Origins & Information - (A-Z) Butterscotch

Whoever told me that butterscotch contained actual Scotch whiskey was a liar! However, thanks to whomever it was (I can't remember), I did decide to look into this confectionery item a bit more and wanted to give it a quick write-up. We see it most commonly nowadays as a sauce with which to top ice cream or as orange cellophane-wrapped hard candies; both are not true to butterscotch's actual flavor or making. Many would attribute its flavor to being similar to toffee or caramel but the confectioneries are certainly different in ingredients and way that they are made.

Butterscotch is claimed to have been first named such in 1817 in Doncaster, England by Samuel Parkinson. He had begun making the candy prior by the name of buttery brittle toffee. The company that produced the candy received the Royal Seal of Approval for their highly demanded export. Though it is considered merely a flavor in the present, it has historically been a hard candy created with brown sugar and butter. Some recipes will include vanilla, syrup (particularly for butterscotch sauces), cream, salt, and even lemon. The coveted original recipe was discovered in 2003 by a businessman in Doncaster (the original company stopped production in 1977) and is still being used today by particular businesses.

The origin of the name is unknown. Some think that "scotch" is a deviation from the word "scorch," while others believe that it refers to the word's meaning as "to cut or score" and the process by which the candy must be cut/scored before it hardens. It differs from caramel (caramelized sugar) and toffee (caramelized sugar, butter, and flour) by ingredients and the temperature by which it is heated to. Butterscotch is heated to the "soft crack" stage which is 270-290°F/132-143°C with a sugar concentration of 95%, similar to salt water taffy. Though we today have it in false forms such as butterscotch chips, butterscotch pudding, and hard candies with butterscotch flavoring, there are still people who embrace the authenticity and will make it! Check out for a recipe from pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon. Also, did you know that Boyer Candies (who make Mallo cups) also have peanut butter cups with butterscotch shells? They're called "Smoothie cups" and sound delicious!

This post is part of an A-Z series I am running for my blog category "Origins and Information" while I am in Vietnam with my family for July. Many of the posts in the series answer questions that were posed by friends/readers. If y'all enjoy the series, I will gladly run another in the future!