I find scotch a little hard to swallow. Straight scotch is tough to drink and stings going down. It makes you wonder why people drink it.
As it turns out, I’m not alone. Even Ian Millar, the master distiller and brand ambassador for Glenfiddich, likes his scotch with a couple drops of water in it. That takes the sting from the alcohol and helps bring out the toffee and caramel flavours.
“It changes it hugely,” said Millar, when we sat down at Tosca Ristorante in downtown Ottawa, Ont., to sample Glenfiddich’s 12, 15, and 18-year-old scotches.
However, the bite when swallowed is a part of the drinking experience. Scotch is meant to be taken in small quantities, he said — two, maybe three glasses, over the course of an evening, and that’s it.
“It’s not about knocking it back to get drunk,” he said. “It’s just to gentle you down. A couple whiskies a night is good enough. You’re comfortable. You can’t drive home but you’re still going to be okay the next morning.”
There are no rules to drinking scotch, but Millar suggests drinking it at room temperature or slightly warmer in order to bring out the flavours in the scotch.
Millar even wraps his hands around his glass to transfer his body heat to the liquid. When it’s warmed up a bit, a light pear flavour should be detectable also, he said.
“That’s why single malt doesn’t really work with ice,” said Millar. “But it does in hot countries on very hot days.”
According to the law, all single-malt scotch must be in its cask for at least three years. The distilling process involves a delicate balance of liquids matured in European and American Oak casks, that add something different to the flavour, said Millar.
In the 15-year-old Scotch, they use virgin American oak casks to inject a layer of honey sweetness, European oak to infuse it with a hint of raisin; and ex-bourbon casks to add some spice to the mix.
“If you’re going to have a scotch before breakfast, this is a good one,” joked Millar.
An 18-year-old scotch is going to have much more flavour and aroma because it has spent six more years in the cask.
Glenfiddich does special editions of older vintages. This year in Canada, they are releasing two bottles of 50-year-old scotch. One bottle is available to only those with $30,000 lying around. The other bottle though will be opened for a special tasting event at the Fairmont Banff Springs. The only way to take part in that is to win a spot from the “North of 50” Father’s Day contest, open now at www.glenfiddich.ca.