Miscellaneous Rumbles

Need Help Choosing Scotch

1

So I'm not a Scotch afficionado. My last trip to the States my sister offered me a taste of single malt scotch that she said was peaty. To me it tasted like Band-Aids! My issue is I have family coming to visit here and one of the members loves the peaty single malt scotch. Of course my desire is to be an accommodating host so I am on a quest to procure said scotch without breaking the bank. And so where better than here to poll members for suggestions. Anyone here partake of this fine elixir?

2

Razzer, the saddest thing in your post is that you have a frame of reference to the taste of band-aids.

Sorry I can't help you with the Scotch.

4

Then you'd probably like the Speyside malts.

But the three whiskeys I recommend the highest right now are Pikesville Rye and Redbreast Irish and Johnny Walker Green Label. The Green label costs well less than half the Blue Label, but is exponentially more interesting.

Can't go wrong with a Macallan or Balvenie. Less smoke (what you thought tasted like bandaid).

5

I'm a peaty, smoky guy. If they like peat, go with an Islay scotch. Islay is an lsland in the inner Hebrides. Laphroaig (pronounced La-Froig) is the standard and shows up in a ton of British movies and a fav of many UK celebrities. Ardbeg is another one of my favs but to many folks, it has a slightly medicinal taste. My guess is that is what you experienced when you said it tasted like band-aids. That's not uncommon for some folks. There are many others like Bunnahabhain and Lagavulin and even some latecomers like Smokehead but IMO, you can't go wrong with Laphroaig. It costs around $42 where I come from. Just buy the 10 year unless your family are snooty scotch connoisseurs.

I love smoky, peaty scotches. It's like sticking your tongue in an ashtray. :)

7

For some reason I like the cheap blends more than the single malts. Dewars on ice is fine for me.

8

I love smoky, peaty scotches. It's like sticking your tongue in an ashtray. :)

Yowza! That’s why I’m a Rye guy.

9

Dewars was the everyday Scotch of my wife's family for decades and decades...you didn't show up at the Grandparents for a meal or visit without 4-1/2 gallon bottles.

My wife's Uncle broke free, he likes Famous Grouse...super smoky...one glass is enough.

10

I’m happy with Dewars which is blended but believe that Glenlivet would be a good choice per this question.

11

Smoky = Laphroaig

More fragrant, & generally more popular = Glenmorangie

Try a bottle of each!

12

A lot of single malts have a very specific taste so it's personal preference. For instance, I don't care for Bowmore (although it's an Islay) yet I really like Balvenie (a Speyside). I like Oban and have toured their distillery in Scotland but I don't see it as a peaty scotch.

I still say you cannot go wrong with Laphroaig if your relative likes peat. Prince Charles is a huge Laphroaig fan and gave them a Royal Warrant so that's a huge endorsement. The Queen is reportedly more of a gin hound. Speaking of the Queen and hounds, my dog Lulu does celebrity impersonations and the Queen is one of her favs.

13

I love love peaty scotches. My two all-time favorites are Lagavulin 16 and Laphroaig 10. The former is perfect but expensive. The latter is more reasonably priced, but still too expensive to be a daily drinker (at least for my budget).

A tremendous scotch that is not peaty but is complex and perfectly balanced is Belvenie Doublewood 12. It's probably around the same price as the Laphroaig. Perfect gift.

And there are also some Japanese whiskeys that are not peaty but really delicious like Nikka Single Malt Yoichi and Akashi White Oak (blended) and Nikka Pure Malt. Also kind of gifty.

There is one Japanese whiskey that I would strongly warn you against: Suntory Toki. I bought it just because the price was so low that I thought it was a crazy promotional sale. It wasn't. Just bland and completely forgettable.

14

I don't know where you live, but I will assume the UK, due to your oblique reference to your visitors from the states. My recommendations are based on this assumption, so please correct me if I am wrong.

EDIT-- just realized after the fact that you are located in Spain? Not sure what will be available there-- but here are my suggestions. Just disregard the paragraph below on buying at Tesco.

I have been a serious collector of single malts for over 25 years. I love all regional expressions-- whether they be Highland (Speyside), Lowland, Islay or Campbeltown. I also enjoy a several Irish whiskys, although most are quite different from scotch due to the traditional triple-distillation process used in Irish whisky.

I have read and re-read your original post, and as I understand it, you are picking this scotch for your peat-loving relatives, not for yourself. Again, please correct me if I am wrong.

With that in mind, and not knowing what your specific cost limit is, I'll make a few suggestions for a peated whisky, and also for an all-around whisky that you yourself might enjoy. the suggestions I make should be within the £30-70 range ($40-70 USD). I'm not going to recommend anything in the £100+ range, although I could, I don't believe that it would be worth it to you. I've paid as much as £500 for a single bottle of certain rare whiskies, but that's certainly not something that I would suggest unless someone is seriously into scotch.

Keep in mind that the world of quality single malts is almost as diverse as the world of fine wine-- it can be really confusing and costly to a novice to learn by trial and error. Also, it's very important to understand that bottled age statements can be misleading, as they are not always a good indicator of a good scotch-- particularly if you are buying a blended scotch with an age statement. So don't get caught up in whether to buy a 10-12 yr old expression vs. a 16-20 yr. old expression... to inexperienced scotch drinkers, the difference is often negligible. Yes, there IS a difference, but think of it as the similar difference between Gretsch Electromatics and Pro Lines-- The difference is there, if you're willing to pay for it, but the Electromatic is often just as serviceable as the Pro Line, just not in the same way.

For peated whiskies there are ones with a dry finish, and others with a more lingering finish. For the former, I'd recommend the 12yr old Caol Ila (pronounced Cowl-ee'la). It's a lightly peated whisky, so it's not uber-smoky, but it has a dry finish that doesn't linger heavily on the palate.

For something that's heavier, I'd recommend the traditional Laphroaig (pronounced La-froygg') 10yr old-- as Jim Austin mentioned, it is indeed a standard yardstick of Islay whiskies... Personally, I prefer the Laphroaig Triple Cask, as it is so much more complex, but it's also pricier. The Laphroaig 10yr old should set you back no more than £30-35. the Caol Ila may be slighly more expensive. However, In the same price range you will also find Kilchoman Machir Bay (pronounced (Kil-ho'-man Maak'-er Bay). It's somewhere between the Laphroaig and the Caol Ila in peatiness.

For the very adventurous, I'd go straight to the Ardbeg 10yr old, or the Talisker 10yr old. Both pack a smoky punch that is very assertive... and the Talisker is actually from Skye, not Islay. It has a peppery, spicy finish like few other whiskies-- one of my personal favorites. However, under normal circumstances, they will cost you a bit more-- toward the £50-60 range.

Now, for some good, richly-flavored but non-peated whiskies, I'd recommend Aberlour 12yr old first. It's a Highland Speyside, and It's got an almost brandy-like quality, and with good reason-- It's matured in Spanish oak sherry casks. Very smooth, warming, and great in place of port for an after-supper digestif around the sitting room. £40-45 price range.

Another one which is surprisingly smooth is the 12yr old Aberfeldy. This may be a little harder to find, but worth the search. Similar tasting notes to Aberlour, but with more bourbon notes due to the extended maturation in ex-bourbon casks. Usually priced slighly lower than Aberlour. However, there are others in the £40-50 range which are just as good or better-- just about any expression of Balvenie is a winner, and the same can be said of Arran, Springbank, and Oban-- all very fine whiskies.

The last one that I will mention is the only Islay which is traditionally NOT peated-- Bunnahabhain (pronounced Boo-na-haav'-en). While there are now other un-peated (not smoky) expressions of Islay whisky produced by certain distillers, Bunnahabhain has always been un-peated... and it is unique among the Islay whiskies in this respect. I cannot recommend the 12-yr old Bunnahabhain strongly enough-- and the 25-yr old is in a class by itself. The 12-yr old will cost somewhere in the £50-60 range.

One suggestion for purchasing-- TESCO!

If you have a Tesco in your area, they almost always run a "special of the week" or "special of the month" on Scotch.. these are often run-of-the-mill standard single malts like Glenlivet or Glenfiddich or Tomatin, but every now and then they have a special on something really good, like Talisker or Bowmore. I'd check there first before heading straight to the bottle shop-- it may save you some money.

Hope this helps, scotch has been a passion of mine for a very long time, and many of my friends have been after me to write a book or a blog about it-- but I have no time for that-- besides, there's nothing I could say that hasn't already been said.

15

For the iodine (bandaid) go for the Laphroiag. For smoke, go Lagavulin. Mmmmmmm Islay malts!

16

I’ve tasted many varieties of Scotch over the years and my favorite is Johnny Walker Red Label. Not the most expensive but it has character that most expensive single malts lack.

I’d get a “nice” bottle of single malt to sit and talk about and a bottle of Johnny Walker Red to drink.

Years ago I went to a Scotch whiskey tasting party. It was a “blind” taste test. Many people chose JWR as their favorite out of a very broad selection.

17

My family comes from the Orkneys, and if you're an Orkneyman (or woman), there is truly only one single malt for you. Not very peaty, great nose and doesn't burn on the way down. In fact, it almost swallows itself.

Highland Park.

That said, Macallan, Tasker and Bowmore are or have all been in my liquor cabinet at well.

Best of luck with this. One thing I have learned- there are almost as many opinions about Scotch as there are types of Scotch.

18

Clan Cunningham checking in. I'm not a hard liquor drinker, prefer beer. One must wonder, seeing as how peat is kinda dirt? How do you aquire a taste for I? Many years ago I was introduced to Scotch, I was so impressed that I never had the nerve to try it twice (GRIN) I kept the bottle thinking that without it my story would not be believed, SO here it is, damn right it exists, and seems to be dual purpose??

20

Peat is a kind of moss. It's dug up and dried and used for fuel. If you dry the grains over a peat fire, you get smokey whiskey.

Islay = peaty/smokey

Speyside and Highland = not

Irish = pot still (Redbreast is the most 'authentic' and it's probably my favorite whiskey ever)

Rye = more than 51% rye grain. Some people think all Canadian Whiskey is rye, but it often has less than 51%. There are also straight rye whiskeys, made with all rye grains. Pepperier. Sazerac is the classic. But there are a few I like better. Rye is the 'American Whiskey'. If you sidled up to a 19th century bar in the US and ordered a "whiskey", the bartender would give you a glass of rye. This changed with prohibition. And it has taken a while for rye to be resurrected. Great sipping whiskey and great for cocktails. Nothing like a Rye Manhattan or a Sazerac cocktail. Good with a splash of water or over a little ice, but great neat if you are sipping Sazerac or Pikesville or several other brands.

As for Bourbons and Sour Mash, not my expertise. Though I've enjoyed some bourbons just fine. Someone else will need to give you the dirt.

I like Speyside Scotch, pot still Irish, and Rye the best.

21

One suggestion...a lot of the major airports in Europe carry many varieties of Scotch and other spirits. If you’re flying you can often try in the airport and sometimes beat store prices. Not always though...I live in London and have access to lots of choices, so the airports are only sometimes cheaper than the grocery store or specialty shops. As mentioned above, Islay (pronounces eye-la) single malts are known for their characteristic peat and smoke flavour. My wife is a Lagavulin fan. We have several bottles in the house at any one time and have made many Scotland and Ireland distillery trips since living in the UK. Another label I haven’t seen mentioned - Caol Ila. Not as pricey and a little different than what many US novices might see. There are only eight active Islay distilleries (nine if you count Ardnahoe but it wasn’t quite open last we were there). So, not a lot to choose from for Islay whisky. If there are whisky shops near you they sometimes sell single cask bottles...meaning the bottle came from one cask not mixed with other casks in a large batch. I picked up a Tallisker single cask bottle and a Caol Ila for a small premium over the normal bottle price. If you’re trying to impress, you can buy something like that and amaze them with your knowledge of scotch production :)

22

You are correct, Tartan, it's for my family member. While Andalusia is a bit third world compared to the rest of Spain and Europe, because there are so many Expats here there are liquor stores in the coastal resort communities that carry a large inventory. Btw, Islay is one of their stops after visiting Spain. Thanks everyone for the Scotch education. Which ever brand I choose I pray there is none left after our visit. Eck!

23

So I'm not a Scotch afficionado. My last trip to the States my sister offered me a taste of single malt scotch that she said was peaty. To me it tasted like Band-Aids! My issue is I have family coming to visit here and one of the members loves the peaty single malt scotch. Of course my desire is to be an accommodating host so I am on a quest to procure said scotch without breaking the bank. And so where better than here to poll members for suggestions. Anyone here partake of this fine elixir?

– razzer10_4

LAPHROAIG

24

Another vote here for Balvenie --- especially the Doublewood. I also really enjoy Tomatin, which is smoother and subtler than many others. The peat and smoke is still there, but not as in your face.

Generally the older it is, the more complex the flavors will be. 10 years is kind of a minimum ... there are lots of nice 12 year olds, but if you can afford a little more, some of the 16 or 18 year olds are outstanding.

I was in Bev'Mo' last weekend and they had several bottles of exclusive single malts upwards of $400. That's just silly. Especially for a novice, $50 will get you any of a number of really delicious ones. Trying them to see what you like is part of the fun.

25

Benriach Curiositas 10 years

Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Talisker 10 years

Ledaig

McClellands


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