We all make mistakes, just don't make yours when you're trying to order a top-shelf scotch.
There are few things more civilized than a single malt scotch and few things less civilized than butchering a foreign tongue. Blurting out whatever Americanized rendition we want of otherwise high class terms has become a way of life we’d like to put an end to, and we’ll be starting with scotch.
Now Gaelic isn’t the easiest of languages to wrap your tongue around, but it’s not so foreign that we’re unfamiliar with the sounds. We’re just not familiar with how those sounds are spelled. “Ich” most commonly turns to “ee”; a’s and s’s are dropped. With this brief pronunciation guide to some of Scotland’s best scotches you’ll no longer look like a buffoon blundering through a bloated list, even if everyone else thinks you’re crazy for pronouncing “aine” as “yuh.”
Bottle: Bruichladdich Peat. Region: Islay, and while we’re in the business of pronouncing things properly, it’s EYE-la; the s is a non-factor. Color: Young, golden, almost straw in tone. It has the look of a young whisky, which defies its taste. Palate: Touted by connoisseurs as an intro to peat, Bruichladdich’s Peat starts light, almost fruity, and ends strong, a smoky, salty finish common to the Islay region. Price: $58.
Glen Garioch (glen-GEER-ee)
Bottle: 12 Year. Region: Highlands. Color: Though a tad darker than the aforementioned Bruichladdich, the Glen Garioch’s color is spot on for its younger taste. Palate: A whisky for those who shy away from overwhelming peat or smoke, what some might call bite, the Glen Garioch 12 Year is true to its Highland roots. It is light and smooth with noticeable hints of apple, pear and vanilla that it borrows from a bourbon tradition. It’s aged in sherry casks, lending to its fruity and spicy flavors and its dry oak finish. Price: $58.
Bottle: 10 Year. Region: Highlands. Color: Honey. Palate: Glenmorangie, the ultimate entry whisky and as such the most commonly mispronounced. Another staple from the Highlands, Glenmorangie is neither too overpowering or lingering; it’s light, with splashes of honey, oak and sweet grass that are more muted in taste than aroma. Its finish is (relatively) short and sweet. Price: $62.
Bottle: 16 Year. Region: Speyside, the scotch capital of Scotland, boasting more distilleries than any other area and home to staple exports like The Glenlivet (glen-LIV-et) and Glenfiddich (glen-FID-ick). Color: Pale gold. Palate: Of all the scotches on this list, Dailuaine might be the most unique. Smoke, yes, and some fruits, but the real prize is black tea and ginger overtones, some orange and a truly long, fulfilling finish. Price: $62.
Caol Ila (cull-EE-la)
Bottle: 12 Year. Region: Islay. Color: Caol Ila can throw some people for a loop and not just because of its absurdly written Gaelic pronunciation; it’s white, or wheat in color, unrecognizable at times as scotch. Palate: Caol Ila is also a unique prize of Scotland; its rich aroma reminds the drinker of the calm after the seaside storm. It’s smoky, fishy, but not in the old dumpster way. With hints of sweet pepper and fresh produce, it’s exceptionally dry and preferred by those with an acquired taste. Price: $87.
Bottle: Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Region: Islay. Color: Most whisky can be easily described as golden, but Laphroaig is closer to an amber, like a shiny new penny. Palate: Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Laphroaig’s color betrays its taste: it is a long, smoky whisky just packed with peat and enough subtle fruits to weave in the right amount of sweetness. The finish lingers long after the last dram, a salty, oceanside swell that will leave you feeling warm and likely wanting more. Price: $63.