Often due to the nature of alcohol, many of the terms used to describe various aspects of a Scotch may not be as obvious as originally intended. Hopefully, this glossary of terms and background information will help to further the mission of unimpeded clarity.
- Aftersmell: The scent that lingers in the nasal passage once a drink has been swallowed.
- Nosehit: A sharp nasal inhalation in close proximity to a given Scotch.
After rating several Scotches, a small subset of specific descriptors seemed to prevail with regular frequency. It was at this time that the “Three” P’s (see below) were de-emphasized and a new classification system was developed using the following four categories:
- Bean Bag: Relaxed Scotch conjuring leisurely feelings dependent on some form of Styrofoam-filled furniture.
- Camping / Campfire: Somewhat smoky Scotch reminiscent of a fire burning openly on a dirt surface, surrounded by a firmly stacked, stone ring.
- Nautical: A Scotch evoking thoughts of the open sea, the great lakes and/or other bodies of water.
- Parking Lot / Alley: Scotch exhibiting a certain characteristic of edgy grime typically found in cities, industry and development. This should not be taken strictly as a detractor.
Note: All Scotches rated prior to the adoption of this system were re-sampled and updated to better reflect the new methodology.
These are the most commonly discussed Scotch producing regions of Scotland. The following were taken from the Wikipedia article on Scotch Whisky:
- Campbeltown: Once home to over 30 distilleries, it currently has only three in operation: Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank.
- Highland: Some Highland distilleries include Aberfeldy, Balblair, Ben Nevis, Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Glen Ord, Glenmorangie, Oban and Old Pulteney.
- Islands: An unrecognized sub-region of the Highlands includes all of the whisky-producing islands (but excludes Islay). Distilleries include Arran, Jura, Mull, Orkney and Skye – with their respective distilleries: Arran, Isle of Jura, Tobermory, Highland Park and Scapa, and Talisker.
- Islay: Its eight producing distilleries include Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin and Laphroaig.
- Lowland: Only three distilleries remain in operation: Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, and Glenkinchie.
- Speyside: This region encompasses the largest number of distilleries which include Aberlour, Balvenie, Cardhu, Cragganmore, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Speyburn, The Glenlivet, The Glenrothes and The Macallan.
Greasy Light’s “Three” P’s
On the first night of documented Scotch consumption, a list of attributes for primary consideration was developed, all of which started with the letter P. The thought was that this would make for the basis of a worthwhile rating system but the concept was quickly expanded and then marginalized with the addition of the four classifications (above). Nonetheless, these “Three” P’s are still discussed and pertinent in reference to the “Pros, Cons and Neutralities” of each Scotch.
- Price: How much does this Scotch cost? Current ranges include:
- $20 or less ($): The cheapest, true single malt on the site cost 20$. There is yet to be anything in this range that deserves an honest recommendation.
- $20 – $25 ($$): Adding a mere 5$ to the baseline can yield some surprisingly accessible Scotches.
- $25 – $35 ($$$): Many more options, including several of the standards, begin to appear in this territory.
- $35 – $50 ($$$$): Several Scotches in this range really shine but there are just as many that are not worth buying when compared to the better, cheaper options. Solving the “bang for your Scotch dollar” problem is paramount here.
- $50+ ($$$$$): Considering that only a portion of the band income goes toward Scotch, there aren’t many of these on the list. It will be a while before that changes. Not to worry, however, as there is no shortage of sites devoted primarily to this effort.
- Proof: How strong is the Scotch? Most are 80 proof so that is the mean. Anything stronger gets a bonus, anything weaker typically stays on the shelf.
- Personality: Does this Scotch even have one? If so, is it at all enjoyable?
- Peatiness: This is the distintive smokey flavor that is found in some Scotch varieties – typically strongest in the Islay region. Any offering previously rating highly in this category is probably classified as a Campfire Scotch.
- Presentation / Packaging: Frequently overlooked by the lower end brands, the presentation and/or packaging of a Scotch is mostly gravy; what truly matters is the content of the bottle. Sometimes, however, an especially fancy (or crappy) design aspect is worth mention.