Known for its extensive array of whiskey—including 100-plus bottles of scotch—Seattle’s Liberty bar is pretty well equipped to pour your next dram. But how to decide which bottle to choose? Liberty proprietor Andrew Friedman walks through some of his personal rules for enjoying Scotland’s native whisky.
“The first thing that I tell people is to learn your regions,” says Friedman. “Many people consider each region to have its own taste profiles and often different methods of production of their whisky. There are traditionally four regions—Campbeltown, Islay, Highland and Lowland—plus now the Speyside region, which used to be considered part of the Highlands.”
For example, he steers those seeking an “easy sipper” toward Highland scotches, such as Glenmorangie or Oban, or those looking for intense smoky flavors toward Islay scotches like Bruichladdich or Ardbeg.
That means that if you already enjoy another type of whiskey, you’ll probably find a scotch equivalent. For example, Friedman suggests that bourbon drinkers test-drive a bottle of Auchentoshan Three Wood, which offers vanilla and caramel flavors that will be familiar to bourbon-philes. “If you don’t love it, I’ll happily buy it off you!” he says.
Although many scotch whiskies, particularly those bottled at overproof strengths, can benefit from a cube of ice or a splash of water, Friedman says it’s easy to overdilute. “Too much water, and ice tends to diminish the flavor of your whisky,” he says. As your experience with scotch grows, you may tend to add less ice or water to your whisky, he adds. Eventually, you may even choose to enjoy it neat (no ice, no water).
Although some people worry that scotch is too precious to mix, Friedman says that’s nonsense. “Mix it! Please!” he implores. “Many men and women have worked diligently for generations making great whisky, and all that they want is for you to drink it.” For those who like citrus, he encourages mixing scotch into a sour-style cocktail, while a Manhattan drinker might want to sub in scotch for their usual preferred whiskey. “Why not substitute a Highland Park for that bourbon or rye that you usually use? I’ve found that Glenmorangie makes an amazing Old Fashioned.”