GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Wreathed in myth and steeped in tradition, the wild and wonderful world of scotch whisky can take decades to explore.
Or, you could spend a few hours in Glasgow's Pot Still pub where the Murphy family has done the legwork for you. As the sign outside says, "We have more than 600 whiskies ... why not come see if we have the right one for you?"
Small and cozy with lots of dark wood and floor-to-ceiling shelves lined with gleaming amber bottles, the Pot Still has been a bar since the late 1800s and has been owned by the Murphy family for nearly four years, although they've worked the place about 13 years in all. Pours of 1.5 ounces are around $6-$10 although a few specialty brands are more expensive.
The pub is a perfect way for business travelers and others on tight schedules in Glasgow to sample one of Scotland's most famous products. For beginners, Pot Still co-owner Geraldine Murphy recommends starting out with a lighter tasting, unpeated whisky like Auchentoshan before moving on to others.
Broadly speaking, there are three main regions of scotch production. Speyside, in the Spey river valley in northeast Scotland, has the largest number of distilleries including The Macallan and Glenfiddich.
The island of Islay (EYE-la), meanwhile, is famous for the distinctive, smoky tang of its peaty scotches. But the love of peat is an individual thing — you either have it or you most definitely don't. Islay's Laphroaig distillery, famous for its peaty style, has embraced that distinctiveness, inviting consumers to give their unvarnished reviews in its "Opinions Welcome" campaign — and not all of them are complimentary.
The third main region is the Highlands, home to such distilleries as Oban and Glenmorangie. This is a diverse region and hard to define narrowly, but Highland whiskies are known for floral aromatic notes.
Ready to take your own tour of scotch-land? Here's a little more information to help you map your journey.
Unlike wine tasting, spirits are generally sipped, not spit. Think small pours with plenty of water to drink between tastes and clean your palate. You can also cut the whisky with water, especially if you're not used to drinking whisky. (And you'll need a way to get back to wherever you're staying without putting yourself behind the steering wheel.) There are a number of places near the Pot Still where you can get a meal, but the pub does have a tiny kitchen putting out pies. So if you're in the mood for a haggis, neeps (mashed rutabaga) and tatties (mashed potatoes) pie, this is the place.
HOW TO SPEAK SCOTCH
A single malt is made at a single distillery from malted barley distilled in pot stills. A single grain whisky may contain other cereals such as wheat. A blended grain whisky is a mix of two or more single grain whiskies from different distilleries. A blended malt is a mix of two or more single malt whiskies from different distilleries. Blended scotch whisky is a mix of one or more single malt and single grain whiskies. If you're wondering about spelling, it's whiskEy in America and Ireland, whisky in Scotland, Canada and Japan.
Got a little extra time? The Auchentoshan distillery is about a 20-minute drive from the city center and offers tours starting at around $10. This distillery is known for its smooth, unpeated scotches. The Auchentoshan Three Wood aged in used bourbon barrels and finished in two types of sherry casks likely will appeal to bourbon lovers.
If You Go...
POT STILL PUB: 154 Hope St., Glasgow, Scotland; http://www.thepotstill.co.uk or 44-141-333-0980. Open daily, 11 a.m. to midnight.
Michelle Locke tweets at https://twitter.com/Locke_Michelle