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What the FAQ?

(The answers are based on some opinion and many years of research)

Q: What's the difference between whisky and whiskey?

A: This is a popular argument among whisk(e)y enthusiasts, however, we believe that the spelling should depend on the style or origin of the spirit that is being described.

Q: What is scotch whisky?

A: It is simply whisky made in Scotland.

Q: How old does a spirit have to be to be considered a "scotch whisky"?

A: It must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 3 years.

Q: What does the year on a bottle of scotch mean?

A: The age written on the bottle, reflects the age of the youngest whisky used to produce the spirit.

Q: What is the exact measurement of a dram?

A: The volume measurement for a 'dram', is an 1/8 fluid ounce. However, 'dram' is a Scottish slang term for 'a measure of spirits'. The size is generally determined by the generosity of the pourer and is not exact.

Q: What does ppm stand for?

A: PPM stand for parts per million, the standard measure used in chemistry that indicates the level of phenolic compounds which provide the smoky and peaty notes in a whisky.

Q: Is is proper to put water or ice in your scotch?

A: Depends on who you talk to. There is a lot of controversy over the answer to this. Some feel that it is a sin to water down your scotch with ice. Call us crazy Americans, but we at Dram of Scotch feel that you can drink scotch however the hell you want.  For us, the choice to add water or ice really depends on the scotch. We do encourage you to taste the expression without water/ice first to get the full flavor.
From a tasting perspective, adding water will often times open up flavors that were initially difficult to detect.  The addition of water is typically welcomed if the scotch is particularily high in alcohol content (i.e. cask strength).  This is particularily useful when performing direct comparisons of scotches - adding water can help even out alcohol levels for a more apples to apples evaluation.  Say you wanted to compare the Macallan Cask Strength (58.7% abv) to the Macallan 12 year (43% abv), add water to bring both to 40% and begin.
Ice can be a great substitute for water, or done as a completely different experience (ice sphere).  The most common use of ice in scotch (at least for us Chicago folk) is to add water and cool the drink.  On a 90 degree summer day, warm scotch just does not have the same effect as a dram cooled to the 50-60 degree range. Using ice is common among those beginning the brave foray into drinking booze straight, as it minimizes the alcohol burn BUT at the sacrifice of taste!  Best rule of thumb, 1) use as much ice as you would water, and 2) keep the scotch cool (not cold!).  And, for the love of God, do not pour scotch into a cup full of ice unless it is cheap.

Q: How does the size of the ice cube(s) make a difference?

A: The larger the ice cube, the less surface area there is to melt. A large cube will melt slower which in turn will not water your drink down as quickly.

Q: What are whisky stones?

A:  Whisky stones are cooled rocks which are specifically designed to chill your drink without watering it down.  Many of the whisky stones are made from softer types of rock designed NOT to scratch your favorite Glencarin glass or fine China.  Before use, the rocks are supposed to be cleaned, air dried, and placed in the freezer four hours at minimum. 

Q: What are the main regions in Scotland?

A: Lowland, Speyside, Highland, Campbeltown, Islay, and Island

Q: What are the different types of scotch whisky?

A: There are several categories of whisky which are described below:
Single Malt - This is the good stuff!  Consists only of water and barley malts from a single distillery.  Unlike less expensive whisky blends, single malts contain no grain (i.e. corn, wheat, or rye) “filler” whiskey.  Single Malt expressions are part of what makes drinking scotch so exciting for the enthusiast.  Single Malts offer the widest range of tastes and ages available.  Ever seen that bottle of scotch for $10,000?  That baby’s a Single Malt.  Interestingly, less than 10% of whiskies sold world-wide are Single Malts.
Single Grain - Consists of water, barley, and unmalted barley, corn, and/or wheat.  Most Single Grain Whisky distillers are large operations as the majority of product is sold to the blending houses.  Actual off the shelf bottles of Single Grain Whisky are rare, but can be found.
Blended Malt - (Formerly known as Vatted or Pure Malts) These are a mixture of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, no grain whisky present.  When masterfully done, these expressions can be on the same level as Single Malts.  Blended Malts are essentially Single Malts brought together by the masterblender to create synergy and achieve a taste experience made possible by careful eHarmony-like whisky match matching.
Blended Scotch Whisky- Contains a mixture of Single Malt and grain whisky - usually in the range of 60-85% grain to malted barley whisky, respectively.  Blended whiskies can contain up to 20 various malts brought together by the master blender to produce a distinctive and consistent taste.  Blending houses are by far the largest buyer of whisky from neighboring distilleries, and the largest seller of product world-wide accounting for ~90% of the scotch sold.  Blends are the most common type of scotch to be found.

Q: What are our favorite single malt scotches?

A: See our top scotch lists