Joshua Hammann tells you why you shouldn't be scared of this 'stuffy' drink.
South of the Indiana border lies Bourbon country, the home of Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and Woodford Reserve. But before you raise another glass to Kentucky's heritage, pause and consider a whiskey from north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Way north. Scotland north. If, in the world of whiskey, bourbon is the fun older cousin who had a nose ring before they were cool, then Scotch is almost assuredly the stuffy uncle.
Scotch has long suffered the image as an old man's drink, relatively unmixable and somewhat confusing as to what's good and what isn't.
Scotch's snooty image exists almost solely in the US, Singapore and England. According to Campbell Evans of the Scotch Whisky Association, in places like Spain, Greece and France, Scotch is consumed mostly by people in their 20s and 30s.
But another reason why bourbon seems to be more popular is its mixability. "If you get a not-so-good Scotch and you mix it with soda, you can't mask the taste. It's still there," says David Dorsey, a vice president and brand general manager at Brown-Forman. "You can mask the taste of a lesser-quality bourbon with Coca-Cola."
Single-malt Scotch is distilled from only malted barley and must come from a single distillery. Blended scotch is usually one or two-grain whiskeys blended together, but could also include as many as 60 grain whiskeys.
While Scotland's mineral-rich "hard" water and distinct barley help lend Scotch its unique taste, the ingredients can come from anywhere. But it must be distilled and aged in Scotland to be Scotch.
More expensive single malts are best enjoyed with just a drop of water to fully release the flavour, while more popular blends such as Dewar's, J&B, Cutty Sark and Chivas Regal can be taken on the rocks, with soda and a twist or straight up.
"The truly best way to drink Scotch is in the way you, the drinker, likes it," Evans says.