Whisky 101: Whisking the facts

Updated: 2 Dec 2013

What do the terms found on expensive, sophisticated bottles of whisky really mean? Kitty Kaye breaks it down to layman’s terms for better understanding.

Single Cask
What this basically means is the whisky is made from the liquid of distilled and aged malt from only one cask. There’s no blending, no mixing to better a whisky’s flavour. This certainly leaves no room for error. For if the whisky in that one cask is not up to standard, it’s all a wasted effort. Therefore, the whisky producer of a single cask whisky has to ensure that the crop and whisky making process of that one cask is perfect. The result of this is exclusivity along with a blunt smoothness to its texture, a short finish and somewhat spicier whiskies such as Ben Nevis, Glenburgie and the more feminine Glendullan.

Single Malt
It’s the most popular and trendy one to date in this region. There are at least 100 whisky brands to choose from and they can range from 10 to 30 years old with caramel, floral and peaty or all three in terms of flavour. Single malt Scotch whiskies are made from a singular distillery and using only malted grain of barley. While there are known favourites available, the more unique ones include Arran 12 Cask Strength of 54 per cent alcohol content with nice legs and a long finish, along with the more boutique style of 30-year old Benromach of fruity, sherry-like sweetness and mild peaty flavours. Then there’s the salty Bunnahabhain (pronounced as bu-na-ha-ven) from its seaside distillery and its Toiteach variety truly is a gentleman’s whisky with its firey, smoked bacon flavour. Finally, well rounded, robust and smooth Glenrothes 1995 and 1998 whiskies adopt the wine style of stating the year of the vintage or when crop is harvested rather than barrel ageing. Read more on single malts here.

Glenrothes range of single malt whiskies

Blended Whisky
A blended whisky basically means it’s a mix of multiple kinds of barrel-aged malt and grain whiskies from different distilleries. Gone are the days when the rough-edged, repellent-scented blended whisky is common. Nowadays, the blended whiskies such as the highend Johnnie Walker range of floral and oily Blue Label, jammy Platinum, buttery and sweet XR21 or the refined smokey Gold Reserve, one most suitable with a cigar, are terrific contenders against single malt or cask whiskies.

Where to Start
Most whisky lovers will say, start from the top and drink your way down to the bottom of the barrel. We say, start with what flavours you enjoy on your palate. This rough guide presents smooth, round-edged and refined whiskies and you can pick one that’s more masculine in texture and flavour or more feminine by our basic descriptions here. If you go with age, younger whiskies are more masculine and gets more gentle or feminine as the age increases. For the whisky to bloom further, don’t forget to add a splash of tepid water or a couple of ice cubes. Besides trying all these whiskies at Macalister Mansion’s The Den, there's Vino Vino Bistro and Lounge that carries a good range of specialised whiskies such as Glenrothes and the very refined Japanese whiskies, among others.

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