Scotch has always held a mystifying allure. For aficionados, knowing the ins and outs of how it’s made and which ones to drink is entry to a sort of elite class of sophistication, while for those on the outside looking in, being able to enjoy a good glass—or dram should we say—of Scotch and say something clever about it seems like something to aspire to.
It needn’t be quite that pretentious though, because Scotch just happens to be whisky made in one of four regions in Scotland, and knowing which one, and what causes it to taste the way it does, will help you ease into finding one you’ll enjoy.
To help you along the way, we’re going to tour the different Scotch regions starting, this month, with Speyside whiskys.
All About Speyside
Speyside Scotches technically come from the Highlands of Scotland but is distinctive from the whiskeys produced in the region bearing that name. Specifically, they come Strathspey, the area around the River Spey in Moray and Badenoch and Strathspey.
They are noted for being slightly sweet, with fruity flavors. That, and the fact that they are quite easy on the peaty and smokiness—make Speyside Scotch good for someone just flirting with the drink.
Which Ones to Buy
Some of the best-known Scotch brands, including Glenlivet, Macallan, Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, and Glenroth all come from here—and all of these would make an excellent stocking filler for someone if you’re already thinking about Christmas presents.
Moving up the scale, a bottle of Craigellachie or Aultmore will cost a bit, but make for a really special drink. And, if you want to really splash out, a bottle of Balvenie 50 Year Old will set you back about $50,000. Just don’t drop it!
It’s All In The Name
Wondering why so many start with ‘Glen…’? Well, in the Scottish Gaelic language, ‘glen’ means valley—something which the country has quite a few of. They all had names, and because most Scotch come from a single distillery, they tend to be named after where they come from. It also helps that Glen sounds quite pleasant when pronounced with a Scottish accent.
Flavors to Expect
As we mentioned, Speyside whiskys are known to be quite fruity and fresh, but within that, there’s quite a spectrum. Glenlivet, for example, can be described as quite grassy, affectionately described as a ‘lunchtime’ whisky by some.
On the other hand, brands like Glenrothes and Macallan have a rich fruity taste that can really resemble a good sherry—really quite different to what most people expect when drinking a whisky.
Another thing that you can consider if you’re new to Scotch is to add an ice cube or two, or even add a touch of water. This serves to cool it down and take the edge off, which can reduce the harshness that some newer drinkers can’t adjust to. You might get a few dismissive looks from the pros—but just ignore them.