Tips for Picking Your First Bottle of Scotch

Scotland’s signature drink is produced by over 100 distilleries in that country. Its taste presents a bit of a learning curve for first-time imbibers. Whereas bourbon leans toward sweetness, scotch whiskey has a very dry, smoky flavor.

Choosing a Type of Scotch

If you’ve never had scotch before, consider staying on the mild end of the spectrum. Look for a light Lowland malt like Glenkinchie. Cragganmore and Dalwhinnie are other good choices. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try Laphroaig, which is exceptionally smoky. Macallan serves as an intermediary between these two extremes. It’s a fruitier, richer scotch, thanks to its having been aged in sherry oak that gives off residual notes of wine.

Understanding the Region

Beginners often find it easier to select their first bottle of scotch based on the region where it was produced. There are five main regions: Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay, and Campbeltown. Island is a sixth region, but it’s generally included with the Highland region. Northern Highland scotches are on the spicy side, with southern Highland scotches on the sweeter side. Lowland is a great place for beginners to start, as these scotches tend to be lighter and sweeter, with less peat. Speyside scotches tend toward maltiness, but with a dry finish. Islay scotches have very strong peat, with a dry finish. Campbeltown scotches are nicely balanced, with notes of brine, smokiness, and sweetness.

Selecting an Age of Scotch

You won’t find any scotch aged less than three years—that’s the minimum threshold. An older scotch will be mellower, but there’s a cut-off age. Beyond 15 years, scotch doesn’t necessarily improve much with additional maturation time.

Checking the ABV

Always check the alcohol by volume (ABV) on the bottle. You might find scotch as low as 40% or as high as 60%. If you’ve chosen a scotch on the higher end of the ABV spectrum, try adding a little water to your glass before tasting it. Use neutral spring water without much extra mineral content.

Central Park Liquor in Steamboat Springs, CO carries an extensive collection of spirits, wine, and beer. They also offer beverage catering services for weddings and other special events. To inquire about their inventory or hours, you can call the store at (970) 879-3428.