Cocktail Confidential

The Smart Girl's Guide to Scotch

So last weekend, a good friend got her heart broken into several small, squished-upon pieces. When I picked her up to take her to my house to eat junk food, drink too much and watch Dirty Dancing, she told me her drink of choice for the night was scotch.

Now, up here in Canada, the beautiful great white north, we pay for our healthcare and pretty great education system by taxing a whole lot of money on booze. Which is how, alongside it being too late for me to go to a government-run liquor store and instead having to go a private shop, I ended up with an outrageously expensive bottle of scotch.

I mean, I guess as scotches go it wasn’t so bad, but it was easily four times more expensive than any other bottle of booze I’ve ever bought. When they told me the price, I had a mini heart attack and passed over my credit card.

Turns out it was worth it. It is damn good scotch. It’s just smoky enough, it’s soo smooth, it has a very clean finish. So how does scotch get that good? And what do words like “single malt” or “peat” mean? Why is it so much more expensive than almost any other alcohol? I did some research.

How is scotch is made? In the simplest terms barley, and sometimes other grains, are “malted” by being dampened and kept damp until sugars and natural yeasts have formed. The grains are then dried, ground, mixed with water, boiled, and distilled to turn into alcohol. When the barley is being dried it is often done with peat to give the booze its distinctive smokiness.

What’s the difference between scotch and whiskey? Mostly the starting point: While scotch can be made from a combination of grains, barley is always the main ingredient. With whiskey it’s made primarily from corn (or at least 51% made with corn.)

What’s this single malt, everyone talks about? Single malt means your scotch is made entirely from barley. If it says single grain, it means just the opposite, that more than one grain was added to the malting process. It’s a confusing one.

So why is scotch so pricey? Because the best scotch is aged for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, even more. And that means someone has being paying rent where it has been sitting. That costs $$ and that cost is passed on to you.

Once you’ve bought the perfect bottle how do you drink it? Traditionally either straight up or with a splash of water in it, but never ice. You don’t want to chill the scotch. You can, however, drink it straight from the bottle when you’ve had too much to drink and your friend is heartbroken. Sometimes, that’s what being a friend entails.

I hope you’ve learnt a little something about scotch today!

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