Fall is upon us. The leaves are just starting to change colors, and nights are starting to feel cool and crisp. Football has started, and schools are back in session. In the cocktail world this means a change as well, from light, crisp, citrusy cocktails to rich, bold, warming drinks. The sales of brown, aged spirits rises, and one of my very favorite to talk about is SCOTCH.
Historically, there are not many classic scotch cocktails. I certainly encourage you to not only have one, but if you are someone who likes to get creative with cocktails, Scotch can be a wonderful base for a fall/winter concoction.
Classic Scotch cocktails include the Rusty Nail (Scotch and Drambuie), the Rob Roy (a Manhattan made with scotch rather than Rye), and my favorite, the Blood and Sand. The Blood and Sand is named after a 1941 film starring Rita Hayworth, and is a combination of Scotch, Sweet Vermouth, Cherry Heering, and Orange Juice.
Scotch is an incredibly broad category with very strict rules and regulations.
Here is a basic breakdown for you of the different types of scotch, each quite unique:
Blended Malt: Blended Malt must be comprised of 100 percent malted barley whiskies, originating from at least two different distilleries.
Blended Scotch Whisky: Blended Scotch Whisky is typically 60 to 70 percent grain spirits and 30 to 40 percent single malt whiskies, with distilled water added to control proof as always. Distillation may occur in pot or column stills.
Single Malt: Single Malt must come from a single distillery, must be distilled in a single season, must be made from 100 percent malted barley and must be distilled in pot stills.
Grain Whisky: Grain Whisky is predominantly distilled from corn and wheat, although barley is used as well.
All Scotches are oak aged a minimum of three years. Used bourbon casks are most common, although used sherry casks are also used. The age statement on a bottle is the YOUNGEST whisky in that bottle. Scotch Whisky has Denomination of Origin meaning it can ONLY be made IN Scotland.
In addition to these different classifications of Scotch, the area in which it is made also makes each one unique:
The Highlands are the rocky, bare, mountainous, and generally remote part of the Scotland mainland. They are the least densely populated region of all of Europe (Glenmorangie, Oban, Highland Park). The heart of the highlands, though, is called Speyside. Many of the finest and most famous malt whisky distilleries of the Highlands are located there (Macallan, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich). Much of the character of Speyside is due to its soft water — which is filtered from the Grampian Mountains. The water can take up to 300 years to filter all the way through the rock. Some Highland scotches are influenced by proximity to fields of heather, imparting them with aromas of honey and violets.
Distilleries from this low lying region produce a mellow product with no extremes.
Islay scotches come from the Inner Hebrides island of Islay, located off Scotland’s southwestern coast. With a few exceptions, whiskies from this region are intensely smoky, as the proximity to the ocean infuses them with medicinal flavors, and aromas of brine and iodine.
About Cris Dehlavi
Cris Dehlavi writes reviews and contributes articles to NID Magazine.