Envision a lychee infused martini with a hint of lemon zest and subtle notes of angostura bitters. That is a complex drink. Yet as fancy as it looks in your hand, nothing says ‘I’m a refined spirits connoisseur’ more than a solid glass of Scotch. Long hailed as the manliest of man drinks, the fiery liquid has been a source of gentlemanly pride for ages.
Yet, when you really think about it, do you know what Scotch is?
Furthermore, do you know what the difference between Scotch and whisky is?
It’s okay if you don’t, because even some veteran bartenders get stumped by these questions. Perhaps that’s because in some ways, Scotch and whisky are the same, but in other ways, they are not. What we mean is:
- Scotch is whisky that is produced in Scotland (hence the name)
- That means whisky made in other nations, is American whiskey, or Irish Whisky etc.
- All whisky, even Scotch whisky, is made from a variety of grains including: corn, barley, rye or wheat
- The grain is mashed, fermented and then aged in wooden barrels for many years, decades or even centuries
- The spelling of the term “whisky” is often debated by journalists and consumers. Scottish and Canadian whiskies use “whisky”; Irish whiskies use “whisky”, while American and other styles tend to use “whiskey”.
- Each nation has their own whisky regulation rules; some argue that Scotland’s are the most strict enabling them to produce the best quality whisky or Scotch whisky
- In addition to requiring that Scotch whisky be distilled in Scotland, the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (SWR) require that it also be bottled and labeled in Scotland.
- All Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years.
Fairly simple stuff until you factor in the whole single malt vs. single grain vs. single cask vs. blended malt vs. pure malt classifications. Yes, there is a difference and it’s a mouthful.
Here are the facts:
- A Single Malt Whisky is whisky that is entirely produced from malt in one distillery
- A Single Cask Whisky is one that comes entirely from one cask
- Blended Malt Whiskies are single malt whiskies from different distilleries that are blended into one bottle
- Pure Malt Whisky is used to describe some single malt bottles. The term essentially was just another fancy way for people to say that their whisky was derived from malt only. However, this ‘label’ was controversial among many whisky governing bodies and resulted in the Scotch Whisky Association declaring that a mixture of single malt whiskies must be labeled “blended malt.” Thus, the term “pure malt” is no longer used.
- Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a Scotch whisky produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation.
- Single Grain Scotch Whisky means a Scotch whisky distilled at a single distillery but, in addition to water and malted barley, it has other grains too (i.e.: corn, rye etc.). “Single grain” does not mean that only a single type of grain is used to produce the whisky—rather, the “single” refers to the single distillery that it was made in (kind of misleading isn’t it?)
The list of intricacies goes on and on, but all you really need to know is that the fine glass of tawny liquid in your hand really does take a lot of effort to create. It’s not that run of the mill fire water your ancestors chugged back, and it deserves its accolades. This is carefully crafted art my friend.
That’s why every Thursday at the Gerard Lounge we feature Scotch Flight Thursdays – an ode to the drink that makes life grand. Featuring only the best blends, single malts, single grains and every other variation you can imagine, you can sniff, swirl and savour the historic flavours (with a little bit of knowledge in your arsenal to boot).
Now that’s smooth.
For more information on the Gerard lounge click here.