Because my husband enjoys a good Scotch I too have learned to drink it. The lovely amber liquid is the main reason we traveled to the Highland region of Scotland. To taste. To compare. To learn.
We have done all that and more.
But I’ve come away from the experience with another observation. I want to be an educated whisky drinker and not an ignorant one drinking only for prestige. I want to understand it as much as I enjoy it. I don’t want to be a snob. An American Scotch snob.
Okay. I get it. There are wine snobs and beer snobs and even coffee snobs. People like what they like -but snobbery occurs when you are unwilling to acknowledge that beyond what YOU like, there is a vast number of other options. I want to try all the options.
When I was first learning to drink Scotch someone I know said she loved Scotch but not whisky. At the time I didn’t know the difference. But today I do.
She really sounded like an American snob because Scotch IS whisky. Did she mean she doesn’t like Irish whiskey or Bourbon? I don’t know, but her statement showed her limited experience.
Another person I know won’t drink a blend. Single Malt or nothing. But here is a juicy piece of information we have learned here in Scotland – even Glenlivet, the largest selling single malt Scotch Whisky in America “blends” it’s brew. By law in Scotland they can call it single malt because the blends all come from their distillery. Reality – it’s a blend.
Just like in the US, legal language, marketing and labeling are powerful tools in this business, and like any product, manipulative practices might surprise the novice drinker who thinks their fav is single malt.
“Neat or nothing” drinkers of America- If you take the time to study the nuances of good whisky (or whiskey) you will learn how the tiny drop of water or chip of ice “opens” a fine whisky and “blooms” the flavor in a surprising way. A deliciously surprising way. Break away from neat and try it!
I’m still a novice but learning more each day. I’ve taken two classes and read article after article. Most importantly I’ve tasted, asked questions and compared. I encourage you to as well. And if after you do try some new brands, blends and styles you still go back to your tried and true, then fine. At least you won’t be a snob.
Our experience here in Scotland has taught us it’s less about the distiller or the barley or the water and all about the choice of casks and the aging process. Our tour of the Speyside Cooperage and learning about the traditional casks still being made by hand was a unique and fulfilling experience. The role of the cask in the final product cannot be understated.
By the way, we found the Irish Whiskey to be just as good. Perhaps just not as well marketed to the American public. So I now plan to go home and educate myself a bit more on American style whiskey and bourbon … and do my best to not be a snob.