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11 Facts About Scotch Whisky

Demystifying scotch whisky for the novice consumer.

Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

On Thursday evening, Glenfiddich hosted a "single malt training" at The Detroit Historical Museum. Company representative David Allardice walked guests through at flight of 12, 15, 18, and 21-year pours of single malt scotch while simultaneously giving listeners a crash course in scotch spirits.

Here are a few things Eater learned about the making of scotch whisky, how to properly taste the spirit, and other useful bar trivia:

1) Scotch whisky is made from barley malt in Scotland as opposed to bourbon, which is made in the United States from primarily from corn mash.

2) Single malt refers to a whisky made from a single distillery. No blending allowed.

3) There are approximately 105 single malt distilleries in Scotland; 90 percent of this single malt scotch comes from a region called Speyside in the Scottish Highlands.

4) Traditional peat distilling, which gives whisky a smoky flavor, is mainly done on an islet off the coast of Scotland, called Islay.

5) During the malting process, malt men turn the barley with a shovel to promote even malting and reduce the tangles of sprouted barley roots. As a result of the repetitive motion, many malt men sustained an injury called "monkey shoulder." The injury is also the name of a popular triple malt whisky.

6) During the whisky making process some of the spirit evaporates out of the cask. The lost whisky is daintily referred to as the "angels' share."

7) It's perfectly acceptable and, in some cases, encouraged to add a touch of water to a younger whisky.

8) Glenfiddich means "deer valley." The company's bottle is triangular to represent the whisky trinity: water, air, and barley—but we secretly think it's to prevent the fancy scotch from rolling off the table.

9) There were no single malt scotch brands in the U.S. prior to 1963.

10) American Oak barrels are toasted and charred, while Spanish casks are simply toasted. The charring helps to remove impurities from the spirit.

11) A cooperage makes, tests, and repairs barrels. Coopers have to complete a four-year apprenticeship prior to working full-time.

Correction: David Allardice kindly points out that our original version of this article used the "e" spelling for whiskey. Scotch whisky, however is spelled sans "e." The youngest scotch that was served was a 12-year.

Detroit Historical Museum

5401 Woodward Avenue, , MI 48202 (313) 833-1805 Visit Website

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