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Chris Hennes

Scotch Whisky: The Topic

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Over the years here at the eGullet Forums a number of topics involving that nectar of the gods, Scotch Whisky, have come up. For example,

What do you take in your Scotch?

What do you have on your shelf?

How to find someone to run a Scotch tasting?

Non-Scottish "Scotch" from Canada and Japan

While I personally generally stick to single malts, there is plenty of room in this topic for the blend-aficionados out there as well. So, fellow Scotch-drinkers, what say you? What is your favorite everyday drinker? Special occasion splurge? Dream bottle? Highlands or lowlands? What about Islay? Do you find that particular smokey, peaty, iodine flavor a wonderfully intriguing sensory experience, of would you rather be drinking from a latrine?

As for myself, at this moment I am enjoying a glass of Talisker, neat. My everyday drinker is whatever is on sale at the state store that I wasn't drinking last month :smile:, but I tell myself that when I finish my Ph.D. I am going to pick up a bottle of The Macallan 25 year and invite some friends over. I love the Islays, though the Laphroig cask strength is a bit overbearing, IMO.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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My absolute favorite malt is Lagavulin 16. Close behind are Talisker, Laphraoig, and Highland Park. What I love about Talisker is that it's almost like an Islay, but with characteristics of a heavier Highland as well. Plus, it's relatively higher proof gives it more robustness, IMO. I know what you mean about the Laphroaig cask strength. I was a little disappointed with it. I couldn't seem to find the right amount of water to add. Too little, and it was still overwhelming, too much, and it tasted, well, watered down. I prefer to just let the maker add the water for me. Regular strength Laphroaig 10 yr is perfect the way it is.

Here's one that surprised me: Isle of Jura Superstition. Very drinkable, and by that I don't mean bland or light in any way, I mean delicious. It's full of flavor and you just want to keep drinking it!

I generally don't drink blends at home for sipping, but if I'm out at a place that has no malts and I'm really in the mood for Scotch, I stick with Johnny Walker Black. In fact, if they state that they only have Glenlivet and Glenfiddich, I'm still inclined to go with the JWB!

ETA: Forgot to mention Ardbeg. Haven't been able to get Ardbeg Ten for some time now. I understand that they started distilling again in 1997, so where is the Ardbeg Ten? Shouldn't we be seeing it by now? :angry:


Edited by brinza (log)

Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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My favourite distilleries are Talisker & Balvenie. I'll second the praise that's already been lavished on Talisker; for a Speyside, though, I prefer the Balvenie slightly more than the Macallan. Granted I've only had Balvenie's 15-21-25 yrs, but I find them to possess a perfumed quality absent in the Macallan's sherry-dominated range (with the Fine Oak series simply splitting the difference). That said, i haven't found a 25 yr yet that can match the Macallan's rich lusciousness. That'd be well worth the pickup, Chris, though I'd recommend purchasing now rather than later, as in most stores I frequent it's gone up by about $70-100 over the past 15 months - falling dollar and all.

My absolute favorite malt is Lagavulin 16. 

I've always been disappointed in this malt, though I recognise that places me squarely in the minority. I guess when I go Islay, I want something big, deep, rumbling, and expansively challenging, whereas I always find Lagavulin's offering exceedingly refined and eminently drinkable. Sure it's smoke & it's peat, but it almost plays like a Speyside on the palate.

My favourite Islay, you can guess then, is the Ardbeg (I've had no problems locating the 10 yr even in the control state of NC, btw). Like the Talisker, it's baseline offerings come in above the semi-standard 43% abv. i haven't been able to track down the Laphroaig CS yet (but have the Quarter Cask & 30 yr, go figure), but the Ardbeg Uigeadail CS is wonderfully immense. I taste it sans water, but also in little little sips, which I tend to find the best way of experiencing a CS. If drinking a flight or conducting a whisky tasting, though, I always save those for last so everyone's taste buds aren't fried out.

As for blends, I know there's a lot of love for Famous Grouse on this forum, but like so many other blends it simply doesn't do it for me - perhaps a personal failing, who knows. I find that the best blends for cocktail purposes are the ones that you vat in your own home. What got me started on the project was a bottle of Teacher's that I really liked but found a wee bit thin. I thought that if I could buttress it with more maltiness then it could end up pretty tasty, so I was able to locate a fairly cheap pure malt - I think they've taken to calling them "blended malts" in the industry now - and vatted it 1:1 with the Teacher's. The result was pretty much dead on what I was anticipating and it's now my go-to whisky for Scotch-based cocktails.

Sorry for the length; first post and all.

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When I was growing up my mother and another mom in our building developed a relationship that revolved around cocktail hour playdates and Scotch. Cigarettes too, but happily my mother quit smoking and never drank to excess. When I tasted her drink and made a terrible face, my mother pronounced Scotch an acquired taste and told me to try another sip when I got my own five-year old. I did, and it was delicious.

I prefer my whisky neat and as a nightcap--accompanied if possible by a piece of bittersweet chocolate. Generally I like the more delicate highland Scotch; a little peat goes a long way for me. Bring on the fresh hay and the flowers!

For my 50th I was given a bottle of Balvenie (I think it was 21)) and thought it was wonderful. I love Macallan; 18 is seriously yummy, 12 is just fine. When college tuition payments come to an end maybe a bottle of Macallan 25 will be in order. I hope I still have some taste buds by then.

Needless to say we don't routinely have a bottle of either in our house. For everyday really low-price blended Scotch we buy Cluny in the giant plastic bottle. It's cheaper than Famous Grouse and I don't find Famous Grouse to be appreciably better. Maybe I'm just used to Cluny. I think it may be more common on the west coast, but I'm not sure.

My image of the most dangerous vacation on earth is the self-guided Scotland distillery tour. There I am on a narrow twisty road at the edge of a bog in a driving rainstorm and the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car and the car's on the wrong side of the road and there are sheep all over the place and how many distilleries have we already been to?

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My image of the most dangerous vacation on earth is the self-guided Scotland distillery tour. There I am on a narrow twisty road at the edge of a bog in a driving rainstorm and the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car and the car's on the wrong side of the road and there are sheep all over the place and how many distilleries have we already been to?

Hah! That's my memory of Scotland, too!

As for my preferences, I split by winter stock between Tallisker and Caol Ila. I like the peppery character of the Tallisker and usually imbibe with just a few drops of water. The Caol Ila 12 ever-so-slighty tames the smoke and peat to offer a wonderfully refined expression of the Islay whiskys; I drink it neat.

As for blends, I agree with the earlier poster about JWB; as I understand it, Tallisker is part of the blend.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Just so no one gets the wrong idea, I wasn't working from memory, I was just making that up--imagining what it might be like. I guess I'm not far off! I'm pleased to know you made it back in one piece. Cheers!

Anyone remember the movie "Local Hero?" I expect most of my false and very fond visual memories of Scotland are due to numerous viewings of that movie seen through a haze of a variety of things. Lovely.

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As for my preferences, I split by winter stock between Tallisker and Caol Ila.

Good point, Bob. I wasn't even thinking about the seasonal variation in my Scotch-drinking habit, but in the summer I am (almost) loath to come anywhere near an Islay, much as I love them in the colder months. Do you all switch to other cocktails (of the chilled variety) during the summer, or has anyone found the perfect Scotch for 100 degree F weather?

ETA: And great analysis, db_campbell: no need to worry about lengthy posts around here! I haven't had the Ardbeg recently, and can't really call to mind any particular impressions of it. As for the Balvenies, I have to admit a certain indifference towards the 15 year, which is the only one I've had. I wouldn't say it was bad, per se, just that it didn't strike me as particularly memorable. Again, perhaps a repeat tasting is in order...


Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Just so no one gets the wrong idea, I wasn't working from memory, I was just making that up--imagining what it might be like. I guess I'm not far off! I'm pleased to know you made it back in one piece. Cheers!

Definitely made it back in one piece . . . and a newfound appreciation for whisky, which I hadn't tried before my visit four springs ago.

Hard to avoid twisty drives. The twistiest was crossing Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cattle) on the Applecross peninsula -- it's an alpine road in Wester Ross with lots of hairpin turns and great views across the Inner Sound of the Isle of Rasay and the Isle of Skye. Lots of sheep here. Less demanding with fewer sheep but nonetheless curvy was the route from Ballater to Inverness via Speybridge across the Grampian mountains. Our weather was amazingly good, except for two on-and-off rainy days on the peninsula.

I actually didn't take up my whisky habit until the end of the trip in Glasgow. You can find my travel report here.

Scotch whisky is pretty much an autumn-winter thing for me, though I indulged in some McCallan 12 at a cigar event earlier this month. This time of year I enjoy my cigars with any one of a number of beers (pils or other lighter [not "lite"!] beers) or fruit-spirit concoctions of my own devising, like the pineapple-orange-lime juice cooler earlier this week with brown rum.


Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Highland Park 12 has slightly overtaken Macallan 10 as my current favorite. I prefer some smoke and peat in the whiskies but Islay malts are like drinking liquid smoke :)

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It's discussion time.

As a man close to my heart once said, "Scotch scotch scotch. I like scotch."

Mr. Burgundy never summed up my feelings for an object so well.

I'm looking for new stuff to try and people's opinion on this particular liquor.

My list of scotches that I can remember:

JW Black

JW Red

JW Blue

Glen Livet

McClellans

Some obscure named single malt I don't remember.

I really like the blue, not because of the price, but because of the complexity and the amazing spicieness it had to it.

I'm really a fan of single malts from the few I've tried though, so the more recommendations, the merrier.

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When my dad came to visit this past weekend he brought along a bottle of Balvenie Doublewood 12 year. It's aged for some of the time in regular whisky oak and some of the time in sherry oak barrels, according to the bottle. It's a tasty, if mellow, Scotch. A bit too mellow for my tastes, but it does have a nice complexity to it that makes drinking it fun, playing the "name that flavor" game.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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It's discussion time.

As a man close to my heart once said, "Scotch scotch scotch. I like scotch."

Mr. Burgundy never summed up my feelings for an object so well.

I'm looking for new stuff to try and people's opinion on this particular liquor.

My list of scotches that I can remember:

JW Black

JW Red

JW Blue

Glen Livet

McClellans

Some obscure named single malt I don't remember.

I really like the blue, not because of the price, but because of the complexity and the amazing spicieness it had to it.

I'm really a fan of single malts from the few I've tried though, so the more recommendations, the merrier.

The only time I had the privilege of the tasting JW Blue was at whiskey festival. Unfortunately, it was at the very end of the festival. :wacko: I couldn't even begin to say what it tasted like. I have to assume it was good! This year, I will make a point of hitting the JW station first.

McClellans are rebottlings. Their stuff is usually very young whiskey, around 6 yrs, I believe. I was never fond of Glenlivet 12, but the 15 is very nice. There are loads of websites and books that guide one through how to become acquainted with single malts, so rather than try to do that here, I'll just list some others that I'd personally recommend.

I already mentioned that I like Lagavulin, Talisker, Laphroaig 10, Highland Park 12, and Ardbeg 10.

Others I recommend include:

Balvenie Doublewood

Balvenie Portwood

Aberlour A'bunadh

Dalmore (12 yr. and Cigar Malt)

Macallan 12

Old Pultney

Oban

Glenfarclas 105


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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McClellans are rebottlings.  Their stuff is usually very young whiskey, around 6 yrs, I believe. 

The cool thing with McClelland's is that it's owned by Morrison Bowmore. Can't remember where I read this, but essentially each of their regional bottlings is a younger version of a 'name' distillery. McClelland's Highlands? A ~6 yr Glen Garioch. McClelland's Lowlands? A ~6 yr Auchentoshan. McClelland's Islay? A ~6 yr Bowmore. The latter is great if you're like me, and like to vat your own whiskies, since it's an economical means of upping the peatiness.

It's discussion time.

As a man close to my heart once said, "Scotch scotch scotch. I like scotch."

Mr. Burgundy never summed up my feelings for an object so well.

I'm looking for new stuff to try and people's opinion on this particular liquor.

My list of scotches that I can remember:

JW Black

JW Red

JW Blue

Glen Livet

McClellans

Some obscure named single malt I don't remember.

I really like the blue, not because of the price, but because of the complexity and the amazing spicieness it had to it.

I'm really a fan of single malts from the few I've tried though, so the more recommendations, the merrier.

You seem to favour the more Highlands / Speyside style of bottlings. I'd definitely third the Balvenie recommendations, as it's probably my favourite mainland distillery. You can also never go wrong with any of the bottlings from Highland Park or The Macallan (as brinza notes). Brinza's also right on w/ the Glenfarclas rec: it's a poor man's Macallan (to steal a sports analogy), in that it's a heavily-sherried Speyside, but I bet many would have difficulty telling the two apart in a blind taste test.

I think you also owe it to yourself to try something a bit more Island-y. The closest you have right now is probably the JW Black, which uses a fair amount of Talisker and I believe Caol Ila in the mix. I'd pick up the Talisker 10 - or 18 if you can find it, as it's fantastically priced relative to other 18s - and if you like it, perhaps migrate along the peat spectrum to an Islay.

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Tried the Ardberg 10 recently (since it got Jim Murray's Whisky of the Year award and all) and really enjoyed it. The citrusy tones were new to me, though I'm by no means a scotch aficionado.

I've also always liked the Oban 14.

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It's discussion time.

As a man close to my heart once said, "Scotch scotch scotch. I like scotch."

Mr. Burgundy never summed up my feelings for an object so well.

I'm looking for new stuff to try and people's opinion on this particular liquor.

My list of scotches that I can remember:

JW Black

JW Red

JW Blue

Glen Livet

McClellans

Some obscure named single malt I don't remember.

I really like the blue, not because of the price, but because of the complexity and the amazing spicieness it had to it.

I'm really a fan of single malts from the few I've tried though, so the more recommendations, the merrier.

The only time I had the privilege of the tasting JW Blue was at whiskey festival. Unfortunately, it was at the very end of the festival. :wacko: I couldn't even begin to say what it tasted like. I have to assume it was good! This year, I will make a point of hitting the JW station first.

McClellans are rebottlings. Their stuff is usually very young whiskey, around 6 yrs, I believe. I was never fond of Glenlivet 12, but the 15 is very nice. There are loads of websites and books that guide one through how to become acquainted with single malts, so rather than try to do that here, I'll just list some others that I'd personally recommend.

I already mentioned that I like Lagavulin, Talisker, Laphroaig 10, Highland Park 12, and Ardbeg 10.

Others I recommend include:

Balvenie Doublewood

Balvenie Portwood

Aberlour A'bunadh

Dalmore (12 yr. and Cigar Malt)

Macallan 12

Old Pultney

Oban

Glenfarclas 105

It's definitely not like anything else I've ever tasted. I forget the age that it's supposed to be, but it had a very spicy taste to it. I'm not sure how to describe it really. Even over ice and thinned out a bit, it's still kind of strong.

I had some one buy me a bottle in the caribbean for fixing their computer. About $100 down there. It's not something I'd personally ever spend my money on, but as a gift it was a treat.

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My all time fave is Lagavulin, but unless I'm flying between countries it's rarely in the budget.

So in the spirit of buying local . . . I like Glen Breton Rare Canadian Single Malt Whisky - it's the only single malt whisky produced in Canada. Click.


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Got to be Springbank or Longrow from Campbeltown for me. The bottles to seek out are Springbank 15 (21 if you are very lucky) and Longrow 14.

Springbank has a hint of smoke and sea - similar to Highland Park. Longrow has far more peat and is rich - after dinner only.

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Warning Warning. The following information could spark an obsession.

The more you get into scotches, the more avenues open up to you.

Normal whiskies (even single malts) are blends of a number of casks. As for single appelation wines, this allows the blender to give a consistent product that wears the label they work for and guarantees a common taste across different batches (much like McDonalds tastes the same the world over).

There is another side to malt whiskies....

I've recently joined the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. They have chapters all over the world.

What they do is purchase a cask from one of the distillers and bottle it at cask strength for their members. Cask strength is around 60% alcohol or more, compared to the 40% of normal strength malts. They do not have water added, no chill filtering, and no coloring (caramel).

Coming from one cask, the whisky may come from the single malt but does not have the blending to make it identifiable as a Highland Park, Laphroaig, etc.

The casks are tasted and quality tested before purchase and tasting notes are created that echo some of the excesses seen in wine tasting notes:

Warm fruitcake, slightly burnt

You would be hard pressed to guess the cask type here, since the whisky displays characteristics from both European and American oak. In fact it is an American refill hoggie. Our ‘Distillery No. 1’ is proudly independent: one of only two established in the 19th century which is still in the ownership of its founding family. Full gold in colour, the first nose is reminiscent of custard, crème brulee, vanilla fudge, melted sugar, moist fruit loaf and beeswax – in approximately that order! The taste is pleasantly sweet (tablet) and slightly burnt: weighty. It takes water well, and holds its weight, the aromas combining into warm fruitcake, and this comes through in the taste, slightly burnt: full bodied and creamy, with a longish finish.

Anyway you get the idea.

Because the distillery blenders have not made the whisky to their specifications, the distilleries request not to be identified on the bottles, although the areas where the whisky comes from are (Speyside, Islay, etc.). A number substitutes for the distillery name.

The bottom line is that single malt, single cask whisky is an experience that once tried will make it very hard to go back to "normal" single malts.

I warned you earlier :wink:


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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What's the average price they charge for a bottle once you join?


--

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What's the average price they charge for a bottle once you join?

It varies. I looked at the latest US bottling list and the range is from around $85 to $140.

The older whiskies are more expensive: one bottle was $250 but this was from a 38 year old cask.

Web site is www.smws.com (click on your country) :smile:


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I have mixed feelings about the SMWS bottlings: I've never had one, so I'm not referring to the quality, but to the fact that they are almost too unique. The idea of something so ephemeral is both intriguing and saddening to me: I'd hate to fall in love with bottle 819 from distillery 42, never to encounter it again. And how do you discuss it? Almost no one else in the world has ever had it. Maybe if enough eGullet members were to join we'd have enough to talk about, but that price is pretty steep for my usual whisky habit: I try to stick to the <$60 bottles...


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Oban is an all-time favorite.

I also recently had several drams of Blair Athol on a recent trip to Scotland...sherry-cask finish and incredibly smooth.

I find the Lagavulin Distillers Edition to be a fine balance between sweet and smoke.

i have found that my mood, time of day, time of year, what i am eating...all are factors in how i like to drink my whiskey.

but certainly the best dram i have had recently was on the deck of a boat in a scottish loch near the isle of eigg. a 29 yr old talisker, neat. with willie macdougal, talisker's master distiller/blender. he played the pipes as the sun went down and the cool salty air was the world's best accompaniment imaginable...

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I have mixed feelings about the SMWS bottlings: I've never had one, so I'm not referring to the quality, but to the fact that they are almost too unique. The idea of something so ephemeral is both intriguing and saddening to me: I'd hate to fall in love with bottle 819 from distillery 42, never to encounter it again. And how do you discuss it? Almost no one else in the world has ever had it. Maybe if enough eGullet members were to join we'd have enough to talk about, but that price is pretty steep for my usual whisky habit: I try to stick to the <$60 bottles...

I can see where you are coming from Chris and it's a bit like the 1982 Chateau de whatever that only has one bottling but is talked about long after it's gone.

Mind you, I still get my favourite single malts as well as the occasional special bottle. They include diverse tasting whiskies ranging from Glenmorangie through Oban and Highland Park to Laphroaig.

Attending a whisky tasting event with Jim McEwan has also seen me convert to being an adherent of Bruichladdich, which is an Islay without the heavy peat.

Some of the larger distillers are putting out special releases (done in Sherry casks, Port casks, Bourbon casks, from a Quarter cask, etc) which allows experience of some additional dimensions without the extra expense of the single cask bottlings.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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