Scotch tape was not named after Scotch whisky
July 27, 2010 11:01 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to know more about the Scotch that's are sitting on my desk right now. Beyond "oh this is peaty!" I'm interested in background information and historical yarns.

Here's what I've got:

Laphroaig 10
Glenmorangie 12 (port finish)
Cragganmore 12
Cutty Sark

The story is that I teach a series of classes about things I don't know anything about, and tonight I've got one on Scotch. I have the basics mostly down - peatiness, the regions, how you malt your barley, grain vs. malt, stuff like that - but am looking for some more interesting tidbits.

Let's say I had some Glenlivet - I'd mention that once taxed distillation became legal, bootleggers would burn down the legal distilleries so that legal distillation wouldn't catch on, and the law would be overturned. As a result, George Smith (who ran Glenlivet) carried two pistols, one to protect himself, and one to protect the distillery.

The Cutty Sark is in the mix solely so I can mention how it shows up in like every Murakami book ever.

Really, anything goes!
posted by soma lkzx to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Friends of Laphroaig Club grants members a lifetime lease of 1 square foot of Laphroaig land on the island of Islay. The annual rent for this tiny parcel is a dram of Laphroaig which can be obtained upon visiting the distillery.
posted by ktrey at 11:20 AM on July 27, 2010

The distillery that makes Tallisker is called The Tallisker.
posted by rbs at 11:25 AM on July 27, 2010

We have one of those squares of land, and we were on Islay just a few months ago. Only managed to tour four of the distilleries on the island, so we'll have to go back.

Laphroaig still smokes a portion of their grain themselves. There is one central place on the island where all the distilleries get their grain smoked to their specifications. Out of the distilleries we toured, Laphroaig smelled the best.

All the barrels the various distilleries use come from U.S. whiskey makers (you probably already knew this), except for some Spanish porto barrels that are used for finishing certain varieties.
posted by rtha at 12:01 PM on July 27, 2010

Cutty Sark is my favorite blended Scotch; I use it for making cocktails like the Rob Roy (basically a Manhattan but with Scotch instead of bourbon, and I make mine "perfect," which is to say with an equal amount of dry and sweet vermouth) and the Rusty Nail (Scotch and Drambuie over ice). Cutty Sark is also named after the last clipper ship built for actual use as a merchant vessel, and to tie in with that naval theme, the whisky company sponsored the Tall Ships' Races up until 2004.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:11 PM on July 27, 2010

Your 12 year old Glenmorangie probably spent 2 years in a port barrel to achieve its port finish. Before that it spent 10 years in a Kentucky Bourbon barrel. Thanks to some serious lobbying by the coopers union, US law says that Bourbon must be made in a new white oak barrel, so the old ones are shipped off to Scotland.

To be called Scotch a whisky has to be distilled, blended and matured for at least 3 years in Scotland. Good whiskies are made in other countries, but they cannot be called Scotch.
posted by IanMorr at 1:06 PM on July 27, 2010

Single malts differ from Scotches in that they are not blended. For example, Laphroig and Glenmorangie are both top of the line single malts. *yum, laphroig*
posted by infini at 1:27 PM on July 27, 2010

Best answer: Laphroaig was the only Scottish malt to be legally imported into the US during prohibition. They were also the first distilelry to use bourbon barrels to age their spirit.

The ubiquitous colouring of all these malts is thanks to caramel colouring E150a, the clarity of the liquid is thanks to chill-filtration and the 40-odd% a.b.v. is due to watering down the dram from cask strength. Many whisky lovers would rather the distillers refrained from doing all three.

Whisky aged for less than three years and a day is known as New Spirit.

When spirit comes off the stills for the first time it is clear, raw and very strong at around 65% abv. Distillery workers in the Highlands and Islands often "procured" this spirit prior to it going into barrels and smuggled it out in Irn Bru bottles hidden down the leg of their overalls.

Despite the predominance of the major, multi-national owned distilleries there is a resurgence in Scotland for small "craft" distilleries such as Abhainn Dearg and Kilchoman.

Most malt whiskies benefit from a "drap o watter" to bring out the best in it. But a teaspoon will do. And spring, not tap, water is best.

The official glass of the Malt Whisky Society is The Glencairn glass. Designed by the Glencairn founder but not manufactured until after his death when it was found by his sons in a pile of notes and drawings. Deceptively robust, it will (usually) bounce if you drop it on the bar.

The Angel's Share is the name given to the whisky that evaporates from barrels during storage. It has been calculated that the amount lost annually would create a whisky cloud that would cover most of Scotland. This is one of the reason's we put up with so much rain.

(That last one might not be entirely 100% true)
posted by R.Stornoway at 2:05 PM on July 27, 2010

Maybe you've already touched on this, but apparently there are rules about which Scotches can put "the" in front of their nanes ( e.g. The Glenlivet). What's up with that? I don't know a whole lot about Scotch, but I've always been curious as to what that's about.
posted by Sara C. at 2:23 PM on July 27, 2010

infini: Single malts are a type of Scotch whisky.

The definitions of Scotch Whisky and Single Malt Scotch Whisky are set by The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009.

“Single Malt Scotch Whisky” means a Scotch Whisky that has been distilled in one or more batches—
(a) at a single distillery;
(b) from water and malted barley without the addition of any other cereals; and
(c) in pot stills;
posted by IanMorr at 2:26 PM on July 27, 2010

Best answer: Before that it spent 10 years in a Kentucky Bourbon barrel. Thanks to some serious lobbying by the coopers union, US law says that Bourbon must be made in a new white oak barrel, so the old ones are shipped off to Scotland.

The life of an American oak barrel is really worth its own little lesson. After its infancy in a bourbon warehouse, it may go to Scotland for whisky or Spain for Rioja or Australia for one of their big shirazes.

While single malts are prized and praised these days, it wasn't always the case; United Distillers' "Classic Malts" branding had a big role in the revival of interest, and it was created as a response to the "whisky crisis" of the early 1980s, where overproduction followed by recession contributed to declining sales, mothballings and distillery closures. Even now, the majority of spirit from even the most storied distilleries ends up in blended scotch.

Sales and tastes for blended malts are highly regional: many of the most prominent American brands (Ballantine's, Dewar's, Chivas Regal, Black & White, even Cutty Sark) are either low-profile or hard to find in Scotland.
posted by holgate at 2:57 PM on July 27, 2010

To be called Scotch a whisky has to be distilled, blended and matured for at least
posted by infini at 11:34 PM on July 27, 2010

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