Scotch is an acquired taste but something you likely already have somewhat of a palate for if you enjoy bourbon. But not all scotch is created equal and with an endless of selection of blends, regions, and ages, choosing the right one can be tough when you’re staring at the bottles in the liquor store.
What’s from where?
You’ll notice on the labels that some scotch comes from different parts of Scotland. Lowland, Highland, Speyside are the regions most commonly seen but you may come across some labeled as Campbeltown or Islay. As a rough rule of thumb each region is distinct in flavor profile:
Lowland Single Malts: Typically lighter bodied, made in the flat southern region of Scotland.
Highland Single Malts: Offering a stronger, fuller body with more peat and smoke in the flavor profile, this region has a lot of variation between whiskies due to its size.
Speyside: This region has the most distilleries in the country and also the most complex whiskies. This region is technically in the Highlands but due to being separate by the river Spey and the scotch being so distinct, Speyside is granted regional status. The flavor profile of scotch from this region is more complex than other regions and offers a more in aromatics and sweetness. Distilleries you probably think of when you think Scotch come from this region i.e. Glenlivet, Glenfiddich,and Macallan.
Campbeltown: Once the scotch capital, Campbeltown isn’t what it used to be. This region offers more of a saltier profile in it’s libations.
Islay: If you want a scotch that will knock your socks off then the Islay variety is for you. Distilleries like Ardbeg, famous for their Ardbeg 10 year old scotch, produce some of the smokiest and peatiest scotch in the world. This is a region/flavor that really requires a deep appreciation to be fully enjoyed (speaking from personal experience!).
Much like cigars and almost everything else in life, just because something is expensive or old doesn’t mean it’s good. For someone who is just getting into Scotch, a $20 bottle won’t taste much different from an $300 bottle. If we’re being honest, one of my go-to’s is Macallan 10 year which is a $36 bottle! It’s not about the price but more about what YOU like.
Find what you like
Try the different regions and distilleries out to find the one that you enjoy the most. Scotch is great for people who want something a little drier than bourbon and maybe a little less sweet. Most pair fantastically with just about any cigar (also completely subjective) which makes for a nice combination to come home and relax to. I’m far from an expert but I do know that I love scotch and will try as many different distilleries as I can!