Scotch: The Thoroughbred Spirit

  • Anthony Dias Blue

The indelible image of Humphrey Bogart is of him hunkered over a scotch, as he was in Casablanca and Key Largo. Believing in the therapeutic qualities of scotch, his dying words were, “I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.”

Kilted lairds generally prefer their drams neat, cut with a few drops of cool freshet water, but many of us prefer to enjoy scotch in a cocktail, from the simplest scotch and soda to trendy creations such as the Affinity—equal parts of scotch, dry sherry, and port, with a dash of bitters, a twist of lemon, and a Maraschino cherry.

Single malts, which are mostly from the Scottish Highlands and islands, are the purebreds of the scotch world. They are created from a single batch of malt, or sprouted barley, at a single distillery. Blends, which are the specialties of the Lowlands, can comprise more than three dozen malt whiskies—all purchased from different malt distilleries—and a few unmalted grain whiskies made in a continuous-action still. The less common vatted malts are blends of various single malts, minus the grain whisky. Obscure and almost impossible to obtain outside of the United Kingdom are pure grain, malt-free scotch whiskies.


Blended scotch is used more often than single malts in mixology. Some superb blended scotches include the silky, elegant Ballantine’s 30 Year Old; the gorgeous, peaty Johnnie Walker Blue Label; the noble Chivas Regal Royal Salute; and the rich, generous Dewar’s Signature.

Although the number of distilleries operating in Scotland has declined from more than 2,000 in the 18th century to about 100 today, Scotch whisky export sales now top $3 billion annually. Bowmore recently released three of its 1964 Islay single malts, all aged in different wood barrels, at $2,000 per bottle. Auchentoshan, one of the few remaining Lowlands single malt distilleries, also recently released a $2,000 bottling of its 1962 malt.


When stocking the home bar, look for the magnificent King’s Crest Blended Scotch ($175), which features complex, layered flavors of cereal and wood, and Speyside’s chocolaty Cragganmore 29 Year Old Single Malt ($300).
Rob Roy
{Hoist one for the Clan MacGregor}
11¼2 to 2 oz. Balvenie Founder’s Reserve 10 Year Old scotch
1¼2 oz. sweet vermouth  |  Dash of orange bitters
3 oz. ice cubes  |  Maraschino cherry for garnish
In a mixing glass with ice, stir the scotch, vermouth, and bitters. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

Mr. Scott’s Transporter
{Beam me up, Scotty}
1 oz. Johnnie Walker Red  |  1 oz. Calvados
1¼2 oz. gin  |  1 tsp. heather honey  |  8 oz. crushed ice
Mix ingredients in a shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

St. Andrews Slice
{Dinnae take yer eye off the ball, laddie}
1 oz. Bowmore 12-year-old scotch  |  1 oz. Drambuie
Dash of orange bitters  |  2 oz. ice cubes
Add first three ingredients to an old-fashioned glass
filled with ice. Stir well and garnish with lemon.

Photo by Darin Schnabel⁄RM Auctions
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