When Scotch Arrives in Mississippi

For generations Scotch Whisky connoisseurs have learned to recognize and interpret intricate flavors in Scotch Whisky.

In the Atlantic on an island shared with England lies a country roughly the size of Maine.  It is a land known for bagpipes and kilts, where the unicorn is the national animal and the beer is extra potent.  Then, when your hunger overcomes, haggis can be counted on as a staple.  The country is, of course, Scotland, and it is the proper home of Scotch Whisky.

Scotch Whisky only comes from Scotland.  The United Kingdom has gone so far as to structure the law to protect Scotland’s namesake spirit.  In fact, Scotch Whisky is the only whisky allowed to be distilled in Scotland.  There are also strict export laws that prohibit single malt Scotch Whisky from being distributed outside the country except in individual bottles for resale.  This prevents blends from being created outside the country’s borders.

No one knows exactly how long Scotch Whisky has been around.  It is known that whisky has been produced in Scotland for hundreds of years and dates back to the Druids.  At some point that whisky evolved into Scotch Whisky.  It is known that in the 11th century, some of the first Scotch Whisky distilleries were located at Christian monastic sites.

Scotch Whisky begins as malted barley and water and must be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years in Scotland.  The malted barley must be produced into a mash at the same distiller where it becomes a fermentable substrate only by using endogenous enzyme systems, and must be fermented at that distillery with the addition of yeast only.  Scotch Whisky cannot have any additives other than water and caramel coloring, and the alcohol percentage by volume cannot exceed 94.5% (189 proof).

Types and Categories

While there are only two types of Scotch Whisky, Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Single Grain Scotch Whisky, it is from these two that all blends are derived.  Scotch Whisky is divided into five distinct categories based on its ingredients, distillers and the production process.
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Contains no other grains other than barley.  Often distilled in pot stills.  Always at a single distillery.
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Also known as “vatted malt.”  A blend of single malt Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries.
Single Grain Scotch Whisky
Produced in a single distillery and other whole grains or cereals are added such as corn and wheat.
Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
A blend of more than one single grain Scotch Whisky from more than one distillery.
Blended Scotch Whisky
One or more single malt Scotch Whiskies blended with one or more single grain Scotch Whiskies.  Uses multiple grains as well as multiple distilleries.

Particulars

A dram is a pour of Scotch Whisky, sometimes measured in fingers but with no definitive volume.

Aging

Scotch is aged and/or finished in oak casks not exceeding 700 liters.  Historically, sherry casks were used.  Today, primarily bourbon and sherry casks are used although many other barrels can be used such as port, cognac, Madeira, calvados, beer, and Bordeaux wine.  However, other barrels can be used in aging or in finishing.  Because of blending and “finish” barrel aging, the resulting spirit will often have “layered” flavors.  And, depending on where you live, you may not have access to some scotch varieties.  For example, you cannot get scotch that has been aged or finished in a Cuban rum cask if you are purchasing in the United States as it is illegal to purchase products that contribute to Cuba in the U.S.

Scotch is aged and is marked with a guaranteed age determined by the youngest of Scotch Whiskies in the blend, and must be aged a minimum of three years.

Proof

Scotch can be a particularly stout whisky with an alcohol content by volume ranging between 80 proof and 189 proof.

Geography

The water source also has an impact on the final product.  These are the areas along with the water sources that are typical of the area.
Highlands (North)
Uses fresh mountain runoff water for a rumored “velvety” smooth texture.
Lowlands (South)
Rainwater from rivers and streams.
Islay (West)
Rainwater is naturally filtered through a surface layer of peat where it gains a smokier finish.
The Islands (North West)
Mountain spring water is used and the taste can be sharp.
Speyside (Far North)
Pure artisan spring water from deep underground wells.
Campbeltown (South West)
All Campbeltown distilleries draw their water from Crosshill Loch.

According to Chris Clark, Managing Partner and Sommelier at Vintage Wine Market in Ridgeland, “Although the Highland Scotch Whiskies are known for their smoothness, each person will have their own individual tastes.  You can’t just say that one region is best for everyone.”
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For more information on Scotch Whisky, flavors and suggestions contact Adam Pate at Vintage Wine Market in Ridgeland, Mississippi at (601) 605-9199.  One of Mississippi’s newest, best, unkept secrets, Vintage Wine Market (www.vintagewinemarket.com), is located in the Renaissance Center next to Fresh Market and provides choices as well as expertise when it comes to their ever expanding selection of Scotch Whiskies.

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