Single Malt Scotch:
The good stuff—made exclusively from malted barley spirits within a single distillery.
The everyday stuff—made with up to 40 or 50 spirits from different distilleries, including malt or grain whiskies.
Partially decayed vegetal matter that, in whisky production, may flavor the water or dry the barley malt when burned.
Gaelic for "the dram at the door." The Scottish equivalent of "one for the road."
Ice or No Ice?
Nothing says "I’m a sodding Colonial" like ice in a glass of single malt. Sip your best whiskies neat, with no water or ice, or ask for a few drops of springwater, which some claim brings out the nose.
The short, broad-rimmed rocks glass used at most bars is a serious gaffe for good whiskies; the wide mouth releases the aromas too quickly. Instead, find a small, tulip-shaped tasting glass designed for the purpose.
After swirling the whisky in the glass and observing its color, sip a small quantity. Then work it slowly around your mouth for no less than ten seconds, tasting the spirit’s every note. Then swallow.
Among the richest, peatiest single malts now made, none separates the hard core from the dilettantes like Ardbeg. Try the Ardbeg Still Young (about $70) or Very Young (about $300) for a single malt that will, in the words of one enthusiast, "blow your face off."
If you like single malts but prefer something less combative, try the Macallan, often called the Rolls Royce of single malts. We prefer the traditional Macallan ($46), aged 12 years in Spanish sherry casks.
Between $30 and $40 a bottle, Johnnie Walker Black is a reasonably priced and widely respected blend that suits nearly any occasion.
While some rare bottles of Scotch go for tens of thousands of dollars—a 1926 Macallan once sold for nearly $75,000—the Glenrothes 1978 Vintage (about $600) is one of the most vaunted Scotch whiskies now available for less than a grand. —A.T.