On the blogby Alfred
July 23 2019

Five things to know about scotch whisky

by Eric Van Hove

It is summer and many of you are currently enjoying some much needed vacation time. You will perhaps read this blog in your swimsuit, a glass in your hand, with your friends on your deck. Here are a few subjects to discuss with your guests.

1. What is the difference between a scotch and a whisky?

A “scotch” is a whisky (a product of the distillation of cereals) from Scotland. When talking about whisky originating from Canada, we name it Canadian whisky and when talking about Scotland whisky, we name it Scotch whisky. But since the Scotland whisky has been known and appreciated around the globe for decades and even centuries, we simply refer to it by its “first name”: scotch.

2. With this hot weather, can I add ice to my scotch whisky?

The golden rule is quite simple: you drink your whisky just like you want it! With all that being said, it is quite important to know that adding ice to your whisky can affect it greatly. In fact, it is simple: adding ice can completely annihilate the tastes of your drink. All wine enthusiasts know that a red wine served too cold can bring down the product significantly. Also, by adding ice, the water that results from the ice melting dilutes the alcohol levels. A lower-end whisky, with no real distinctive taste, can benefit from this addition, as it will make it easier to drink; you can even add in your favorite soft drink. In summary, you are probably better off not uncorking your 1500$ bottle on your deck in this hot weather. But that is just my opinion: simply remember the golden rule!


3. Is the color of a scotch whisky an indication of its age?

Yes, in theory… but not really, in reality! Sorry to burst your bubble, but in most scotch whiskies, food coloring is added. The caramel E150a is the only other ingredient permitted in the fabrication process of scotch whisky, aside from cereals, yeast and water. Evidently, no producer is particularly adamant to admit to adding food coloring and the quantities added are unknown.  All of them sadly do it, as the majority of the people believe that a dark whisky is older, has more taste and is of better quality. But since you are now informed of this addition, you can look for the labels “Natural Color” and “Uncolored” on the bottles. With these products, by their color, you can gather information on the type of cask used for aging and its age. In theory, an older whisky is usually darker, but since an aging of 10 years in a bourbon cask won’t affect the whisky as much as three years of aging in a sherry cask, it is quite easily to be fooled even with no food coloring. So, no matter the product, don’t jump to conclusions too quickly by looking at the color: it is not an indicator of its age and, most importantly, it is not an indicator of quality.

4. Is a “single malt” better than a “blend”?

A whisky is made of cereals (corn, oat, barley, wheat, rye). The American whiskeys are made mainly of corn, but Canadian ones are historically made of mostly rye and the Scottish whiskies are mainly made with malted barley. A “single malt scotch whisky” is only made of malted barley and the whisky originates from a single distillery. A “blended scotch whisky” is a blend of many cereals that can come from multiple different distilleries.

Which one is the best? It depends on your personal taste. The fact is that it is a blend or single malt is not an indication of quality, but more so a description of what the product is. Many blends are of extremely high quality, with a complex and rich taste. Since their fabrication methods are much less expensive than the single malt, many blends are often targeted towards a market of people looking for products containing the most alcohol at the lowest price possible. Taste various products and find your favorites, there is a product for everyone!

5. The three golden rules to store your whisky bottles

1 – Always store them vertically. Contrary to wine, it is imperative to avoid contact of alcohol with the cork. 2 – The light from the sun is the worst enemy of whisky. Do not allow it to get close to your bottles. 3 – Keep your bottles in a cool place where temperature variations rarely happen.

It is important to note that an unopened whisky bottle that was properly stored will not have its taste change for a period of 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years. If you have an open bottle, the product won’t become unfit for consumption, unlike wine. It will be able to coast through the months and years after its initial opening with almost no effect on the original taste.

Do you have any questions? Do not hesitate to send me a message; it will be my pleasure to answer all your questions.

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