We’ve all been there. That predictable moment at the bar when someone from the group orders a shot that like it or not, you’re expected to take. Maybe it was a Kamikaze, a Fireball or maybe your pretentious lawyer friend decided to ruin everyone’s night and ordered a shot of that run-of-the-mill well Scotch. Yeah, pretty sure that didn’t end well, and even if it did, we’re confident that you decided right then and there that Scotch was disgusting and that you’d leave it to the old men and your horribly inconsiderate lawyer friend (probably more of an acquaintance at this point) to enjoy on their den recliners in solitude. Frankly, we can’t really blame you; we were amongst those that swore off the Scotch stuff forever. If Scotch ever came knocking on our door asking for another chance holding a bouquet of flowers and a couple of Redbox movie rentals, we’d say no!

Scotch whisky has gained a bad reputation over the years with the younger generations. Partly because many of which are used to different whisk(e)y varieties such as: Jack Daniels (Tennessee), Jim Beam (Bourbon), Crown Royal (Canadian) and Fireball (Sweet Fire Piss). These are all related on the whisk(e)y spectrum, but it all comes down to specific rules that govern the ingredients and aging that make each variety unique. Scotch is made in five different regions of Scotland: the Highlands, Lowlands, Islay, Cambeltown and Speyside. There are: single malt, single grain, blended malt, blended grain and blended scotch whisky. Flavor profiles can range from grassy and floral to nutty and spicy all the way to peaty and briny. There is a lot going on with each Scotch depending on where it hails from. 

Walk in to any old bar and the Scotch selection will usually be comprised of a blended Dewar’s White Label or a blended Johnny Walker Red. There never really is much variety, and of the few that are showcased most whisk(e)y drinkers will turn the other cheek when someone suggests drinking Scotch because of that one short balding lawyer acquaintance that decided to order straight shots of Scotch for everyone. Super peaty scotches just don’t mesh well with a lot of palates, but what people need to realize is that not all Scotch whiskies are created equal. Yes, there are actually Scotches out there that you’d enjoy sipping neat without gagging; it’s just about finding a region that resonates with a flavor profile you agree with. We’ve decided to nudge a few of you into a particular direction in hopes that perhaps you will be open to giving Scotch another chance.

When considering what Scotches to try, we’re going to point you in the direction of the Speyside region. This specific region is known to have Scotches that aren’t peated or particularly salted. This leaves you with a lighter, delicate and sweeter dram aged with balance. These also won’t break the bank if you decide to make a full bottle purchase.

 

Photos courtesy The Balvenie Distillery, Sia Scotch, and The MacCallan Distillery

1. Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old–Single Malt-more of a bourbon character, the taste pulls vanilla, dried fruit, nuts, spice and a very slight hint of peat (we know we said no peat, but it blends well). First aged in refill American oak casks then finished in first fill European oak Sherry casks, hence, the DoubleWood namesake. 

2. SIA-Blended Scotch Whisky–Comprised of 50% Speyside, 40% Highlands and 10% Islay (40% malt/60% grain). The idea behind this Scotch was to appeal to a lighter palate and the flavor definitely delivers. Vanilla is a lovely lingering flavor note, complemented by citrus, honey and caramel with just a hint of smoke (we know we said no smoke, but it works, trust us).

3. The MacCallan 12 Year–Single Malt–this is a smooth one. The fruit and sherry come forward while balancing with spice and a tad of smoke (non-peated). The finish is long and complements of cinnamon. Known as the “gateway drug” for beginning Scotch drinkers. 

These three will steer hesitant whisk(e)y enthusiasts in the right direction. All offering slightly different flavor profiles for Speyside, and you can get a taste of what the lighter Scotches have to offer and gradually move up the hierarchy of the region with more expensive offerings. This is a great segway to experimenting with some of the surrounding regions such as the Highlands, which will give you four new sub regions to experience before diving into more of the intense offerings. Here’s to discovering something new to drink.