Scotch + a Splash of Water

Class: Scotch for the Sophisticate

I practiced not wincing in preparation for this class about Scotch for the Sophisticate. I know, I know. That probably makes me both unsophisticated and way uncool. Fortunately, I didn’t reveal this until AFTER they let me in the room last Wednesday evening to learn how to drink. Or rather, learn how to taste.

Scotch seems like a spirit for the calm, cool, collected, and tough. It also seems like a beverage for people who seriously mean business. I decided I’d better get this Scotch-drinking skill in my arsenal–so if you see me drink Scotch, you’ll know I mean business.

Our well-attended Lifelong Learning class was held at Trio Cottonwood and led by Jim, our knowledgeable and spirited whisky professor. He shared a bit of the history, culture, production, and labeling of whisky in different regions of Scotland, and then we got to the tasting. The evening’s selections were three Scotch whiskies: a blended Highlands, a Speyside-like single malt also from the Highlands, and an Islay single malt. Number four was a “mystery” whisky.

When I wrote about Intro to Tea a few days after that class, I drank tea to get me in the spirit. Well it’s 8:00 am right now…this is not gonna happen with whisky. I can, however, still conjure the flavor and aroma of these whiskies. And even though it turns out that either my no-wincing practice paid off, or I didn’t need to practice it at all, my taste buds remain a little baffled by one of the selections. For those of you who know Scotch, I think you can guess which one.

Tastings typically follow the path of assessing color, nose, and palate–with aromatics as the primary tool for defining the characteristic of a beverage. The aromatics include apple, citrus, floral, oily, dried fruits, woody, malty, toffee, resiny/spicy, nutty, and peaty.

My table mates and I sampled back and forth between each of our three glasses of Scotch, and we all had different preferences. I was really wanting to prefer the baffling one, the one that tasted to me like charred wood and is more commonly described as peaty. This whisky seemed like it was the most challenging of aromatics, and I even think there must be a secret club for its fans.



The two men at our table are probably learning the secret Islay single-malt handshake right now. (For some peaty, less-sophisticated humor, check out “How to Pronounce Laphroaig.”) Alas, I will have to be content for now with the dried fruit, apple, and toffee aromatics that were more pleasing to my palate.

As for mystery whisky #4? I nailed that guess and won a pen! Bourbon class, anyone? And if I can master all of the whiskies, will someone endorse me for it on LinkedIn?