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Scotch Whisky: The Topic


Chris Hennes
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I guess there was nothing for it but to open the bottle! Certainly the bottling lives up to its name: the first impression on the nose is peat, followed by vanilla and a lingering vinousness. The palate starts off a little sweetish, but is quickly overtaken with more peat, and the finish is all smoke, with a slight saline quality. I would describe it as a very "clean" smoke; not oily like Laphroaig, and not rich and sweet like Lagavulin. (Or rather, like I remember Lagavulin being; it's been a while.) More than anything, it reminds me of the BenRiach "Curiositas" bottling, only the alcohol is a little better integrated here. At first I thought it was a little one-note, but the longer I sit with it, the more satisfying I'm finding it. I might try this one out on my father-in-law, who usually doesn't care for Islays, to see what he thinks.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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  • 2 months later...

I'm not sure if you're allowed to post links to external sites but I thought this would be of some interest to many of you here due to the fact I couldn't find anything like this on the interweb.

Anyway, I was recently asked to clarify some Scotch Whisky pronunciations on Twitter and it got me thinking about the vast number of distilleries in Scotland whose names can be a challenge even to those that reside in this beautiful country of ours.

Having trawled through the internet I was surprised to find no one resource that detailed phonetic spellings of each distillery/whisky. There were various sites that had the odd bit of info but nothing extensive covering each and every distillery so I decided to take it upon myself to put something together...

Scotch Whisky Pronunciations / Phonetic Spellings

Evo-lution - Consultancy, Training and Events

Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters - Bitters

The Jerry Thomas Project - Tipplings and musings

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I just finished my bottle of Glenlivet Nadurra and am looking to really branch out and try something new. I've mostly had various lower end whisky - primarily entry Glenlivet and Johnnie Walker black, but not much else. I typically budget about $50ish a bottle because I can't justify spending too much more. Does anyone have some good recommendations on what I should look for? I don't really know too much about different brands etc. Right now I am learning, but mostly enjoying a drink every so often.

Andrew Vaserfirer aka avaserfi

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You mentioned a single-malt (Glenlivet) and a blend (Johnnie Walker Black) as what you have mostly sampled.

As you get more into whisky and it more subtle nuances of flavour, I'd recommend going exclusively down the single-malt path. Basically, they can only be called a single malt if the whisky all comes from one distillery. In wine terms, the grapes would all have been grown in one area rather than blended from many different areas. That having been said, they take whiskies from different casks and blend them together to make up the distinctive taste of the distillery (they are single malt, not single cask).

If you have started out with Glenlivet, I'd recommend working through some of the milder whiskies until your palate catches up with the nuances. Don't go leaping in to Islay malts, which have super peat until you have explored taste subtleties: One good reason for this is that until you train your palate, you may prematurely say these whiskies are not for you and miss out on a possible favourite.

There is a fun paper that was published in a journal called "Applied Statistics" called "A Classification of Pure Malt Scotch Whiskies." I cannot tell you how much I admire researchers who got a grant to taste and study Whisky (pure genius). Anyway, they went through Michael Jackson's (the other one) whisky books and used his descriptions of each whisky to come up with twelve different categories of types of whiskies. For each of the of the types, they picked one that is most representative of each class. They also analysed the eleven areas where Scotch is made and came up with the most representative of each of these.

If you want to run a broad based exploration of whiskies, you could do a lot worse than sequentially buying a bottle of each of the archetypal scotches to explore the differences. In line with my advice above, I'd suggest trying some such as Highland Park, Springbank, Macallan, Auchentosan, etc and then work your way through others to the peat monsters such as Lagavulin or Laphroaig. Check out the article here.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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

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  • 1 year later...

So after lots of reading here on eGullet and searching google, I still haven't been able to determine what I want to know. Does there exist a scotch that is intensely smoky and without the medicinal/iodine thing going on?

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Ardbeg comes to mind. Caol Ila too, though that's less smokey. Really only Laphroaig has that iodine deal, from what I can tell.

You might also check out the Compass Box Peat Monster, or another blended malt called Smokehead

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Lagavulin Distiller's Edition is intensely smokey and woody with no iodine going on. It has some subtle sweetness too, possibly from being finished in Pedro Ximenez casks.

DrunkLab.tumblr.com

”In Demerara some of the rum producers have a unique custom of placing chunks of raw meat in the casks to assist in aging, to absorb certain impurities, and to add a certain distinctive character.” -Peter Valaer, "Foreign and Domestic Rum," 1937

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Hassouni, on 14 Mar 2013 - 17:42, said:

Ardbeg comes to mind. Caol Ila too, though that's less smokey. Really only Laphroaig has that iodine deal, from what I can tell.

You might also check out the Compass Box Peat Monster, or another blended malt called Smokehead

Thanks! I'll look into those. Actually, Laphroaig is my only experience with an Islay scotch. I wasn't sure if that was considered representative of the style or not but I couldn't get used to it. I worked at my bottle for a long time, tried sneaking up on it by using it as a mixer, thought I was kinda getting the hang of it... then admitted defeat and gave the remainder of the bottle to a friend who drinks it pretty much exclusively.

Rafa, on 14 Mar 2013 - 17:52, said:

Lagavulin Distiller's Edition is intensely smokey and woody with no iodine going on. It has some subtle sweetness too, possibly from being finished in Pedro Ximenez casks.

I'll look into that one too. Most of this will depend on what I can find at the LCBO. Thanks!

Edit: The Lagavulin Distiller's Edition is $150 at the LCBO so I won't be experimenting with that one but I appreciate the suggestion. The Ardbeg goes for $100, the Caol Ila 12 is $80, the Caol Ila Distiller's Edition is $100 and the Compass Box Peat Monster is $60 so those would be more viable options with the less expensive being preferable if they meet the criteria just in case I end up not liking another one. Of those, the Peat Monster is easily accessible where I live and the Ardbeg is doable but would require a fairly long trip.

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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The smoke comes from the burning peat used to dry the malt. Peat is used on Islay because there is little else in the way of fuel. Because it is an island, the subsequent distillate is stored in barrels that are exposed to the sea air. The sea air contains the elements that give the iodine taste. So no, it's not likely that you will find an Islay, intensely smoky, malt that doesn't have at least some elements of the medicinal flavour. It's the inherent nature of the beast.

That being said, some whiskies have less of this than others. Perhaps you should seek one in which it is less pronounced.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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

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Don't know if I'm misrembering - but I seem to recall Ardbeg as being one of the most viciously iodine laced tipples I ever had - followed by a wonderful sweetness in my mouth after the iodine faded.

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I'll be honest and risk losing the help of the true scotch connoisseurs, my primary reason for seeking this scotch is to use it in cocktails that call for a smoky scotch in the drink or as a rinse without having my drink tasting like liquid bandages which seemed to be the result any time I used the Laphroaig.

The Smokehead has been discontinued by the LCBO and the stores in my area don't have it in stock. A large number of the stores still have it but they won't transfer something from store to store once it's been discontinued so it's not going to be an option.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I'll be honest and risk losing the help of the true scotch connoisseurs, my primary reason for seeking this scotch is to use it in cocktails that call for a smoky scotch in the drink or as a rinse without having my drink tasting like liquid bandages which seemed to be the result any time I used the Laphroaig.

If it's just a rinse, you could try some mezcal to get the smoke... that might work.

Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)
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I'll be honest and risk losing the help of the true scotch connoisseurs, my primary reason for seeking this scotch is to use it in cocktails that call for a smoky scotch in the drink or as a rinse without having my drink tasting like liquid bandages which seemed to be the result any time I used the Laphroaig.

If it's just a rinse, you could try some mezcal to get the smoke... that might work.

Wanna take a wild guess at what else I can't get where I live... yep, a good mezcal. :biggrin:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Just about every Scotch mentioned so far has much less hospital bandage/iodine on the palate than the Laphroaig, which is the king of that. I haven't had Peat Monster so I can't comment directly however from what I've read it might suit your needs. I've had good results rinsing cocktails with the regular Lagavulin 16 expression (which shouldn't cost much more than the PM); however, everyone's palate is different, and you may get notes of iodine where I get Scotch and smoke. I'd suggest a peated American whiskey, like Leviathan, which uses a different peat (from Canada) and is aged away from the ocean, but it sounds like you may have trouble acquiring it. Your best bet may be to ask local bartenders for samples and let your palate guide you. Worst case, there's always liquid smoke.

DrunkLab.tumblr.com

”In Demerara some of the rum producers have a unique custom of placing chunks of raw meat in the casks to assist in aging, to absorb certain impurities, and to add a certain distinctive character.” -Peter Valaer, "Foreign and Domestic Rum," 1937

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One more idea: you could try a moderately peated Scotch like Highland Park 12, which balances the smoke with gorgeous honey and heather and barrel notes and which is a great value; on the other hand, it may not be smokey enough on its own to work in rinse quantities.

DrunkLab.tumblr.com

”In Demerara some of the rum producers have a unique custom of placing chunks of raw meat in the casks to assist in aging, to absorb certain impurities, and to add a certain distinctive character.” -Peter Valaer, "Foreign and Domestic Rum," 1937

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One more idea: you could try a moderately peated Scotch like Highland Park 12, which balances the smoke with gorgeous honey and heather and barrel notes and which is a great value; on the other hand, it may not be smokey enough on its own to work in rinse quantities.

Highland Park 12 is a superb whisky and probably one of the best values out there, but I BARELY pick up any peat or smoke from it. For a similar price, I'd say Caol Ila or Talisker have a bit more - with Caol Ila reminding me of barbecued meat (really), and Talisker a bit more balanced - not dissimilar to Highland Park in that regard, but with a bit more of a tang - another superb whisky

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Thanks again for the suggestions. I actually already have the Highland Park 12, I like that one but I don't really think smoke when I'm drinking it. I don't really require a complete lack of medicinal taste, I understand that's part of the Islay experience. I just can't handle that overwhelming hit the Laphroaig has so I thought it best to ask for a suggestion that minimizes it or at least has it in the background instead of right in my face shouting at me. I honestly think I could learn to appreciate the style, I think I just jumped in too deep starting with the Laphroaig and now I'm kinda gun-shy about jumping in again.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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If you don't mind a bit of that seaside taste, go for Ardbeg - it's argued to be the most peated one out there, though I think it's on par with Laphroaig - but without the excessive brine and iodine. But really, I can't recommend Caol Ila highly enough, there's definite smoke, but it's a very gentle, enveloping whisky.

Good thing you didn't get the Laphroaig cask strength!

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