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September 20, 2018

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The Scotch Master’s guide to whisky

‘There is a scotch for everyone’

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Whisky at Scotch 80 Prime

The moniker for the Palms’ new restaurant, Scotch 80 Prime, might pay homage to the historic Las Vegas neighborhood Scotch 80s, but it’s also a nod to the establishment’s Whisky Program that boasts a world-class collection.

Whisky, from the Gaelic term meaning “water of life,” is an extremely complex and varied spirit, and many consider Scotch whisky to be especially so. “In my opinion, Scotch is the most versatile and diverse of all whiskies,” said Scotch Master Cody Fredrickson, who leads the Whisky Program at Scotch 80 Prime.

“I say it all the time, but it’s not just your grandfather’s spirit anymore.”

What distinguishes Scotch?

In short, where it’s distilled.

“Scotch is a whisky that’s made in Scotland,” Fredrickson said. “To be called Scotch, you also need to follow the Scotch Whisky regulations of 2009, which are very detailed and strict.”

The five main regions of Scotland where Scotch is distilled are the Lowlands, the Highlands, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay. The location of the distillery often indicates certain characteristics of the spirit.

“I often hear that a guest doesn’t like Scotch because it’s ‘too smoky’ or ‘too harsh,’ but that speaks to just one particular style of Scotch often found in the Islay region,” Fredrickson said. “You can experience a full-bodied, sherry-cask driven Scotch from Speyside or a very delicate, soft Scotch from the Lowlands region. I promise you, there is a Scotch for everyone.”

Scotch also must be aged in oak casks for three years or more and is made primarily from malted barley. The cask in which Scotch is aged can contribute to the flavor profile of the spirit as much as the ingredients themselves.

Main types of Scotch whisky

• Single malt: Made exclusively of malted barley, water and yeast at a single distillery and made only in copper pot stills.

Examples: Macallan, Balvenie

• Blended: A combination of single malt and single grain, usually coming from two different distilleries and sometimes from different regions.

Examples: Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s

• Single grain: Made of barley but includes other grains, such as wheat or corn, made at a single distillery. Typically, single-grain whiskies are used to create blended whiskies, and aren’t often bottled and sold independently.

How to drink Scotch

“However you enjoy it is the best way to drink it,” Fredrickson said. “That said, there is a science to it. I prefer to taste my whisky at bottled proof first. Then, I experiment with adding a bit of water to open up the aromatics and flavors. Think: how the air smells before and after it rains. After the rain, you can smell the grass, trees and flowers much more vibrantly. The same thing happens with whisky. Adding water opens up the molecules that are bound together and releases more flavors and aromatics. From there, I determine if I need to add more water or perhaps a whisky ice sphere or large ice cube.”

What about age?

All Scotch is aged for at least three years, but many Scotches are aged for much longer. While the age is often associated with finer products and higher price points, Fredrickson suggests reconsidering that assumption.

“The age statement on the bottle is not a statement of quality. Generally speaking, an older Scotch will be a more complex, smoother dram, but not always. There are many non-age statement (NAS) whiskies on the market that are masterpieces,” Fredrickson said.

Some great NAS whiskies include Macallan 1824 Masters Series (and Edition Series), Dalmore Cigar Malt, Dalmore King Alexander III and Glenmorangie Signet.

What is a dram?

A unit of volume often used when discussing whisky. Technically speaking, it refers to an eighth of a fluid ounce, but colloquially, it’s often used to describe a single serving of the spirit.

The Whisky Program at Scotch 80 Prime

There are more than 400 types of whisky in the program—300 of which are Scotch. It’s the largest retail collection available for consumption of Macallan fine and rare vintages in the world, and is home to some of the rarest whiskies on the market.

While the collection is vast, Fredrickson stresses the approachability of the program. “We have a great and versatile flight program that lets guests take a journey to discover new whiskies,” Fredrickson said.

Whisky recommendations from a Scotch master

For the average person generally interested in Scotch, Fredrickson recommends Macallan Double Cask, Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask and Jura 10 Year.

As for his personal favorites, it’s complicated. “My favorites change with time, season, food, my mood and my surroundings. Right now, my favorites are Jura Seven Wood, Highland Park 18, Macallan Edition 2 and Old Forester Statesman Bourbon.”

Pairing suggestions

• Speyside/Highlands Scotch or quality Bourbon with steak: “I recommend Macallan or Aberlour for a Scotch/steak pairing, and Eagle Rare or Old Forester for a Bourbon/steak pairing.”

• Islay Scotch with oysters: “The smoky flavor with salinity of an Islay Scotch pairs perfectly with oysters, creating a creamy, almost sweet flavor. I suggest Ardbeg Corryvrecken or Laphroaig Triple Wood.”

• Single Malt Whiskey with dessert: “I really love Westland American Single Malt Sherry Cask with our cheesecake dessert at Scotch 80.”