What do Frank Sinatra, Mark Twain, and Don Draper from Mad Men all have in common? Whiskey. For centuries, it’s been the drink of choice for a lot of men. And yet, I’m finding that a lot of guys don’t even know the difference between scotch and bourbon. There’s nothing wrong with downing a cold beer every now and then, but if you really want to look like a suave, sophisticated gentleman, whiskey’s definitely the way to go.
If you’re a whiskey virgin, it’s never too late to start. But before you run out and buy the first bottle you see, do your research. Start by brushing up on your knowledge with this list of things most people don’t know about whiskey.
• The most expensive bottle of scotch whiskey in the world is the Original Isabella’s Islay—it costs $6.2 million. The decanter is covered in more than 8,500 diamonds, nearly 300 rubies, and a whole bunch of white gold. If you’re not down to spend millions, you can get the Isabella Special Edition bottle for $740,000.
• The single malt that sells the most around the world is Glenfiddich. The four other bestselling single malts include The Glenlivet, Glenmorangie Original, Laphroaig, and Aberlour. When it comes to the bestselling scotch, Johnnie Walker Red Label takes the cake.
• If you buy a bottle of Laphroaig single malt whiskey, you also get a lifetime lease for one square foot of their distillery land, letting you own a piece of their history and join their community. You’ll get your own certificate of ownership, and you can then visit your registered plot in person or see it online.
• Aisla T’Orten is the oldest scotch whiskey currently on the market—it was distilled in 1906. A bottle will set you back about $1.43 million. The oldest single malts that are currently in the market are Glenlivet, Glenturret, and Oban.
• Although scotch is made in the U.K., it’s also the most expensive country for buying it.
• As whiskey matures in its barrel, two to four percent of it evaporates every year. Distillers refer to this evaporation as the “angel’s share.” In the same regard, the whisky that gets absorbed by the barrel’s wood is known among distillers as the “devil’s cut.”
• If kept closed, you can keep a bottle of scotch for 100 years and it’ll still be good to drink. Once it’s open, it’s good for about five years.
• The Chivas Brothers bottling plant in Dumbarton was the scene of a terrible accident—18,000 liters of fine Scotch whisky accidentally went down the drain. The wasted alcohol was worth more than $800,000.
• In order for a whiskey to be classified as a scotch, it has to be distilled in Scotland and aged for at least three years in oak casks. In the U.S., a whiskey can only be called bourbon if it was made in America from mash that’s more than 50% corn. It also has to be aged for at least two years in oak casks. A Canadian whiskey, which tends to be lighter-bodied, must be distilled and matured in Canada and for at least three years.
• Adding water to whiskey isn’t a wuss move. You’re actually supposed to add a little bit of water (preferably still spring water), because it actually changes the chemistry of the drink and opens up the flavor of the whiskey.
• The word “whiskey” was derived from the Gaelic term “uisce beatha,” which translates to “water of life.”
• Someone once paid $631,850 at an auction for a six-liter bottle of The Macallan “M” single malt in a fancy decanter. It was the highest amount paid at an auction for a bottle of scotch. The most anyone has paid for a standard-sized bottle is $460,000.