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6/6/12

 Scotch 

History and information on scotch whiskey.


 SCOTCH WHISKEY

Three types of whiskey

 

There are three different categories of Scotch whiskey; malt whiskey,
grain whiskey and blended whisky
. One of the characteristics that all three share
is the fact that they have to be matured for at least three years; a minimum set
by British law.

BLENDED WHISKEY - a 'blend' of roughly 2/3 (and often more) grain whiskeys
combined with about 1/3 malt whiskies from several different distilleries to form
a drink that applies to the tastes (and wallets) of as many people as possible.

GRAIN WHISKEY the better, if you ask me. It's made from a mash of
cereal grains (usually barley, wheat and maize). Both malted barley (barley which has
started to germinate before it was dried to stop the germination) and unmalted barley
(unsprouted barley which remains dormant) are used in the production of grain whisky.
is distilled in a continuous 'industrial' process, using so-called 'Coffey Stills'.
The black label of the (very young) 'Blackbarrel' grain whiskey identifies it as a single grain.
Unless casked and aged properly, the end result often resembles the revolting Dutch drink
Jenever (gin).

  GRAIN WHISKEY is distilled in a continuous 'industrial' process, using so-called 'Coffey Stills'.
The black label of the (very young) 'Blackbarrel' grain whisky identifies it as a single grain.
Unless casked and aged properly, the end result often resembles the revolting Dutch drink
Jenever (gin).

 Malt whiskey in general and single malt whiskey in particular. Although vatted malts can lack the personality of single malt, some of them offer excellent value for money.  

 
A) Scotch(i.e. no Irish whiskey, Japanese whiskey, Bourbon or Rye whiskey), and/or
B) single(i.e. no blends & vatted malts where different whiskeys are mixed), and/or
C) malt (i.e. not made from other grains than 100% malted barley.)
 
 
MALT WHISKEY produced from 100% malted barley
(fermented wi yeast) and distilled batch by batch in massive, traditional copper 'pot stills'. No other grain products or ferment able material is permitted in the production of this whiskey. Within the 'malt whisky' category there are two sub-types; SINGLE MALT WHISKEY (which
is the product from one single distillery, not blended with whiskey from any other distillery) and VATTED MALT WHISKEY (different malt whiskeys from more than one distillery, which have been blended together to produce a consistent product that still has a personality).

Two major categories,
single and blended whiskey. The word 'Single' means that
100% of the product is from one single distillery, while the

word 'Blended' means that the end product is composed of
whiskeys from two or more different whiskey distilleries.

 

Well, so far that makes sense - but they needed a further
subdivision, and that's where matters get a little trickier.
Once again I checked Wikipedia for the details and found

Single malt whiskey = a malted barley whisky from one distillery.
- Single grain whisky = a grain whisky from one distillery (not necessarily from a single type of grain).
- Blended malt whiskey = a malt whisky created by mixing single malt whiskeys from several distilleries.
- Blended grain whiskey = a whisky created by mixing grain whiskeys from more than one distillery.
- Blended Scotch whiskey = a mixture of malt and grain whiskeys, usually from multiple distilleries
.
 

Most 'official' single malt bottling are VATTINGS (= blends) of different casks / barrels.
Vatting or blending various casks of whiskey from the distillery together gives the master blender some control over the final product. From a portfolio of thousands of casks, the blender selects those (usually a few dozen casks, but sometimes hundreds) that have the desired character. The quality of individual casks can vary considerably from cask to cask. So, unless other people have made recommendations about a specific single cask bottling you'll have no
guarantee that that particular whiskey will have the 'distillery profile' you expect.
But that's part of the fun of sampling single cask bottling - usually bottled by independent bottlers.

Scotch whiskey vocabulary dictionary

 As the name suggests, the focus of the Malt Madness website is firmly on malts.
Maltwhiskey in general and singlemalt whiskey in particular - I'll explain later why.
Although vatted malts can lack the personality of single malt, some of them offer
excellent value for money. You can find great vatted malts for less than 20 Euros!
So if you're mainly interested in finding a good drinking whisky that won't give you
a hangover, quit reading this guide and surf to the
Deviant Drams section instead.
There you will find an overview of all the whiskeys I have sampled that are NOT;

 
A) Scotch(i.e. no Irish whiskey, Japanese whiskey, Bourbon or Rye whiskey), and/or
B) single(i.e. no blends & vatted malts where different whiskeys are mixed), and/or
C) malt (i.e. not made from other grains than 100% malted barley.)

 
Good, because this is where it all gets a little confusing...

My personal favorite type of whiskey is MALT WHISKEY, produced from 100% malted barley
(fermented with yeast) and distilled batch by batch in massive, traditional copper 'pot stills'.
No other grain products or ferment able material is permitted in the production of this whiskey.
Within the 'malt whisky' category there are two sub-types; SINGLE MALT WHISKEY (which
is the product from one single distillery, not blended with whiskey from any other distillery)
and VATTED MALT WHISKEY (different malt whiskeys from more than one distillery, which
have been blended together to produce a consistent product that still has a personality).
 
The (originally) six so-called 'Classic Malts' from
industry giant Diageo (Dalwhinnie, Oban,
Lagavulin, Cragganmore, Talisker & Glenkinchie) are examples of
single malt 'brands'.
Well known vatted malts are 'Sheep Dip', 'Blairmhor' and 'Johnnie Walker Green Label'.

The less said about GRAIN WHISKEY the better, if you ask me. It's made from a mash of
cereal grains (usually barley, wheat and maize). Both malted barley (barley which has
started to germinate before it was dried to stop the
germination) and unmalted barley
(unsprouted barley which remains dormant) are used in the production of grain whiskey.
Grain whiskey is distilled in a continuous 'industrial' process, using so-called 'Coffey Stills'.
The black label of the (very young) 'Blackbarrel' grain whiskey identifies it as a single grain.
Unless casked and aged properly, the end result often resembles the revolting Dutch drink
Jenever (gin). That being said, I've sampled a few old grain whiskeys that were simply amazing.

A SINGLE CASK SINGLE MALT (a.k.a. a 'single-single') is as exclusive as it gets.
It's the same as a normal single malt whiskey, but all bottles are taken from one single caskof whiskey.
When you realize that a bourbon barrel usually equalizes about 300 bottles of whiskey (sherry casks are larger), the drinking of a single cask malt whisky like the Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel is quite a special experience. However, it can be risky business as well.  Only plain water is added before it is bottled, and in the case of so-called 'cask strength' bottling not even that. There are bottling with an ABV (alcohol percentage) of well over 60% available! However, I couldn't really recommend those to any beginner - it would be better to start at 40% or 43%. But first there is a lot more 'single malt theory' I'd like to share with you...

The standard ex-bourbon cask holds some 200 liters of whiskey.
It is usually called a BARREL and has been used only once for
the maturation of bourbon in the US before it was taken apart
and shipped to Scotland. There are many different brands like
Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, George Dickel, Maker's Mark, Old Crow,
Wild Turkey & Four Roses, but all these bourbons are actually
produced at just a handful of distilleries. The precise heritage
of the bourbon casks is considered a topic of
relatively minor
importance. That seems rather odd when you look at all the
fuss that is made about the trouble that some blenders go
through to secure just the right sherry casks or wine casks
for their compositions. Bourbon barrels are usually heavily
charred on the inside. The carbon from the burnt layer not
only acts like a filter (removing certain nasty
transfer vanilla and woody notes elements from
the spirit), it also helps to
to the bourbon. In its 'second life' in Scotland a cask keeps
influencing the contents. However, the effect that the wood
has on the whiskey inside a cask slowly diminishes over time.
This is especially true when a cask is used 'more than once'.
The casks that Americans use (just once) for their bourbons
are made from the oak trees that grow in America - which is
another species (Quercus alba) from European
Quercus Robur.
Most American oak casks are sourced from
Kentucky, Missouri
and Tennessee. As I mentioned earlier, the size of
is the casks
much more standardized (+ 200 liter) than that of sherry casks.

When it comes to casks, SIZE matters as well. In a smaller cask, the surface of the wood interacts with a (relatively) small
volume of whiskey. These results in a relatively fast maturation compared to larger casks. A 500 liter sherry butt has to 'convert'
much more spirit than a 'small' 200 liter bourbon barrel, while its surface isn't significantly larger. But then again the effects of
bourbon casks are different from those of sherry casks. And with the spreading of finishing, even more different types of casks
(wine, rum, etc.) appeared on the scene. And it's not just what you've got - it's how you use it that's probably most important.

Sherry casks are usually larger than bourbon barrels and come
 in several different sizes. A HOGSHEAD holds 250 liters, while
 a BUTT is twice that size with 500 liters. Distilleries sometimes
use other sizes (like the 450 liter PUNCHEON ) as well, but the
vast majority of the casks are still barrels, hogsheads & butts.
Just like the discovery of the significant benefits of maturation

 in oak casks, the magic of sherry was uncovered by accident.
 Scotland relied on oak trees from the forests of England for
 a long time, but at some point distilleries needed to find an
 alternative source for their casks. Sherry (fortified Spanish
 wine) was once very popular on the British Isles. Actually,
 it still is -  the UK alone takes care of a whopping 29% of
 the world's sherry consumption, with Holland coming in a
 close second with 27%. The sherry bodegas use
Quercus
Robur
for their casks - i.e. European Oak. There are many
different 'types' of sherry, which means there are
different
 
types of sherry casks as well. To name just a few of them;
 Fino, Oloroso, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Pedro Ximénez, etc.
 Are you dizzy yet? No?  Good - then you might like to learn
 that  'Pedro Ximénez' is also the name of the grape species
 used for sherry. In fact, only two species of grape are used
 for the production of sherry; the other one being 'Palomino'.
Compared to the 1970's, sherry consumption in Holland and
the UK has dropped off dramatically. As results, production
of sherry dropped as well - and therefore availability of casks.

Anyway, sherry used to be shipped from Spain to England by the cask. Alcoholism was running rampanTin those days, so empty and discarded
sherry casks were littering the 19th century Scottish landscape very much
like empty beer cans and bottles are doing today. In one of the world's
first recycling initiatives the Scots started picking
up that second hand
sherry casks to use them again for the maturation of their whiskeys
.And then use them again & again & again - waste
not want not... 
 

These days, both bourbon and sherry casks are used more than once.
A sherry cask that has seen four or five fillings is
no exception.
When a cask has held and aged whiskey for the very first time
it's called a FIRST-FILL cask, after a second filling with fresh
whiskey it's a SECOND-FILL cask, etc. With each filling less
and less character is transferred to the whiskey. Depending
on the pedigree of the cask it will become 'exhausted' after
a couple of fillings.

 

For my personal tasting ritual, I usually taste my whiskeys in a large cognac
snifter (a.k.a. 'fishbowl') which 'gives the most nose' for me. Wine glasses and
sherry copitas are relatively suitable as well, but make sure to avoid tumblers!
During the 1990's one often had to rely on glasses that were designed for another spirit, but these days dozens of different special whiskey 'nosing' glasses
are available. The
Advanced Beginner's Guide offers a test of the main choices.

 

The COLOUR can actually tell you something more about that whiskey. The spectrum goes from pale straw via golden to dark amber. Single malts that were matured in bourbon barrels, for example, are usually very pale. When sherry casks are used for storing the whisky the color is usually much darker. Whiskeys also grow darker as they age, but a lot of bottlers artificially color their malts with caramel, so it is probably best not to judge a sheep by its color - or something along those lines

When you take your time, you will notice that the bouquet often changes considerably after you've allowed
the malt to 'breathe' for some time. Take at least half an hour for a glass of malt whiskey. Nosing a dram is by definition a personal experience, because every nose is 'technically' unique and there are hundreds of different components that together make up the bouquet of a simple malt whiskey. Apart from these typesof 'technical' aspects, the very nature of our memory ensures that nosing malt will always be personal.
 
We tend to associate all the aromas we find in a malt whiskey with familiar smells from the past to be able to define the experience. Everybody has a unique frame of reference - and therefore a unique vocabulary to describe the scents and flavors that can be found in a single malt whiskey. Just follow your own instincts...

NOSING noble drinks like cognac, Armagnac and SMSW 'officially' happens in three stages.
First, without waltzing, take a deep sniff with your nose a fewcentimeters above the glass. For your second sniff, put your nose right over or even inside the glass - still no waltzing,
mind you. Finally, you waltz around the drink in your glass for a while to release the heavier components of the bouquet, and enjoy the third sniff. Warming the glass in your hand helps.

Some people try to cover as much as possible of the inside surface of the glass to give the whiskey maximum 'breathing space'. This also allows you to inspect the 'legs' of a whiskey - the drops that trickle back down the inside of the glass. Heavy (= slow) legs usually spell good news unless it's caused by large quantities of caramel. More details in that topic can be found in the Advanced Beginner's Guide section.

It goes into more details about 'nosing techniques' as well. For example, should you nose a whiskey with
your mouth open or closed? Keeping your mouth open at the time of nosing provides free passage of air.
With the help of the 'back draft' you may be able to recognize more subtleties. Just give it a try some time.

After investigating a fine dram I always have a few sniffs from my empty glass as
well; the lingering aromas can give you an interesting new perspective on the malt
you've just enjoyed. Just make sure not to sniff that same glass the next morning ;-)

And what about DILUTION - adding water to the whiskey to help release the bouquet? Like so many other things concerning the finer things in life, that's just a matter of taste. Or lack thereof.... I often add some pure mineral water (no bubbles!) to help release the aromas. Adding water is usually good for the nose of malt, but not always for the palate, so I make sure to always have some sniffs and sips before I start adding water. And even then, I make sure to only add a few drops at a time- especially when I'm sampling a malt that was bottled at 40 or 43%. Obviously, cask strength malts like Glenfarclas 105 that's bottled at an ABV of 60% can be diluted more rigorously than whiskeys bottled at a regular 40 or 43 percent, but even then I recommend caution.

 

When you add water (preferably at room-temperature) in different stages, you'll find that some single malts are best experienced neat, while others require different amounts of water to flourish. Some malt require no more than a teardrop, while others only open up after nearly being drowned.
Even with a cask strength whiskey 50/50 is the absolute maximum for me, but there are people who happily murder good malt by adding twice as much water to it. That's whisky flavored water, as far as I'm concerned!

When it comes to scoring whiskey, we maniacs use a 1-100 scale that's roughly comparable to the 50-100 (actually more like 55-95) scale used by the writers Robert Parker and Michael Jackson. The main difference is that for us, 50 is not the bottom line. Our scale is supposed to include all alcoholic drinks(beer, wine, sherry, port, cognac, vodka, rum, etc.) and 50 points is the border between liking a certain drink and not liking it. And since we're malt maniacs, you can rest assured that we like most malt whiskeys. The 'average' score for a single malt is +/- 75 points (but we've learnt to avoid a lot of the sub-standard material by now. We actively love every whiskey (single malt or otherwise) that scores 80 points or more.

 

 Review from Whiskyfun.com

Highland Park 12 Yr ‘Hjarta’(58.1 %, OB, 3924 Bts., Bottled 2009)Nose: Sweet and malty.  A little smoky with a hint of organics anew tend then.  Some meaty notes after five minutes.  Taste: Sweet & Solid start, quickly evolving into a dry, fruity & smoky center.  Dry, hot and gritty finish with a flash of sweetness.  Score: 84 points – despite a hint of something medicinal, the fairly harsh finish keeps it from the upper 80’s

Highland Park 15 Yr ‘Saint Magnus’(55%, OB, Distilled 1994 and earlier, bottled t/- 2010, 11994 Bts.)  Nose: Clean, serried profile with quite some fruits.  A whiff of smoke as well.  It sweetens out over time.  Taste: Sweet start.  Surprisingly medicinal center.  Some tar and lots of tannins in the finish.  Very well balanced.  Score: 87 points – a surprisingly smoky expression from Highland Park.  It just loses 1 or 2 points in the finish.

 

 

Scotch Slang:

ABV - Alcohol By Volume (percentage)
Aldehydes - Grassy, leathery aroma's
Anorak - Fashionable piece of clothing
Barrel - 200 liter Bourbon cask
Bastard malt - malt of dubious origins
BFYB - Bang-For-Your-Buck
Body- Mouth feel of a whiskey
Butt - 500 liter Sherry cask
C/S- Cask Strength
Dram- Measurement of whiskey (glass)
Dramming- Drinking whiskey
Esters - Fruity, flowery aroma's
Finish (1)- Aftertaste of a whiskey
Finish (2) - Maturation in second cask
Finish (3) - Dyslectic from Finland
Gorda - Massive sherry cask
Hogshead - 225 to 275 liter cask
Lyne Arm - Tennis elbow for drinkers
IB - Independent bottling
Malt Mileage - Number of tasted malts
NAS - No Age Statement
OB - Official / owner bottling
Octave - 63 liter sherry cask
Phenols - Peaty, smoky aroma's
Proof- old system to measure ABV
Puncheon - 450 liter Sherry cask
Quaich - Traditional drinking cup
Skalk - First dram of the morning
Slainte - Cheers!
SMSW- Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
SMWS- Scotch Malt Whiskey Society
Snifter - Proper nosing glass
SWA- Scotch Whiskey Association
Tumbler - Philistine's glass
Vatting- blend of different whiskeys
Vintage - Year of distillation
WIP- Work In Progress (unbottled)
YO - Years Old

 

 

Pronunciation:

Aberlour- Aber-lower
Auchentoshan - Ochentoshen
Auchroisk- Othrusk
Bruichladdich- Brew-ich-laddie
Bunnahabhain - Boon-a-havun
Caol Ila- Kaal-eea
Cardhu- Kar-doo
Clynelish- Klyn-leesh
Dailuaine - Dall-Yewan
Glen Garioch- Glen Gee-ree
Glenmorangie- Glen-Mranjee
Knockdhu- Nock-doo
Laphroaig - La-froyg
Ledaig- Led-chig
Pittyvaich- Pitt-ee-vay-ich
Strathisla- Strath-eye-la
Teaninich- Tee-an-inich
Tomintoul- Tomin-towel
Tullibardine - Tully-bard-eye-n

Major Bottlers:

Adelphi (UK)
Berry Brothers (UK)
Blackadder (Sweden)
Cadenhead's (UK, various ranges)
Celtic Whiskey Compagnie (France)
Douglas Laing (UK, Provenance, etc.)
Duncan Taylor (UK, Peerless, etc.)
Gordon & MacPhail (UK, many ranges)
Hart Brothers (UK)
James McArthur (UK)
La Maison du Whiskey (France)
Moon Import (Italy)
Murray McDavid (UK)
lroys of Soho / John Milroy (UK)
Samaroli (Italy) Mi
Scott's Selection (UK)
Sestante Import (Italy)
Signatory Vintage (UK)

Silver Seal (Italy)

Scotch Malt Whiskey Society (UK, SMWS)
the Ultimate (Holland, Van Wees)
Wilson & Morgan (Italy
)

 

Seven Scent Groups
 
Sweets - Honey, vanilla, toffee, soft caramel
Cereals - Malt, wheat, bread, biscuits, yeast
Oils - Butter, cream, cod oil, hazelnuts, walnuts
Woods - Oak, cedar, pine, birch, beech, sawdust
Esters - Fruit, flowers, citrus, pear drops, sultanas
Phenols - Iodine, peat, smoke, ammonia
Aldehydes - Grass, leaves, hay, heather, mint, etc.


6/6/12
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