The Scotch Life (Pinch Me Edition)


In addition to regular visits to some of the most iconic distilleries here in the U.S., I also have the privilege to explore the distillery landscape overseas.  While my friends and family’s work trips consist of in-office meetings to discuss synergy and other headache-inducing buzzwords, I’m lucky enough to spend my time touring, tasting, and learning about this dynamic, crazy industry I love.

In late June, I took off for an 8-day adventure in Scotland.  12 distilleries, hundreds of miles, meaty meals that would make a vegetarian cry, castles with ghost-storied histories, and one hell of an adventure.  It brought to me to the Highlands, the Lowlands, to Speyside and Islay.

It only took me 3 weeks to post, but I lived to tell about it.

Here it is, my Scotch files…

But first, a quick Scotch 101.  Here are the basics.  

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, SCOTCH WHISKY is:

  • Produced at a distillery in Scotland from water and malted barley (to which only whole grains of other cereals may be added)
  • Distilled to less than 190 proof
  • Wholly matured in Scotland in oak casks
  • Aged for at least 3 years
  • Contains no added substances, other than water and plain caramel coloring
  • Bottled at last least 80 proof


  1. Single Malt: produced from only water and malted barley at a single distillery by batch distillation in pot stills
  2. Single Grain: distilled at a single distillery but which, in addition to water and malted barley, may also be produced from whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals
  3. Blended Malt: a blend of two or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries
  4. Blended Scotch Whisky: a combination of one of more Single Malt and Single Grain whiskies
  5. Blended Grain Whiskey: a blend of two or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies from different distilleries


Image courtesy of SWA

Image courtesy of SWA


There are a handful of different Scotch Whisky regions.  Though the regions tend to be associated with specific flavor profiles (like Islay, known for its big, smoky Scotches), these are by no means hard and fast rules.  There are plenty of exceptions within each region, so use the regions as a geographical guide, not necessarily a flavor-driven guide.

Keeping Categories in Perspective.  As Nick Morgan, Head of Whisky Outreach for Diageo noted, the behemoth within the Scotch industry isn’t the much-loved, much-covered, much-buzzed about Single Malt category, it’s Blended Scotch Whisky, which accounts for well over 90% of all Scotch Whisky sales globally.  At their core, Single Malts are the key building blocks and blending components for the massive Blended Scotch Whisky category. 


LIKE BOURBON & IRISH WHISKEY, SCOTCH IS ALSO CONTRIBUTING TO THE GLOBAL WHISKEY BOOM.  According to the Distilled Spirits Council, 9.6 million 9-liter cases of Scotch were sold in the United States in 2013, generating nearly $2 billion in revenues for distillers.

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