Scotch Whisky

Whisky made in Scotland, referred to as Scotch, is one of the most popular types of whisky in the world. By law, it must be distilled to no more than 189.6 proof and produced from a mixture of water, cereal grains, and malt, with the only allowed additives being water and caramel coloring. Scotch must be aged in oak casks in Scotland at a licensed warehouse for a minimum of three years, but, unlike bourbon or rye, those casks can, and almost always are, used barrels instead of new ones. Scotch is separated into five categories, one of which is required to be displayed on the label: Single Malt (100% malt barley from a single distillery), Single Grain (all grain spirit from a single distillery), Blended Grain (grain whiskies from multiple distilleries), Blended Malt (a blend of single malts), and Blended Scotch (a blend of malt and grain whiskies). The malt used to make Scotch can be dried by fire from with compacted vegetation called peat, which imparts a unique flavor on the final product. (This type of Scotch is most common on island regions, particularly Islay.) There are five whisky-producing regions in Scotland, each with its own style and character: Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, Islay, and Campbeltown.

Top Scotch Whisky Posts:

A Tour of Scotland: Understanding Scotch Whiskies
Touring Scotch Whisky Distilleries in Speyside, Scotland
Drinking Scotch with The Dalmore’s Richard Paterson
Whiskies of Glen Grant with Master Distiller Dennis Malcolm

Review: Brora 25 Years Old Limited Edition 2008

By Christopher Null | February 8, 2009 |

A coastal Highlands single malt, part of Diageo’s limited release series (with about 3,000 bottles produced) whisky is initially a little off-putting, but some time with it opens things up and reveals more of its charms. Cutting through a cloud of smoke is your first challenge, and you’ll find a honey and lemon-orange body underneath.…

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Review: Port Ellen 29 Years Old Limited Edition 2008

By Christopher Null | February 7, 2009 |

Look at the humble label on this bottle of Port Ellen Scotch whisky and you’ll probably see the big “8,” immediately assuming this is a simple, eight-year-old spirit. The pale yellow color certainly wouldn’t indicate otherwise… but check the fine print. Distilled in 1979 (some bottles may say 1978), this whisky’s been aging for 29…

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Review: Oban 18 Years Old Limited Edition 2008 and 1993 Distiller’s Edition

By Christopher Null | February 6, 2009 |

The Classic Malts Collection, which comprises a wide range of Scotch whiskys, recently announced a number of special edition, limited release Scotches. We got our hands on a few of them. Reviews will be posted over the next few days, but we’ll start with two from Oban. Oban Limited Edition 18 Years Old 2009 – It’s been…

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Review: Glenmorangie “The Original” 10 Years Old

By Christopher Null | January 10, 2009 |

Easy to find and almost as easy to drink, Glenmorangie’s entry-level whisky is a solid and affordable entree into the world of Scotch. Glenmorangie is often noted for its floral character, but here you’ll find a surprising saltiness that interplays in an intriguing way with the caramel and honey notes of from the wood in…

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Review: Scapa 16 Years Old

By Christopher Null | January 6, 2009 |

Scapa is a relatively small outfit on Orkney Island, which is why Scapa gets to put the awesome word “Orcadian” on its label. Inside the bottle is a 16-year-old Scotch, which replaces the distillery’s 14-year single malt (which, in turn, replaced the distillery’s 12-year-old). Scapa’s just a one-whisky outfit, it seems. This is a racy…

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Review: Glen Moray 16 Years Old

By Christopher Null | January 1, 2009 |

A Speyside Scotch, aged 16 years and matured in old Chenin Blanc white wine barrels. This amber/copper Scotch is rich with flavor, a solid malt core backed up with lots of fruit. A big fruit salad in this one, with apples, bananas, and some cinnamon/clove spices to top it all off. Though just 80 proof,…

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Review: The Macallan Sherry Oak 18 Years Old (2009)

By Christopher Null | January 1, 2009 |

What a treat to try the distillery-bottled Macallan 18 Years Old after spending weeks with the Kirkland indie version. Here we see what Macallan had in mind — a honey and caramel-infused spirit with the lightest touch of smoke, layered with light fruit notes — apple and pear and a little citrus. The sherry wood…

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Review: Glenfiddich Solera Reserve 15 Years Old

By Christopher Null | January 1, 2009 |

This 15-year single malt is matured in the solera style in three different types of wood casks — sherry, bourbon, and new oak. Despite being bottled at 80 proof, it strangely comes off as hot. Even after adding a moderate amount of water, it’s still got some burn to it. There is sherry here and…

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Review: Johnnie Walker Green Label

By Christopher Null | December 31, 2008 |

For a long time Johnnie Walker Green Label was really hard to find — I ended up buying my bottle via mail order, then drinking very little of it. That all changed relatively recently: Now you can buy Green Label at Safeway. I set out to see what’s up with a good old-fashioned Green Label…

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Review: Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose

By Christopher Null | December 27, 2008 |

Got samples of my two favorite-named Scotch whiskys, which are now becoming quite widely available in the U.S. market. How do they fare in tastings? Sheep Dip Malt Whiskey – This golden-colored, vatted malt is a blend of 16 single malt whiskys aged between 8 and 21 years, its name arising from British farmers’ slang for…

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