Guide to Scotch Whisky

It’s not easy to be called a producer of Scotch whisky and those wishing to achieve this coveted distinction must adhere to a number of strict rules and regulations.

Some of these rules include that the product has to be aged exclusively in oak barrels for at least three years in Scotland, not contain any additives, except for water and caramel, and finally, the age marked on the label must be the age of the youngest whisky in the bottle, otherwise known as “guaranteed age whisky”.

Rules Required to be Followed in the Production of Scotch Whisky

These rules are clearly defined and rigorously followed, with good reason, as some bottles of Scotch whisky are numbered amongst some of the most prized distilled spirits in the world.

It should be noted, however, that these laws are those set in the UK and so, when considering bottles of Scotch on sale in other parts of the world, it is important to always consider local laws in place around product labelling and information.

For more on the rules, read this useful article.

Types of Scotch Whisky

Chances are, if you hang around whisky connoisseurs enough, you’ll inevitably be dragged into the age old argument of whether single malt whiskies are superior to blended whiskies or whether they both fall to those whiskies made with grain.

This question is being debated across the world but before beginning to try and answer it, let’s first understand the differences between each style.

Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Production Process for Single Malt Scotch Whisky

To make malt whisky, a distiller combines and distills malted barley, water, and yeast inside of a huge copper pot still before removing it and maturing the liquid inside of oak barrels for a minimum of three years.

To be called a single malt whisky, the malted barley distillates used in the final bottle needs to have come from a single distillery.

Single Grain Scotch Whisky

Production Process for Single Grain Scotch Whisky

Grain whisky uses malted barley mixed with unmalted barley and other cereals, such as wheat or corn, alongside water and yeast inside of a tall column or Coffey still, which distills more whisky at a much higher alcohol content.

To be called a single grain whisky all of the grain distillates used in the final bottle must come from a single distillery.

Blended Scotch Whisky

Production Process for Blended Scotch Whisky

Blended whisky is the intricate and extremely difficult process of combining different malt whiskies with other grain whiskies to create a completely new and unique whisky that is unlike anything else.

The grain distillates used in the final bottle of whisky sold can come from any number of distilleries across Scotland.

Types of Scotch Whisky Quick Guide

Consider our helpful Scotch whisky guide below for a quick and easy outlook of the various styles.

For additional explanation, consider this guide by the famous Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker.

Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  • One distillery
  • Pot still
  • Only malted barley
Single Grain Scotch Whisky
  • One distillery
  • All grain types
  • Column or Coffey still
Blended Scotch Whisky
  • Multiple distilleries
  • Blend of single malts & single grain whiskies
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
  • Multiple distilleries
  • Blend of only single malts
Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
  • Multiple distilleries
  • Blend of only single grains

Map of Scotch Whisky Regions

The foundations having been laid, let us next explore the various whisky producing regions in Scotland and the most important distilleries within each.

Scotland can be broken up into five main whisky producing regions, which are Speyside, Lowland, Highland, Campbeltown, and Islay.

Each of these regions imparts their own unique stamp on how Scotch whisky should be made and gives us consumers the chance to have a lifetime of new tastes and enjoyment.

Map of Scotch Whisky Producing Regions

Pairing Food with Scotch Whisky

Many connoisseurs will scoff at the notion of enjoying your Scotch any other way except neat.

Whilst some might find this to be the only “true” way to enjoy your drink, many distillers recommend enjoying your glass of Scotch with a dash of water or a few cubes of ice, in order to unlock more of the complex flavours backing the Whisky and to make for a more approachable drinking experience.

We recommend that if you’re just starting out on your tasting journey to enjoy your whisky like this, in order to ease your way into the experience of drinking Scotch whisky.

Pairing Food with Scotch Whisky

As far as food pairings go, Scotch whisky can pair well with a variety of cuisines and dishes depending upon the specific bottle in question.

Many of the lighter whisky varietals, such as those made by Ailsa Bay in the Lowland region, match well with light foods and dishes, including sushi, canapes, and some finger foods.

Moving up the scale, medium-bodied whiskies, such as those made by Glemorangie and Highland Park in the Highland region, match well with many main course dishes, including wagyu, lamb shanks, and venison.

Finally, the heavily peated and smoked whiskies, such as those made by Ardbeg on the island of Islay, can be paired with smoked salmon and blue cheese.

There's a bottle of Scotch whisky out there for everyone. Here are some of the brands and bottles that we recommend you look out for the next time you're browsing whisky online or in-store.

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky Tasting Notes
This is a rather crisp & fruity style of Scotch Whisky that has flavours of apple & pear as well as a very slight sweet vanilla character.

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old

Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Glenfiddich Fire & Cane Single Malt Speyside Scotch Whisky Tasting Notes
With a hefty dose of bold peat smoke, this is a moderately smooth & slightly dry & crisp bottle of whisky with subtle sweetness.

Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Laphroaig 10 Year Old Single Malt Islay Scotch Whisky Tasting Notes
Intensely peated & sweet, this strong tasting yet smooth whisky is perfect for those seeking a Scotch rich in flavour.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old

Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

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