There are two basic types of Scotch whisky: malt whisky (made from malted barley) and grain whisky (made from raw grain such as corn or wheat). It can be used in such simple mixed drinks as the Scotch and soda or in more complex cocktails such as the Rob Roy or the Scotch sour. Blended Scotch is fine for these purposes, but many Scotch drinkers take their favourite dram neat.


Tasting Scotch

Hold your tastings in a room that is free of cooking odours or other smells. Don't wear perfume or cologne or heavily scented deodorant, which will interfere with the aroma of the Scotch.


What to look for while tasting

Choose sherry, port glasses or small dessert-wine glasses since they allow you to swirl the spirit before nosing and tasting, to release the aromas and flavours.


Appearance: Hold the Scotch up against a white background and examine the colour and clarity. The darkness of the whisky is a clue to its age and the type of wood in which it has been stored. Swirl the whisky and look for the legs or tears that form against the side of the glass. The richest whiskies have the most noticeable tears.


Nose: You won’t need to stick your nose far into the glass; you can get a far better sense of the whisky’s aroma by simply raising the glass slowly up to your nose until you begin to get a rich but not overpowering sense of aroma. Drops of bottled water will release further components of the whisky’s smell. Pass the whisky under your nose again and see how the aromas have become more complex.


Taste: A small sip is plenty. Let the whisky coat your tongue and note whether it feels rough or smooth, overly hot or simply warming. Is it sweet or savoury? Can you guess from the tones of seaweed, iodine and brine whether this might be an Islay malt? Does it have the more floral delicacy of Speyside?

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