“I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch.” – Ron Burgundy.
Scotch is one of the most unique tasting whiskies in the world. The British treasure is a blend of malted barley, yeasts, fresh water, aged wood, and long-honed skill. Many scotches also feature whispers (sometimes screams) of peat — the dense, oil-rich soil often used to toast the barley.
Generally speaking, Scotch comes in two forms: blended and single malt. Those terms are pretty self-explanatory. Blended simply means that what’s in the bottle is a blend of whiskies from varying distillers, mixed together to create the taste the master blenders are looking for. Single malt refers to a bottle of whisky that’s distilled at a single distillery with only malted barley.
We’re dealing with both types of scotch whisky as a journey through the style. Blended scotch tends to be a little more accessible for the average drinker. There can be big notes of smoke and seaside brine at play, but they tend to be — and, again, we’re speaking very generally here — a bit more mellow and balanced. Single malts can also be mellowed but they’re more likely to go big on certain notes, think big rushes of seawater brininess or billowing smoky peat.
Overall, scotch has enough nuance and variation to be a great dinner party drink. Here are the bottles to keep on hand for your guests.
The Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch — The Welcome Drink
What to talk about: This is a great conversation starter in both story and taste. Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch is based on bottles recovered from Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica in the early 1900s. The recovered bottles served as a living treasure map to blended scotch greatness. To recreate the bottles, whisky from seven different distilleries around Scotland are employed and aged in ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks. The end result is a throwback to that mimics, almost exactly, the scotch Shackleton and his crew drank to survive the harshest elements of Antarctica.
Tasting notes: There’s a clear peaty nature on the sip up front. That’s quickly overtaken by rich oaky vanilla that gives way to an almost nougat sweetness and creaminess. Notes of apple and roasted coconut come into play next and give way to buttery caramel and an orange brightness. There are hints of smoke in the backend that never overpower the blend. This is a great gateway scotch to get the night started.