For those alcohol lovers out there whose favorite cocktail of choice happens to be whisky, you’ve probably tried scotch a time or two. Scotch is a special type of whiskey that is produced in a variety of regions across the world which adds to its novelty and popularity at large. Much like other whiskey products, scotch whisky varieties incorporate the use of delicately picked grains and wheat by-products which then will go through a very special fermentation phase in order to create the scotch you know and love.
There are several different elements which will affect the overall taste and flavor of the scotch whisky that you choose. In order to make the right decision on which whiskey option is best for you, you’ll need to do your proper amount of research into the overall fermentation and creation process of scotch whisky as a whole.
Location, climate, filtration, and more will alter the end resulting flavor of any scotch whisky in production, that’s why it’s so important for you to look at all of these variables before finalizing a purchase on any scotch whisky selection that you choose.
There are a lot of different types of scotch whisky options out on the market all of which vary in terms of flavor and boldness. The origins of scotch are also very important when discussing why it’s such a popular drink with many people across the world. When it was first formulated, scotch was called the “water of life” due to the natural distillation process used in the production of whiskey products of all varieties.
Scotch whisky begins with a very rich history that started in Scotland and eventually spread its roots throughout the rest of the world. Today, scotch whisky is produced in a wide range of different regions and locations across the globe.
The very first reference to scotch whisky ever recorded in history was found in 1494, during this period scotch whisky was used to treat diseases and ailments in humans due to its warm and calming sensation. Thanks to advancements in modern technology and medicine, we now know that scotch whisky is not effective for any serious infections or other ailments however it’s still a very rich and delicious treat enjoyed by many people across the world.
If you’re interested in picking up a bottle of premium scotch whisky, you’ll need to make sure that you pay attention to every aspect of its creation and production process to ensure that it’s the right option for you.
In this guide, we’re going to go over some of the most important factors that you need to consider before picking up any bottle of scotch whisky that is available on store shelves. We’ll cover all of the important aspects that go into making a premium scotch whisky selection. Make sure that you read this entire guide in full so that you’ll be able to choose the perfect scotch whisky option for your celebratory event or any other occasion.
To begin assisting you in finding the right bottle of scotch whisky for your specific taste, we’re going to get started by looking at how scotch whisky is made. There are several steps in the beginning creation and processing of scotch whiskey so it’s important to know all of the details about them before going out to buy a bottle of scotch whisky available in your local grocery store or supermarket.
How It’s Made: Scotch Whisky
Before you’re even able to choose from a scotch whisky selection available on your grocery, the entire liquid goes through an immense fermentation and distillation process to ensure the quality and purity of the whiskey option that you select.
All of the steps involved with fermenting and producing whisky will affect its overall taste and flavor which is why selecting the right scotch whiskey distiller is also another very important part in choosing which bottle is right for you.
Although there are a lot of steps involved with producing scotch whisky, the steps are fairly simple and easy to follow especially if the distiller has a lot of experience in the practice. Below, we’re going to detail all of the steps involved with making the premium scotch whiskey selections that you drink.
Read the following section in full in order to avoid choosing the wrong scotch whisky selection for your next planned event.
The malting process when it comes to making scotch whisky requires the harvesting of barley first. The barley harvested will be carefully selected by the distiller of the scotch whisky option in question, once the barley is harvested it will be tested for quality using various methods chosen by the distiller.
To begin, the barley is soaked or “steeped” in pure water, once it’s finished being steeped, the barley is then drained and set across the malting floor where it will germinate until ready for the next step as determined by the distiller.
The germination process of barley typically takes about 6-7 days to complete fully, this ensures that all of the potential flavors are infused into the barley before it begins the most important processing step.
Enzymes in the barley are released during the germination process which transmutes the existing starch content into sugar and maltose. After all of that is done, the fully germinated barley is then dried using a smoking process that takes a smoke from an underground furnace commonly called a “kiln” the heat is usually infused with fresh peat which adds nice roasted nut flavor to the whiskey.
After the barley malt is thoroughly dried, it’s then put through a grinder which sifts it into a rather fine powder substance similar to the consistency of flour.
This fine flour-like mixture is called “grist” which is then combined with hot water from which it runs through a vessel known as a “mash run.” The mash run will allow the powder malt mixture and water to further steep which will bring out the sugars in the newly formed barley mixture. The course sugar-like liquid produced from this process is known as “wort.”
Now it’s time for the good stuff, the wort substance produced in the last step is then sifted off and transferred into very large steel or wooden drums known as “washbacks” from which the mixture will be combined with yeast selected by the distiller and it will be left to ferment.
The amount of time that it takes for a particular whiskey to completely ferment will depend on the type of scotch whisky being made and the distiller who is making it.
Fermentation is affected by climate and storage conditions however the standard time is about 2 full days. The fermentation process works by the yeast feeding off of the sugars present in the mixture which produces alcohol. The resulting liquid will typically have a total alcohol concentration of 5-% by volume and in this state, it is called “wash.”
The wash mixture is then ready to be distilled, depending on the type of scotch whisky being produced, the still used to distill it will vary. Single malt whiskey is usually distilled in pot stills while grain whiskey is distilled in Coffey stills.
There will be two stills used during the entire distillation process one which will house the “wash” and the other will separate the “wash” water from the actual alcohol content.
In order to achieve this, the “wash” is boiled which produces steam that is collected and stored in a condenser. The liquid formed this process is known as “low wine” and contains about 20% alcohol by volume.
After that is finished, the resulting liquid will be transferred into what is known as a “spirit still” which separates the high alcohol from the low alcohol content leaving us with the middle part of the distillation which is used to make the whiskey products that we drink.
Once all of the above-mentioned steps are completed, it’s time for the whiskey to begin maturing in order to grasp and embody all of the natural flavors used during its processing.
The unfinished scotch whisky will be placed into either casks or oak barrels in order for the maturing process to begin. During the maturing process, the scotch whisky will begin to develop it’s signature smooth taste and flavor in addition to its golden color that so many people know and recognize it for.
In order for any scotch whisky product to legally be categorized as “scotch”, It must be matured in Scotland for at least 3yrs before making its way onto the shelf although times may be longer depending on the type of scotch whisky being produced and it’s distiller.
It is generally accepted in the industry that scotch whiskey takes about 8-20 years before it reached its full maturity. Many distillers hold true to the thought that scotch whisky tastes better the longer it is allowing to mature and age, that’s why some bottles of scotch whisky are so expensive.
Now that you know a little bit more about exactly what goes into making a premium scotch whiskey selection, it’s time to learn a little bit more about where these various varieties are produced and how they vary in terms of flavor and taste.
The geographic region in which your selected scotch whisky is produced will have a major impact on its overall flavor profile when drinking it. It’s important to know about all of the various regions that scotch whiskey is produced in so that you can get a good idea of how a particular scotch whiskey option will taste even before buying it.
Continue reading below in order to find out more about the various regions that scotch whiskey is produced in and how you can choose the right selection for you.
We’re going to cover all of the important aspects of each region that scotch whisky is produced in so that you can decide on which location is optimal for your desired whisky selection.
Regions & Taste: Scotch Whisky
Although scotch whisky got its start in Scotland, today the whisky selection is popular across several different states and cities globally. You can find scotch whisky producers virtually anywhere although there are some very prominent regions in which scotch is still produced till this very day.
In the following section, we’re going to cover all of the important factors that you need to consider as it relates to the region and general climate in which your selected scotch whisky choice is produced. Make sure that you read the entire following section in full to ensure that you’re making the right purchase decision when it comes to which scotch whiskey selection is right for you.
Highland is probably one of the most well-known and popular scotch whiskys producing regions across the world. It’s also the largest region according to its total land size and configuration. Highlands is home to a variety of scotch whisky distillers all of which produce a range of specially crafted whisky for you to enjoy.
Scotch whisky varieties produced in the highlands region will tend to have a sweeter and spicier flavor to them when compared to other scotch whisky options produced in other regions. Some notable brands that produce scotch whisky in the highland region are Glen ord and knocked.
The lowlands region is located just beneath the highlands and it is home to a lot of beginning scotch whiskey distillers and drinkers. The lowlands region is well-known for producing scotch whisky that incorporates a light body and vanilla flavor profile.
Most scotch whiskey options produced in the lowlands will also contain less of a peat flavor and more of a sweet overall taste. There are four main distilleries in the lowlands region which produce scotch whisky some of them including Asia Bay and Bladnoch.
The Campbelltown region is known for its rich history in scotch whisky production with only 3 remaining distilleries still in operation in the region today. Campbeltown is located near Ireland and it used to be a primary region for scotch whiskey production until 2009 when the Scotch Whisky Association divided the region into two separate areas.
Speyside is located in the heart of Scotland and is home to the Spey river which is where many of the distilleries located in the area get their filtration water from. Speyside is home to over half the total amount of scotch whisky distillers still in business today making it the epicenter of scotch whisky production around the world.
Speyside produced a very sweet scotch whisky that tends to be rather dry however most of the blends that come out of the region are very balanced in terms of taste and flavor. Most of the really popular distilleries are located in Speyside including Glenlivet, Macallan, and a lot more. While Speyside is rather small in its actual size, it makes up for it by being home to some of the largest scotch whisky production in the world.
Islay is the home of all the major single malt scotch whisky distillers out on the market today. Islay scotch whisky is well-known for its peaty smell and ultra-smooth texture due to the surrounding climate. Islay scotch whisky is also very well-known for its rather dry finish and salty taste which balance each other out perfectly when you drink it. Islay houses some of the major players in the scotch whisky industry including Bowmore, Ardbeg, and a lot more.
Now that you know all there is to know about the various regions in which scotch whisky is produced, it’s time to take a look at some of the most important factors to look for when selecting the right scotch whisky option for your taste buds. Much like any other alcoholic beverage including wine, scotch whisky has several small undertones and notes that hit everyone’s tongue a little bit differently.
To make sure that you’re selecting a premium scotch whisky option, read the following section to learn more about how to go about determining the flavor profile and taste of the scotch whisky variety that you’re interested in.
What is considered the best scotch?
When it comes to finding out which scotch whisky option is best for you, there are several elements that will play a role in the final answer. Since every scotch whiskey option is made using different methods, procedures, and ingredients, each bottle will vary in taste and flavor which is why it’s so important for you to understand the various things to look for before purchasing a bottle of scotch whisky. Below, we’re going to point out some of the main things that everyone should look for before finalizing the purchase on a bottle of scotch whisky to ensure that you’re getting the exact taste and flavor you want.
The color of your scotch whisky selection will tell you a lot about the overall process involved with producing it. Most scotch whiskey varieties have a very golden and almost roasted color however the subtle differences in shine and quality can be hard to notice. See how the whiskey moves around in the bottle it’s packaged in so that you can get a food idea of how smooth it will be once you begin to drink it. Some scotch whiskey options even have a pale straw color to them which indicates pure distillation and less aging time. The color of the scotch whisky that you select is very important in helping determine whether or not it’s the right fit so always look at the color of a particular scotch whisky before buying it.
2. Distillation Region
As mentioned before, each scotch whisky variety is produced in a different region and the region in which it’s produced will have a huge impact on the final flavor and overall taste of the whisky. By looking at the regions section listed above in this guide, you can determine which region provides the optimal flavor profile and taste that you’re looking for in a premium scotch whisky variety.
3 Alcohol by Volume (ABV)
The ABV or Alcohol By Volume rating on your selected bottle of scotch whiskey will alert you of how much alcohol is contained within a specific brand or type of scotch whisky. Higher ABV ratings don’t always mean that you’re getting a higher quality scotch whisky so use discretion when selecting which scotch whisky has the right ABV that you’re interested in.
4 Aging Length
The age of the scotch whisky bottle that you select will play a major role in how deep and rich the flavors contained within the bottle are. The minimum aging requirement for any scotch whisky brand is 3yrs however that time can be longer depending on the type of whisky produced and the distiller who made it.
If you’re looking for a rich and deep flavor profile, you want to go with scotch whiskey selections that have been aged for well over 5yrs and vice versa if you don’t mind a lighter and more refined taste. By paying attention to the age of your selected scotch whiskey, you’ll be able to pick out all of the subtle notes in it infused by the particular process of fermentation used during its creation.
Now it’s time to get to the part of this guide that you’ve all been waiting for which is reviewing our top recommended scotch whiskey options that you can pick up from your local liquor store today. In the section below, we’ll give you our top recommended scotch whiskey options that you can choose from today in order to drink the perfect blend of barley, wheat, and peat that you desire.
Each of the scotch whiskey options listed below will vary in terms of their fermentation process and aging so make sure that you pay attention to all of the information to ensure that you make the right decision on which scotch whiskey option is best for you.
Top Recommended Scotch Whisky Selections
Scotch whisky comes in various brands and types so there are no shortages of options for you to choose from, in order to make it easier for you to pick up the right scotch whisky selection for your particular needs and desires, we’re going to list some of our top recommended options below. Each scotch whisky selection mentioned below will vary in terms of taste, aging, fermentation, flavor and a lot more so keep all of these factors in mind before making a final decision about which scotch whisky brand is best for your particular taste preferences and needs.
1. Aberfeldy 12
Aberfeldy 12 is produced in the highland region of Scotland and provides a gentle yet bold flavor to those interested. Aberfeldy 12 contains notes of Amber and it is filled with mild notes that add a nice balance to the overall taste of the scotch whisky. Aberfeldy 12 is infused with fresh fruit flavors with a hint of smokiness to add that body that people know and expect from premium scotch whisky selections.
Aberfeldy 12 also has a very creamy and smooth overall taste which goes down easy and taste great while on the tonged. Aberfeldy 12 is fermented and distilled using very little peat however the end product has a very pleasant sweet taste to it that experienced scotch whisky drinkers will appreciate.
Aberfeldy 12 has a nice rounded citrus flavor to it that adds a well-needed zest to the overall blend providing the ultimate scotch whisky variety for anyone that loves some barley and wheat. If you’re interested in tasting a glass of Aberfeldy 12, you can pick one up at your local grocery store or liquor outlet.
Auchentoshan Three Wood has a reddish color to it thanks to the amber notes infused into the blend. Auchentoshan Three Wood is produced in the lowlands region of Scotland and is a single malt scotch whisky selection that is triple distilled for premium purity and taste. Auchentoshan Three Wood is aged in two different types of casks being bourbon and sherry.
Auchentoshan Three Wood is filled with loud and bold flavors that are very noticeable at the front of the overall blend. Auchentoshan Three Wood has notes of sherry, toffee, and cooked fruit all throughout its final blend which adds a nice and crisp taste to the whisky that is refreshing when it hits your tongue. Auchentoshan Three Wood also has notes of rum sprinkled through its blend with spices things up when drinking the blend.
Auchentoshan Three Wood also gives off flavors of dark chocolate and cherries in the blend which make for a nice combination of lovely fruit flavors throughout the entire bottle. Auchentoshan Three Wood is a very woody and dark scotch whisky that is blended with exotic fruits which is something that you don’t see often in the scotch whisky market. If you’re looking for a premium scotch that is unique and original, Auchentoshan Three Wood is a great choice.
Ardbeg 10 is a very well-known scotch whisky blend that is aged for a minimum of 10yrs to bring out the full potential and aspects of all the various flavors and taste sprinkled throughout the blend.
Other Options to Consider:
- Ardbeg 10 vs Laphroaig 10: Who Will Take Home the Peat Lover’s Crown?
- Ardbeg Corryvreckan Review: A Top Islay Whisky?
- Macallan 18 Review: Is it Worth the Price?
- Macallan 15 Review: Appearance, Nose and Finish
- Dalwhinnie 15 Review
- Macallan 12 Review: Should You Try This Scotch?
- Ardbeg Kelpie Review: Is it Worth It?
- Macallan 12 vs 18: Does the Price Make a Difference?
FAQs About Finding the Best Scotch
Besides trying to order it online, or going through liqueur stores, the best way to find great scotch bottles is via subscription boxes that offer a wide range of premium bottles that you deserve in your shelf.
If you have tried all the different types of scotch you can find near you, it’s time to try alternatives like these subscription boxes: Flaviar, Taster’s Club, Craft Whisky Club, Caskers, Whisky Loot, etc. These boxes come once a month, providing new releases and also bottles that are hard to find. If you decide you like something, you can purchase it directly from their website.
If you are a new at drinking scotch, it can be a bit intimidating discovering all the different flavors it has, especially if you have never tried it, so you can start with good bottles like Glenmorangie-10 year old, Chivas Regal-12 year old, Glenlivet-12 year old and other labels that also are aged long enough.
As you can see, scotch whisky is a complicated liquor that requires various steps before it’s able to be bottled.
As long as you use all of the information in this article to help you make the right decision about which whisky option is best for you, you should have no problem choosing the right option right from the gate. Use this guide as an aid to help you find the perfect scotch whisky selection that you’ll enjoy on any occasion.