No Need to be Subtle When You’re Usquaebach


If you’re reading this article, let’s assume you know a little something about Scotch whisky. You’ve had your fair share of Dewars and Johnnie Walker. You know how to savor a Balvenie, Laphroaig or a Glenlivet. And you’ve taken a rapturous sip off a neat glass of Lagavulin 16. If all of this is true, then why haven’t you heard of Usquaebach 15?

We don’t know the answer, but we’re here to make sure that you remember the name Usquaebach from now on. Usquaebach (pronounced “oos-ke-bah”) is actually one of the older brands of Scotch whisky on the market. Founded in 1877 by the spirit merchants Ross & Cameron of Iverness, Scotland, Usquaebach takes its name from the poem “Tam O’ Shanter” by the famous (and perhaps only widely known) Scottish poet, Robert Burns (he of the “best laid plans” fame).

The word “usquaebach” itself comes from the Gaelic term “uisge beatha,” which translates to “water of life.” In fact, throughout the UK, the word is used to refer to Scotch whisky as a spirit. Scotch translates to “water of life”? That makes sense to us.

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But enough of the history, let’s get to the scotch itself. The Usquaebach 15 is a blend of some of the finest Highland single malts. Once the single malts are brought together, they are aged (you guessed it) for fifteen years inside of oak and sherry casks.

Upon uncorking the bottle, your nose is hit with a sweet, vanilla, and almost maple syrupy scent. It’s a thick aroma that will draw you in to the bottle. But don’t get carried away; take a breather and pour yourself a glass. In a highball, the Usquaebach as a sharp bronze color. On closer inspection, in the glass, the nose of the scotch is strong and alcoholic. If you tilt the glass on its side and raise your nose, you can detect the different levels and aromas—the top is very powerful, you can feel the strength in the back of your throat.

But scotch is made for tasting. The first sip of Usquaebach is crisp. There’s a slight peatiness, but nothing out of the ordinary. The initial crispness on the tip of your tongue spreads and warmth spreads through your mouth. The on-the-tongue flavor is closer to caramel than anything else, even though there is a distinct spiciness that lingers at the back of your mouth and leans in on the finish.

Usquaebach is strong scotch that will leave an impression. This is not a subtle scotch, but when you’re the “water of life” why the hell do you have to traffic in subtlty?