Similar to wine, Scotch tends to be a spirit that’s shrouded in mystery and often intimidates. But that shouldn’t be the case. Usquaebach has created a list of 5 tips to help my readers better enjoy their Scotch drinking experience, whether that be at home or a bar.

1. There’s a world beyond ‘Johnny’ – Explore!

To many, ‘Scotch’ means ‘Johnny Walker,’ and perhaps ‘Macallan’ if you’re just a bit more in the know. Considering the breadth of Scotch brands out there, that’s a pretty narrow pool to judge a category by. While both are excellent brands filled with rich history, there’s a wealth of other brands out there, and it would behoove you to taste the nuances in others. For the history buff, ‘Usquaebach’ is an example of a lesser known Scotch brand whose name is the very word from which our modern word ‘whisky’ is derived from, while other brands such as The Lost Distillery are resurrecting fascinating blends long thought to have disappeared! There’s a fascinating world out there, educate yourself.

2. If you’re doing cocktails, make sure the ingredients are fresh

There’s nothing wrong with a Scotch cocktail, but if you order a Scotch Sour and the bartender pulls out a soda gun, turn the other way! Premade sour mix is loaded with artificial sugar and flavoring, and if you’re spending your hard-earned money on a nice Scotch, don’t ruin it with cheap additives. Ask your bartender if they’ll be using fresh lemon juice and an egg white. If they do, you can rest easy that your spirit is in good hands.

3. Don’t shy away from blends (especially if you’re a beginner)

There’s a common misconception in the Scotch world that says that single malts (Scotch produced with liquid from a single distillery) are inherently better than blended malts (whiskies produced from a blend of different liquids from several distilleries). While single malts tend to offer a bolder flavor, blended malts are often “smoother” as a result of the flavors melding harmoniously together. As such, they are often more approachable to the average consumer. Usquaebach Blended Scotch Whisky offers several of these more approachable blends including its entry level ‘Reserve,’ it ultra-smooth ’15 Year Old’ and its flagship ‘Old Rare’ a blend of over 40 of the Scottish Highlands’ finest whiskies.

4. Don’t let anyone tell you how to drink it.

This is perhaps the most important tip. Sure, there’s many different schools of thought. Some say you must drink it neat, others suggest a drop of water. Some add ice, some claim this “burns” the product. The truth is, there’s no “right” way to drink Scotch. Consume it how you will so that you’ll have a pleasant and enjoyable experience.

5. Talk to your bartender about what flavors you like.

Yes, Scotch can be smoky, or ‘peaty,’ but it doesn’t have to be. Perhaps you like sweeter notes with just a hint of smoke, or maybe you prefer a hint of chocolate, almond, orange, or something else entirely! It can all be found in different Scotches. If there you’re a brown spirits drinker who likes smooth and subtly sweet, Usquaebach’s 15 Year Old pure malt blended Scotch might fit the bill. If smoky is what you’re after, look no further than some of the single malts from Ardbeg.