Monday, January 31, 2011

Top 10 most expensive Scotch in the world

Have you ever wondered, if you have some spare cash lying around, what would be the most expensive bottle of scotch you can buy?  Realistically speaking, it will probably be a bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold for my case.  But if you find yourself hanging in the company of Bill Gates and the likes, here are some ridiculously expensive bottles of scotch that might catch your fancy:

10) Chivas Regal Royal Salute, 50 years old. 
      Price: $10,000

The Chivas Regal 50-year Royal Salute is released in 2003 as a special edition to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II 50 years on the throne (coronation day in 1953).  Each bottle features a hand-engraved 24-carat gold plaque.  There were only 255 bottles in the world. 

9) The Macallan 1939, 40 years old. 
    Price $10,125

First bottled in 1979, this peaty and powerful whisky that comes with dried fruit and sweet toffee flavors was re-bottled in 2002, and added to McCallan's Fine and Rare line. 

8) Glenfarclas 1955, 50 years old. 
    Price: $10,878

This whisky, bottled in 2005 exactly fifty years to the day after it was distilled, was hand-picked by George S. Grant to celebrate the birth of his ancestor, John Grant, who bought the Glenfarclas distillery back in 1865.  The entire 110 bottles sold out even before this whisky was released. 

7) Dalmore 50 Year Old Decanter
    Price: $11,000
Bottled in 1978 into just sixty crystal decanters.  Reputably one of the best 50 year old whisky ever made, and a personal favorite of many rich families in the world. 

6) The Macallan 55 Year Old Lalique Crystal Decanter
    Price: $12,500
A celebration between two great nations and one of the finest creative collaborations between Scotland and France, The Macallan 55 Years old Lalique is bottled in 1910 in a perfume bottle designed by Rene Lalique.  Worldwide, only 420 decanters were released, with only one hundred available in the United States. 

5) Glenfiddich 1937
    Price: $20,000

64 year old Glenfiddich, widely regarded as the oldest bottle of whisky in the world.  This Glenfiddich's 1937 Rare Collection whisky had only one bottle ever produced, with the single bottle sold at a 2006 auction. 

4) The Dalmore 62 Single Hiland Malt Scotch
    Price: $58,000

One of the only twelve bottles produced in 1943.  The whisky was purchased for $58,000 at the Pennyhill Park Hotel in Surrey, where the anonymous buyer reportedly share it with five of his lucky friends. 

3) The Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare
    Price: $75,000

It is rumored that a South Korean businessman paid $75,000 in 2005 for the chance to own a bottle of this scotch, whose flavor is described as dry and concentrated.  The rumor is later confirmed by Macallan themselves.

2) Dalmore 64 Trinitas
    Price: $160,100
Trinitas is named because there are only three bottles of this whisky been made.  This whisky is a blend of rare stocks, containing spirits dating from 1868, 1878, 1926 and 1939.  This is the first scotch to sell for six figures. 

1) Macallan 64 Year Old in Lalique
    Price: $460,000
And here it is, the most expensive scotch in the world: The Macallan 64 Year Old in Lalique!  The scotch was sold for $460,000 at an auction at Sotheby's, New York on November 2010, breaking the record for the most expensive whisky ever sold, and claiming the title of world's most expensive scotch. 

The special decanter was designed and created by famed French designer Lalique, and contains 1.5 litres of the rare "The Macallan" whisky.  The special decanter, itself, is crafted with a unique "cire perdue", or "lost wax" method. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011


How do you say "Laphroaig", "Glen Morangie" or even "Lagavulin".  I remember my first tasting of Laphroaig took placed in a bar.  I saw the bottle sitting on the shelf, and I knew I wanted to try it.  However, I had no clue on how to pronounce the name.  I pointed to the bottle and grunted to the bartender instead.  Not my smoothest moments.

To save you the embarrassment that I experienced, I came across this nifty website that contains the pronunciation of some of the most commonly used words in the world of scotch.  Now, you know how to ask for a glass of "Cragganmore" the next time you are in a bar.  For extra bonus points, throw in the Scottish accent too!

You stay classy, fellow readers.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chilling your drinks without dillution

Continuing the topic on whether to add ice to your scotch, discussed early here.  In that post, I argued against adding ice to your drink, primarily because of two reasons.  Adding ice may potentially "freeze" your scotch, dulling the aroma.  More importantly, as the ice melts, the water will dilute the drink, and along it, its flavors. 

If someone prefers to drink their scotch chilled, but wants to avoid the risk of diluting their drink, what are their options?  Well, for starters, and one that I commonly do is to leave my tumbler in the freezer half an hour before I pour my drink, so I will be drinking my scotch from a nice chilled frosty glass. 

Another option that I am recently introduced to is the addition of "whisky stones".  What are whisky stones, you ask?  Well, whisky stones simply cubes of flavorless, odorless, non-porous soapstone
that can chill your liquor without diluting it or affecting its taste. 

These soapstone retains its temperature longer than ice, thus providing a more lasting chill.  What I especially like is that even though the chill from the whisky stones last longer, they do not chill your scotch so harshly that it is so cold that the flavor profile of the drink is sacrificed.  The stones are softer than granite, and are not supposed to scratch your beloved tumbler, or your teeth when you are drinking, for that matter!

Whisky stones are sold by a company called Terforma, and can be purchased from amazon by clicking here.  Prices are fair too, retailing at less than $20 for a set of nine stones, making them perfect as a gift as well. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Finding the scotch that you like

From the "scotch flavor map" post, you now have a rough idea about what the different brands of scotch taste like.  But if you are a newcomer still discovering the various flavors, what is the best way to find out what you like before splashing some serious money on a bottle?

In my experience, the easiest way is to find a local bar that carries a nice selection of varieties.  Chat up with the bartender, give them feedback, and let them make suggestions till you find a few that you like. 

                                                                                   A well-stocked bar

Here's a pro-tip for you: don't simply ask for a "scotch".  If you do, they will usually just give you a glass of the cheapest scotch they have, and charge you full price for it.  Always specify.  Many places have a separate menu for scotch, or ask what they have on hand if you are not able to tell what they carry. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Scotch Flavor Map

Here is a really cool chart showing the flavors you can expect from the various brands of scotch:

Looking at the flavor map, I myself, for the most part, find it hard to disagree with what the chart depict.  Of course, individual's palate differs.  Use this as a general guide, and don't be overly bothered if you find yourself tasting something that the map says otherwise.   

Bottoms-up, my friend.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Adding Water to Scotch?

We know by now that adding ice to scotch is not the recommended route to take if you truly want to appreciate the raw character of the whisky (read here), but what about adding water?  I have heard varying opinions on whether to add water to your scotch.  Some prefer to drink it neat, some with a splash of water, and even others who drink their scotch with an equal mix of water and whisky.

Generally, it is true that adding a few drops (literally, a few drops) of water can "open" the whisky.  What this means is that the water can help release the aroma (or "nose") and flavor from the drink.  Some also add water to their scotch if the flavor is too bold, and they desire to reduce the intensity a little. 

Overall, there is no hard and fast rule about adding water.  It all boils down to personal preference.  Personally, I seldom add water to my scotch with the exception of the real peaty ones. 

If you are undecided whether to add water, do not be afraid to experiment!  A big part of the appreciation of scotch is the never-ending journey of self-discovery.  Trying drinking the scotch neat first, then add a few drops of water (preferably at room temperature and filtered) to it and decide for yourself which one do you prefer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

SimplyScotches hit 150 followers!

SimplyScotches just attained a milestone by reaching 150 followers!  When I first started, I just wanted to share whatever knowledge I have on scotch, and hopefully spread the passion to someone out there.  To reach 150 followers is quite a remarkable feat, and one that cannot be attained with your support. 

In short, thank you so much, each one of you.  Please continue to check back for more scotch-related articles.  Bottoms-up, my friend.

A perfect scotch evening

Now that the chilling winter is here, I find myself reaching for a bottle of scotch more often than before.  For me, a nice dram of scotch is an intimate affair, not unlike the feeling when you reunite with an old friend.  There is a drink suitable for every occasion.  Nothing quite beats a tall cold glass of beer when you are just casually hanging out at the backyard while barbequeing, or watching a game of football with a group of friends.  Similarly, pairing a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with a perfectly grilled steak when you are out in a restaurant downtown with your wife on a Thursday evening just feels right. 

Scotch is a much more personal thing for me.  I almost always drink scotch in solitude, as I get the most enjoyment out of it this way.  

On a cold wintery night, when everyone else is asleep, I put on a warm comfortable robe and settle down in my favorite leather armchair by the fireplace, armed with a nice book and perhaps even a cigar, and poured myself a dram of scotch while listening to the voice of Sinatra and the crackling of wood from the fireplace. 

A perfect scotch evening. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Best Scotch for the Beginner

Lately, many readers have been asking me on what scotch would I recommend to a person who is exploring scotch for the first time.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe that scotch is an acquired taste.  While the bold and peaty (smoky) flavors of an Islay (for a read up on the various scotch-producing region and their different tastes, click here) scotch such as Laphroaig may interest a seasoned scotch drinker, it may quite simply be too overwhelming for the newcomer.  "Best" is subjective, but I believe a good starter bottle should be high on the ease of drinkability, while still maintaining an interesting flavor profile, all at an affordable entry-level price. 

The scotch that I whole-heartedly recommend to a newcomer is:

The Glenlivet 12 Years. 

The Glenlivet 12 is a single malt scotch from the Speyside region.  While it may not boast some of the complex flavors certain scotch have, it is the consistent and easy-drinking taste that makes The Glenlivet so appealing, giving them the honor of being the best selling single-malt whisky in the United States, as well as the world's second best selling single malt whisky. 

The maturing process takes place in oak casks made from American oak that once contained bourbon, hence giving the scotch a delicious oak and vanilla flavor.  For what it is worth, the Glenlivet 12 is the scotch that Tony Soprano regularly drinks in the show.

The Glenlivet 12 was not my first bottle of scotch (Johnnie Walker Black Label was my first), but it was the bottle that intrigued me enough to explore, and eventually discover my passion for scotch.  Overall, a very pleasing single malt.  The Glenlivet is widely available, and price is very reasonable (approx. $20 - $30ish for a 750ml bottle).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Commonly used terms in Scotch

Do you find yourself scratching your head with some of the jargons used in the world of scotch?  Well, be confused no more, here is a glossary to help you better understand some common scotch related terms:

Blended whisky - whisky that is made from more than one distillery, and blended with grain whisky to achieve a consistent flavor and appearance. 

Dram - an unit of measure of scotch.  Technically speaking, a dram is 1/8 of an ounce.

Distillation - a method of separating two different liquids by heating. 

Legs - the trails of alcohol left behind on the walls of the glass after the scotch has been swirled around.

Malt whisky - whisky that is made entirely from malted barley.

Maturation - process where the scotch is aged to attain the desired flavors from the wood of the barrel.

Peat - commonly used to describe the smoky flavor of a scotch.

Single malt - malt whisky made from a single distillery.

Vatted malt - a blend of several single malt whiskies from different distilleries. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Scotch regions and their unique flavors

Scotch, as we already know, is produced in Scotland.  However, the whisky is not made throughout the country; rather it is produced only in certain regions.  There are five primary (some argue six) scotch whisky production regions, namely: Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay.  There is also "Islands", which comprise all of the whisky producing islands in Scotland except Islay.  The Islands is typically considered as part of the Highland district, but with its unique offerings, some argue that it deserves recognition as its own region. 

Although each whisky made at different distilleries is unique, the malts produced in each region have some common characteristics that separate them from scotch from other regions.

The Highlands is the largest of the whisky producing regions in Scotland and generally produces more full-bodies whiskies with deeper notes of peat and smoke.  Due to the vastity of the region, Highland whiskies often taste very different from each other, from the extreme heathery, spicy character of Northern Highlands to the fruity whiskies of the Southern Highlands.

Famous distilleries: Oban, Glenmorangie, Dalmore.

There are only three operating distilleries remaining in the Lowlands.  Lowlands is located at the southernmost part of Scotland, and is a flat region with no mountains.  Scotch from this region are generally considered as the most light bodied of the Single Malts.

Famous (remaining) distilleries: Glenkinchie, Bladnoch, Auchentoshan

Speyside, the undisputed center for whisky in Scotland, boasts the highest concentration of distilleries (more than half the distilleries in Scotland are located in Speyside).  Although the Speyside region is geographically part of the Highlands, it is considered a separate region because of its unique characteristics.  The region received its name from the river Spey, which cuts through the area.  Many of the distilleries use water straight from the river Spey in their production process.  Speyside scotch are thought to be the country's most complex, and is known for their sweetness and elegant flavors and aromas. 

Famous distilleries: Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Macallan, and blends like Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal.

Once the whisky capital of Scotland, there are only three distilleries remaining in Campbeltown.  The Scotch here is peaty, and has a salty hint and a briny character. 

Famous (remaining) distilleries: Glen Scotia, Glengyle, Springbank.

Pronunced "eye-luh", Islay scotch is considered to be the smokiest and strongest-flavored (some say it tastes of the sea) of the single malts.  Their strong flavor is believed to be due to the region's exposure to the high winds and seas of the west coast

Famous distilleries: Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore, Ardbeg.

Though not considered by all as a region of its own, scotch from the Islands can be described as a milder version of Islay whisky (sort of like a hybrid between Highland and Islay whiskies). 

Famous distilleries: Highland Park, Talisker.

To ice or not to ice?

One of the most commonly asked question on drinking scotch is whether to add ice to the drink?  Well, most connoisseurs of scotch will agree that it is best to drink scotch neat (nothing else added), or with a dash of water (to "open" up the flavors), and advise against adding ice to the mix.  Why?  There are two main reasons:
  1. Adding ice will "freeze" the scotch aroma and flavors, dulling the taste of the drink.
  2. As the ice melts, the water will dilute the scotch, and with it, its true flavor.
Personally, I prefer to drink my scotch at room temperature, as I feel that only at this temperature does the full flavor and aroma of the scotch truly reveals itself. 

However, it is also true that scotch is an acquired taste.  For most beginners, drinking scotch neat may simply be too harsh and over-powering.  This is fairly common, and there is no shame in adding one or two ice cubes in this case to help smooth the drinking process and make it more enjoyable. 

If you find yourself drinking your scotch with ice cubes, do consider enjoying it without ice.  It may be rough the first few tries, but I believe that once you get past that initial stage, you will be getting more out of your scotch and enjoying it a lot better.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How to drink Scotch

You may have seen or come across wine tasting at some point in your life.  However, there are certain things between wine and scotch tasting that are quite different.  In this post, I will highlight the several steps one can consider taking to further enhance their scotch appreciation process:

Pour yourself the desired measure of scotch into a nosing glass.  Now, what is a nosing glass you may ask.  A nosing glass is shaped like a tulip: narrower at the top than the bottom is.  A nosing glass helps concentrate the flavors and aroma up your nose.  Other glasses are perfectly fine for drinking scotch, but to truly appreciate the drink, a nosing glass is ideal.
                                                          A perfectly-formed nosing glass:
Checking the Color
Next, hold the glass up to the light and observe the color.  The color of the whisky can be an indication of its age (although some companies add caramel to the whisky to give it a darker appearance) as well as the type of cask it has matured in.  A dark whisky does not mean that it is better than a lighter whisky - it is simply darker. 

Check out the legs on that thing
Hold the glass at 45-degrees and rotate it gently, coating the walls of the glass with the whisky.  Hold the glass up straight, and observe the line of whisky that appears across the top of the glass, forming the "legs" run down the walls of the glass. 

Typically, the younger the whisky, the faster and closer together the legs will run down.  An older whisky tends to have thicker legs and run more slowly.  In addition, the older the whisky, the further apart the legs generally are.

Nosing the Scotch
All you are doing at this point is preparing your palate.  You are sending signals to your brain and creating expectations on what flavors to expect from the scotch, so your nose and mouth will go seeking these flavors. 

What you never want to do is to swirl your scotch.  You swirl wine.  Wine has between 12 - 14% alcohol content, and you swirl the wine to agitate the liquid so that the alcohol can evaporate and carry the smells and flavors to your nose.  Scotch is 40% alcohol; it does not need help evaporating.  Swirling your scotch risk overwhelming your nose with too much alcohol.  This is why when you enter a room where there is a wine tasting being carried out, it is hard for you to pick up the smell of wine.  However, if you enter a room with just one glass of scotch, you can immediately detect it.

Now, tip the glass toward your face and stick your nose into the rim.  Take a short sniff and repeat this step two more times.  The first sniff, you will get a tingling sensation on your nose as it recognizes the alcohol.  On the second sniff, you should be able to detect a flavor (usually sweet).  The third sniff you should be able to detect a secondary flavor (usually some sort of fruit).  How you wish to describe these flavors that you detect is entirely up to you - there is no right or wrong answer. 
                                                                                         Nosing the Scotch:
Take a small sip of the scotch, and allow it to lie on the tongue and coat the sides of your mouth.  Roll the scotch around in your mouth so that it comes into contact with all your taste buds: sweetness at the tip of your tongue, saltiness along the sides, dryness and bitterness at the back. 
See whether you can identify the flavors that you picked out earlier during nosing of the scotch.  Ask yourself what flavors are you experiencing, and how does the whisky feels in your mouth.  How is the scotch's finish: does the flavor last a long time or does it disappear quickly?
And here it is, the basics of drinking and appreciating a fine glass of scotch.  Bottoms up, my friend.

Single malt vs. Blended Scotch

There are two basic types of scotch: single malt scotch whisky and blended scotch whisky. 

Only water and barley are used to make scotch whisky.  All scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years.

Single Malt
Single malt whisky is a whisky made from only one type of malted grain, and is distilled at a single distillery.  Unlike certain wine, it stops maturing once it has been bottled.

Glenlivet: a popular single malt:

Blended Scotch
A combination of one or more single malts, blended together with one or more single grain whiskies to make blended scotch whisky.

Johnnie Walker Black Label, a great blended scotch and a nice introduction to the world of scotch:

Why is single malt generally regarded to be "better" than blended scotch? 
There are five main regions of distillations located in Scotland: namely Highland, Islay, Speyside, Lowland and Campbeltown.  Each region has its own distinctive taste to its single malts.  The joy for the scotch aficionados become discovering and identifying this unique taste of the geography. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What is Scotch?

Scotch is whisky from Scotland.  If the whisky is not from Scotland, it is not Scotch.  Period.  The same can be said for Champagne: the term "Champagne" is used exclusively for sparkling wines that are produced from the Champagne region of France, otherwise it is simply called sparkling wine. 

A mistake commonly made is calling whisky, scotch.  This is because there are several other sub-sets of whisky, besides scotch.  Besides certain requirements on how the whisky is produced (ingredients, duration of aging, etc.), most whisky are classified according to the regions where they are made.  Here is a list of some of the more popular types of whisky:

Bourbon (made mostly in Kentucky) - Maker's Mark, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey
Tennessee whisky - Jack Daniels
Irish whisky - Jameson
Canadian whisky - Crown Royal

Simple is the key

I have one aim in this website: to provide you with simple and concise education related to everything that is to Scotch. 

Unlike many other Scotch website, any reviews I have will be kept simple and straight to the point, with no lengthy articles overloaded with words or lingos that only a connoisseur will recognize.  Think of it as a friend simply telling you whether he likes the drink or not, and, at the end of the day, whether he will recommend that drink to you.

Bottoms up, my friend.