Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A Wee Tipple of Scotch, Laddie?

Today is Robbie Burns Day, and a late Wednesday evening though it may be, it is a day worth having a sip of Scotch before going to bed. Depending on your ethnic background, this may have been the very catch-all medicine of your grandparents when you were an ill as a 4 year old (I write with experience on that), but there is alot more to scotch whisky than just that.

First of all, note there is no 'e' in 'whisky' when it comes to scotch. Whiskey-with-an-e is originally Irish, and has been carried on to describe Canadian, American, Japanese, and Indian whiskies. Just like adding an 'e' to the end of Munro; it's not the Scottish way, and to quote the great Mike Myers, "if it's not Scottish, then it's crap!" The Scots are frugal through and through, even with their use of letters.

Next, the breadth and depth of scotch from such a small country can be as initmidating as haggis or a Highland lass none too pleased that you failed to cry during significant scenes of "Braveheart" (again, I write with experience on both of those). At it's most simple level, there are two types of scotch: Single Malts (made with 100% malted barley at one distillery), and Blended (a combination of single malts and grain spirits from wheat or corn); the latter of these accounts for 90% of the Scotch industry, but it is the Single Malt category where scotch reaches its premium end.

Then, there are the regional differences. Again, generally speaking, a Lowland will be light, fruity and easily approachable; a Speyside will have a bit more body and grassy notes; a Highland will be more full-bodied and smokey; and an Island (mostly from Islay), where kilns are fired by peat, will have powerful notes of iodine and cigar, or as one friend coined "it smells like a bandaid in a fire."

Tonight, I am toasting to the poetic hero of Scotland with a 12 year old Glen Elgin from Speyside. True to the regional style, it is relatively light golden in colour and body with a grassy, slightly peachy and salty palate; an aged cheese would be perfect to go with, but seeing as how I have none, it's just the Glen straight up for me tonight.

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