Drink Like a Man
Gentlemen, we live in the age of vodka. Yes, vodka: the spirit that aspires to be like water. No offense to vodka drinkers, but if you ordered booze that tasted like something, maybe you wouldn’t need to put cranberry juice in it. Meanwhile, the hooch by which all hooch should be measured collects dust. For shame.
Yeah, I’m talking about scotch whisky. First, it’s not whiskey with an “e” (like we Americans spell it), but whisky. Looks old without that extra vowel, doesn’t it? A holdover from a time of lawless English, when a guy spelled a word any damn way he pleased. Looks manly, too, doesn’t it? Yeah, that’s what she’d be thinking if you had balls enough to order it.
The Scots have been distilling whisky for, oh, a few centuries. Plenty of time to perfect the recipe. There are four different kinds: single malt, vatted or pure malt, single grain, and blended. Still with us? Great! Now we’re getting somewhere.
Single Malt Whisky
This is the original stuff: 100 percent malted barley. “Single malt whisky is the most complex, most flavorful of all whiskies,” says Bill Lumsden, a master distiller at Glenmorangie, a scotch maker in northern Scotland that traces its roots back to 1843. Lumsden compares single malt whisky to a BMW 7 Series—top-of-the-line luxury. No, he takes that back. An M6, he says, because it has an edge as well.
Anyhow, to make single malt, a barley mash is pumped into copper stills. The stills are heated, boiling off the alcohol. The vapor collects in a condenser, and—voilà!—becomes liquid again. Repeat the process once more and you’ve got the pure, unaged spirit that the Highlanders used to sip right off the still. Of course, this newborn libation must spend at least 3 years in oak before it can be classified as single malt scotch. Oh yeah: “Single” means the whisky comes from a single distillery.