When people get serious about Scotch, they get the Macallan. After all, the brand has been brewing the golden-hued spirit for almost 200 years. The company's Scotland distillery creates a whole host of options -- from 10-year-old Fine Oak to the Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars collection (a bottle of which runs a jaw-dropping $20,000).
But even if your usual spirit selection includes flavored vodkas and wine coolers, no worries -- we've got you covered with a beginner's guide to the S-word.
For the unfamiliar, the Scotch landscape can seem a little tough to navigate. So what's what?
Legally, the term Scotch whisky refers only to a spirit made from malt or grain and matured in an oak cask (AKA barrel) in Scotland for a minimum of three years. It must be bottled at a minimum strength of 40 percent alcohol by volume. Strict requirements.
The different varieties of Scotch include single-malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain, and blended. The Macallan produces single-malt, which means the spirit is made entirely from one malt in one distillery. About 90 percent of the Scotch produced in Scotland is blended (contains both malt and grain), so the Macallan and its painstaking process is in the minority.
"There are only three ingredients in Macallan Scotch" water, malted barley, and yeast. Those three simple ingredients, in combination with the mastery of our whisky maker and lots of time (at least ten full years), come together to create amazing flavors. The waiting time necessary to develop those flavors is what separates Scotch from most other spirits," says Gene Song, brand director for the Macallan.
Interestingly, the cask source is the primary contributing factor to the flavor profile of any Scotch. The Macallan's primary line is a series of sherry oak bottlings, which refers to spirit aged in Spanish oak sherry casks -- the most expensive production method. In 2004, the company introduced a fine oak series as well, aged in a mixture of American oak sherry casks and American oak Bourbon casks.
The Spanish oak offers a deeper color and richer, dried-fruit undertones, while the American oak tends to be a little softer and more delicate. Check out some tasting notes for the Macallan's sherry oak and fine oak varieties to see what appeals to you.
"Macallan 10 is a great place to start for those new to Scotch. Full of flavor but with bright citrus notes, it's a great example of the spectrum of flavors that are found in Scotch. For those who drink things like American whiskey or small-batch bourbon, Macallan 12, with deep, rich flavors from our sherry oak casks, is the way to start," Song says.
Once you've acquired a good Scotch, the Macallan folks offer the following notes on how to drink it:
Observe: Observe the Scotch and its consistency in the glass.
Nose: Hold the glass under your nose and notice the various aromas from the liquid. Hold your mouth open just a little so you can better smell and understand the aromas.
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Taste: Take a sip and observe the consistency and flavor of the liquid on your palate. This is also known as "mouthfeel." You can also add a drop of water or two, which will further open up the flavors and aromas.
So while you're out Baseling the night away, impress your friends by skipping the sweet-tea vodka and opting for Scotch instead.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.