The first thing every woman needs to learn about Single Malt Scotch Whisky is there is an infinite amount of things you may learn about them; what regions are there? what barrels are used for the aging? what is peat? To add water or ice?
The number one thing to know is: drink it any way you like. Some will try and tell you all different ways to drink “the water of life”, but the only right way is the way that tastes best to you. Even real highlanders will respect you as long as you appreciate their national offering in your own fashion. So have it on the rocks, put water in it…it’s just fine to bring out the flavor the way it suits your pallet.
The second thing to know is: try every single malt when the opportunity presents itself. Sure, you will have those few bottles that make you return again and again like a favorite song that defies the decades, with each sip offering the repeated delicious taste you know and love. But the real joy in Scottish Single Malts is the variety. Each region offers different tasting profiles, each distillery offers their own impression of flavor and each bottle is as unique in personality as the men and women who cultivate and age it. You never know which will be your next love, unless you taste it.
If you stop reading here, you are armed with all you need to know to enjoy a life-time of Single Malt Whisky. However, like everything in the world of whisk(e)y there is so much more to know and Single Malt is most certainly not excluded from this. I am here to be your Single Malt Spirit Guide, let’s start with the basics.
There are four basic regions for Whisky production in Scotland: Highland, Lowland, Speyside and Islay/Islands as illustrated here by the Duty-free map with some major Scotch Whisky Distilleries noted. Any tasting flight will have a choice from each of these regions.
Speyside whisky is generally considered the smoothest and sweetest flavors of all the whisky produced in Scotland. This region produces delicate scotch that weaves in fruity apples and oranges tinged with smoke and spice or caramel. If you are a first-time taster to Single Malt, I recommend starting with any of the whiskies made in this region. Smooth, Suave, Mature, Classic - Think Cary Grant.
One to try: the Christmas Whisky, Cragganmore.
Lowland whisky is usually known for fresher, lighter, floral, cereal flavors. Fresh, Bright, Crisp, Simple but rewarding - Think Chris Pratt.
One to try: The Edinburgh Malt, Glenkinchie.
Highland whisky comes from the largest region that knits together all the other regions. Some say honey of the heather is the tasting thread that is common to all highland whisky…I am still tasting to confirm that one. I will say this is the most unpredictable of all the regions. You never know until you have one what it will offer. Charming, Impish and Surprising - Think Ewan McGregor.
One to try: A honey of a whisky, Dalwhinnie.
Islay/Islands whisky is a unique experience. Many of even the most hearty single malt enthusiast will sometimes say these scotches are stark. Ladies, do not let that fool you, they are delicious and worth growing accustomed to. They are typified by flavors of the salt of the sea water and the peaty smoke. Tough, Hearty, but boundless in their bounty…These are the Ron Swansons of whisky— Yeah, you guessed it - Think Nick Offerman.
One to try: The Ron Swanson whisky of choice, Lagavulin.
Now, there are all sorts of nuances with cask woods, sherry vs port etc. but that we can tackle in Scotch 201.
OH! And why is the “e” left out of whisky in Scotland? Some say it comes from the difference in the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms, but ask any Scot and they will tell you that everyone else just plain spells it wrong. Rest assured, if you are in Scotland, only ask for whisky never scotch and never spell it with an “e”.