Scotch 101: How To Drink Scotch The Right Way

How To Drink Scotch

Maybe you’ve been invited to a whisky tasting, and you want to learn to be a scotch-tasting pro in five minutes,  or you’re trying scotch for the first time and want to know how to drink this spirit; you’ve come to the right place.

Scotch, which is basically whisky from Scotland, dates back hundreds of years. The majority of the world’s barley comes from Scotland, and scotch is made from water and barley, so it only makes sense.

So how do you drink scotch like a pro?

Add a little water to open the flavor and drink it neat or without ice, or you can add it to cocktails.

Continue reading to learn about the different scotch types and the best ways to drink this famous spirit.

What Makes Scotch, Scotch?

What Makes Scotch, Scotch?

Before we talk about what makes whisky scotch, note that whisky (with no e) refers to whisky from Scotland, Canada, or Japan, while whiskey (with e) refers to spirits distilled in the US or Ireland. So what needs to be in scotch for it to be called scotch?

  • First, it must be manufactured, bottled, and distilled in Scotland.
  • It must be based on barley and water and aged in casks (whole grains and cereals can be added to make different flavors).
  • The whisky must age in a cask for three or more years.
  • You can’t water it down too much; it must retain 40-80% of its quality for it to be called scotch.

Common Scotch Terms

Common Scotch Terms

Before we talk about how to drink scotch, below are some common scotch terms you may want to know before you attend that whisky tasting.

  • Single malt whisky is simply whisky made by a single Scottish distillery. It’s based on malted grain and water–the grain is usually barley. Single malt whisky contains no other cereals and must be distilled and bottled in Scotland.
  • Single grain whisky: it’s also made from a single Scottish distillery. That’s what the single in the name means. Unlike single malt whisky, you can’t get the single grain in most places. It’s not that common. Like the single malt, it contains barley and water, but it often includes additional ingredients. It can be made using any cereal, like wheat, rye, or corn.
  • Blended scotch whisky: a blended scotch whisky is simply a blend of a single malt scotch with at least one single grain scotch.
  • Blended malt scotch: also called pure malt or vatted malt, a blended malt scotch is made by combining two single malt scotches from different distilleries.
  • Double malt scotch or triple malt scotch: there’s no standard definition because it’s not a legal term, but a double or triple malt scotch often means the scotch was aged in two or three different barrels. The proper term is double or triple wood scotch.

How To Drink Scotch

How To Drink Scotch

Now that you know all about the different types of scotch, let’s get right into how to drink this spirit like an expert.

Choose a Good Glass

Experts in the whisky industry prefer to drink whisky in tulip-shaped glasses like the Glencairn or Copita whisky glasses. Why? These glasses are shaped to enhance the whisky-drinking and nosing experience.

For one, their bulbous body shape allows a concentrated delivery of aromas to the nose through a narrow rim.

They’re also the perfect shape for learning to swirl whisky, a practice that helps to open up the whisky for the drinker to fully appreciate the ingredients.

Whisky glasses are also shaped in a way that keeps the drinker’s hand far away from the nose to prevent the drinker’s hand from polluting the aroma of the spirit.

Coat the Glass

It’s important to ensure the glass you’re using is clean and odorless before you drink. Expert drinkers pour a little bit of the scotch into the glass, swirl it around, pour it out and turn the glass upside down.

You’ll be able to see scotch at the lip of the glass, that’ll get rid of any odors that will influence the smell of your scotch.

Swirl Your Scotch

If you’re an avid wine drinker, you’re well aware that a crucial step in the tasting process is swirling it. The same holds for scotch.

Swirling your whisky after you pour it into the glass introduces oxygen to it. The oxygen releases aromas that have been suppressed in the bottling.

The oxygen allows your scotch to come to life and express itself fully. However, let it settle for a bit before sniffing so you won’t bombard your nostrils with the concentrated scent.

Nose Your Scotch

After pouring a little scotch into your glass and swirling it, bring the glass up to your nose and inhale deeply. Remember to let the scotch settle after swirling so the aroma won’t burn your nose when you inhale.

Your first nose will most likely smell of alcohol but don’t give up yet. The trick to appreciating good scotch is patience. Take your nose away, then smell again.

Spend more than 10 minutes trying to pick out the different ingredients in your scotch. You may not have an idea the first few times, but with practice, you’ll be great at it. 

Add Some Water

It may feel like you’re diluting your scotch, but you’re actually opening it up. Adding a few drops of water to your scotch accentuates the taste, opens up its flavors, and lessens the alcohol sting.

It’s your choice if you want to add ice, but experts recommend not drinking scotch on the rocks because ice masks the taste of the different ingredients, and trust me, you’ll want to taste every bit.

Take a Sip

Gently bring the glass toward your mouth and take a sip. At this point, you’re not drinking to fill yourself. Your first few sips are to taste the spirit. Drink too much, and you’ll be overwhelming your mouth with alcohol. Get just enough on your taste buds and delve deep into the flavor.

Add to a Cocktail

Whether you’re drinking scotch and soda or mixing scotch with grapefruit, scotch brings your cocktail to life. Drinking scotch neat may be too much to handle; if that’s the case, you can always consider adding it to a cocktail. Don’t let anything stop you from enjoying this spirit.

Final Thoughts

Scotch isn’t about the taste. Everything from the color, texture, and smell contributes to great scotch. So when next you drink scotch, try to connect with it. Some people talk to their glass of scotch, but you don’t have to be that crazy.