit of intimidation associated with the Scotch whiskey on this part of the Atlantic. However, the Scottish people believe that Scotch is meant for everyone, and the four neat ways to drink it are described below.
Served with water
Water decreases the strength of the alcohol and creates new flavor profiles at the same time. The Society of Chemical Industry observed and documented this phenomenon in a research paper published in the Journal of the SFA or Science of Food and Agriculture. The researchers found that water suppresses ethanol molecules and also the flavors that are extracted from the wood barrels. Technically speaking, water reduces the effect of immature and undesirable aromas when wood-aged spirits are consumed.
The stronger whiskeys, and also the ones that come with significant barrel influence, get better with water. The barrel proof or cask strength whiskeys can be taken to substantiate this fact. The concentration of alcohol comes down as Scotch matures in the barrel, and for this reason, the liquid contains around 60% to 65% ABV at the time of entering the barrel. Hence, it is typically suggested to add a couple of drops of water to the dram while drinking cask-strength Scotch.
On the other hand, adding water to the whiskey is not people who cannot manage their whiskey, it is strictly meant for those who want to enjoy every single bit of flavor the liquor has to offer. During a Vinepair quality assurance operation at the Glenkinchie distillery in Scotland, from the tour guide to the distillery workers to the global brand ambassador for Johnnie Walker, everyone used a little pipette to pour some water to their drink.
To suffice, the whiskey can appear hazy after the addition of water, depending on its filtration process. There is nothing improper with a hazy whiskey, and it will not alter the drinking experience. One can think of it like the absinthe, where this very haziness contributed by the water is actually wished and necessarily forms a core part of the drinking ritual.
Drinking Scotch neat translates to a careful selection of drinking vessel. The options available are virtually limitless and range from rocks glass to Solo cup to whiskey snifter. If someone is drinking Scotch for taste appreciation, it is generally suggested to go for the latter. Whiskey snifters come with a large bottom that gradually narrows towards the top just like a tulip. It captures and concentrates the aromas inside the glass in-principle. But in a casual setting with friends where the focus is on the environment and not on the beverage, drinking from a classic rocks glass is fine.
It is a myth that single malts are the only Scotch whiskeys for drinking neat. Blended Scotch is considered as being mixology in itself. The sheer complexity of flavors and layers, smoky, rich, fruity, and creamy; are waiting to be explored when consuming a blended Scotch similar to enjoying a blended wine from Bordeaux.
Served with ice
One should never forget to use fresh ice of premium quality. Some connoisseurs will be mad at the idea of chilling the Scotch and diluting the drink with melting ice. Nonetheless, it can prove very much beneficial for absolute beginners.
Cooling a drink suppresses intense aromas and flavors of the alcohol, and makes the drink way more accessible. However, it will also hide some flavors that make Scotch feel like Scotch. Majority of the opening up that occurs from the mixing of water becomes irrelevant, as the low temperature offsets any opened-up flavors.
If someone is going to use ice, then only large blocks should be used, the ones that melt slowly and fill up a reasonably large volume in the rocks glass. In this way, a person can get the chill without making the drink into a one part whiskey and five parts water.
Served in a Cocktail
Scotch is just not restricted to chubby old men with cigar-tainted teeth. It is also for people who love to experiment. At (JW) Johnnie Walker, one of the renowned Scotch brands, blends are obtained from the bar back. Scotch is unmistakably delicious on its own and also with a few drops of fresh water, and it happens to be a valuable addition to cocktails.
For instance, Rob Roy is necessarily a Manhattan prepared with Scotch instead of the rye whiskey. The cocktail came into existence around the 1900s in the Waldorf-Astoria of the New York City. Mixed drinks and cocktails continue to share a significant part of the Scotch whiskey story, especially in places like the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Then there is the Johnnie and Ginger, which is necessarily Johnnie Walker Red Label blended with fresh ginger ale, and a little more complicated Penicillin cocktail. Scotch can be swapped for American whiskey in cocktails like Old Fashioned, the Boulevardier, or Mint Julep for an incredibly smoky rendition of the classic.
The Scotch Cheatsheet for Beginners
The Scotch Whisky Association or SWA recognizes the following categories.
A whiskey obtained from malted barley and water and prepared at a single distillery employing pot stills. E.g., Glenlivet Twelve.
A whiskey obtained from malted barley, water, and another kind of grain. Similar to single malts, a single-grain Scotch is prepared at a single distillery. E.g., Cameron Brig.
A heavenly blend of numerous single malt whiskeys obtained from various distilleries. E.g., Monkey Shoulder.
A magical blend of numerous single grain whiskeys obtained from various distilleries. E.g., Compass Box Hedonism.
Blended Scotch whiskey
A perfect blend of one or more single-grain Scotch with one or more single-malt Scotch. E.g., Chivas Eighteen.
Whiskey or Whisky?
Countries that contain e’s in their names, including Ireland and the United States, happen to spell it whiskey. But nations that do not have e’s in their names; Scotland, Canada, and Japan happen to spell it whiskey.