Scotch whisky is whisky made in Scotland. When you see the term "whisky"
without the "e", it is nearly always in reference to Scotch Whisky, or more
recently, Japanese Whisky, which emulates Scotch. Remember that "Scotch"
is a drink, made by people who are "Scottish". People from Scotland are Scots,
not Scotch...and you will be viewed as a hopeless fool if you confuse the two.
Scottish whisky has a very strict legal standard, as defined by the
Scotch Whisky Order of 1990* (UK) which states:
It must be distilled at a Scottish distillery from water and malted barley, to which only other whole grains may be added. It must be processed at that distillery into a mash, converted to a fermentable substrate only by endogenous enzyme systems, and fermented only by the addition of yeast.
It must be distilled to an alcoholic strength of less than 94.8% by volume so that it retains the flavour of the raw materials used in its production.
It must be matured in Scotland in oak casks for no less than three years and a day.
It may not contain any added substance other than water and caramel colouring, and may not be bottled at less than 40% alcohol by volume.
Scotch whisky is divided into four distinct categories:
Vatted malt (also called "pure malt")
Scottish whisky is further characterized by the region in which each malt is made, although blends often contain several, sometimes as many as 100 different malts.
The officially recognized regions are: Lowland, Speyside, Highland, Campbeltown and Islay (pronounced eye-lah).
The Islands, an unrecognized sub-region, includes all of the whisky producing islands but excludes Islay.
Scotch is traditionally drunk neat, with an occasional splash of water to "open it up" and make the individual components more easily discernible. In the States, people commonly drink it on the rocks which is almost universally viewed as idiotic elsewhere, since the cold numbs the palate.