View Full Version : Starter Kit for New Scotch Drinkers

09-18-2002, 17:47
My impressions of Scotch (or is it "scotch"?) are based on very limited experience. I've probably had fewer than ten drinks of scotch in my 59 years, save for the time that I lost a bet trying to drink a bottle of Johnnie Walker red label in one sitting. (I still get a little queasy just thinking about that bit of youthful stupidity.)

For those of you who know your way around the seemingly endless shelves of scotch, which moderately priced bottlings (say no more than five or six) would you recommend as an introduction to the range of styles and flavors available?

Just to illustrate the idea, if it were bourbon, I might recommend the following:

Wild Turkey 101 -- full bodied, with evident rye and strong barrel flavors

Maker's Mark -- somewhat delicate, floral fragrance, typical wheat smoothness, moderate barrel flavors

Old Grand Dad -- youngish, intense rye zest

Elijah Craig 12 y/o -- full bodied, minty/spicey flavors, strong barrel flavors

Old Taylor -- well-balanced, gentle flavors that preview what a full-bodied bourbon might taste like

Virginia Gentleman 90* 6 y/o -- full bodied, yet without the overpowering intensity of others

Should one limit the initial survey of scotch to blends? Or jump right into the single malts?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

09-19-2002, 07:15
Dave: First, keep in mind that "moderately priced" is a relative term and does not reflect the same price range for scotch as it does bourbon. You can get a pretty good bourbon for $15-$20, but a pretty good scotch (especially a single malt) would cost at least $30 (and usually more). That said, there are a couple of well-made blended scotches you can try that can be had for about $20 or so. I would recommend the following:

Teacher's Highland Cream (a favorite in Scotland, under $20)
Famous Grouse (contains good portions of good malts, low $20's)
Johnnie Walker Black Label (my favorite blend, upper $20's to $30)

Glenfarclas 12 (Speyside, good example of a "sherried" malt, upper $20's to low $30's)
Auchentoshan 10 (Lowland, light, triple-distilled, around $30)
Ardbeg 10 (Islay, peat monster with fruity notes, upper $30's)
Glenlivet 12 (Speyside, top seller in US, mid to upper $20's)
Highland Park 12 (Orkney Islands, lots of good stuff happening here, upper $30's)
Glenmorangie 10 (Highland, malt and a bit of spice, low to mid $30's)

Some, but not all of these, are personal favorites (I really like the Ardbeg and Highland Park). And, these are not necessarily the best scotch whiskies out there. But, (1) they are fairly easy to find, (2) they offer good value for your scotch dollar, and (3) they will acquaint you with a range of different styles. Depending on where you live, the prices could be a bit higher (or even a bit lower, hopefully).

Enjoy your exploration!

BTW, my first scotch-drinking experience was similar to yours. An 18-year-old college freshman trying to be suave and sophisticated http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif at the annual fall formal. Grabbed me a bottle of Chivas Regal, drank over half the bottle, then deposited said half bottle--and most of what I had to eat that day--one my best suit pants and wingtips http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/blush.gif . I love scotch, but I still don't like Chivas Regal http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif


09-19-2002, 11:53
Speedy John's list looks good though I cannot attest to all of them. My favorite line of the Sherry wood whiskys http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif come from Macallan...I don't think you can go wrong with the 12 yr which keeps the cost to the $45-50 range...or spring for the 18 yr $65? http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif A good priced island moderately peaty whisky is Isle of Jura...$20-25. Blends are fine, simply put they marry quality single malts for a repeatable taste profile, they are not junk by and large. I still enjoy good midrange Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. Also, give Irish Jameson Gold a try...honey notes..yummy. Other favorites, though above the $40 level are Oban, Talisker. You will quickly find, as with bourbon, that every whisky has its own unique flavor but within a regional style...peaty, smokey, fruity, sweet etc. Definitely taste a range at a good bar or find a friend who collects. Nothing like spending $45 on a bottle you don't like. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif Let me echo the first time horror story...party, age 19, Passport Scotch, ugh...that is probably why I waited almost 20 years! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif I always say, I think age 35 is the minimum for most people to start to enjoy whisky if they have graduated to darker beers.

09-19-2002, 14:09
I thank both you and Speedy John for your informative advice. In part, each of you confirmed what seems evident from examining the shelves at any liqour outlet; good scotch costs more than good bourbon. The prospect of having to pay Rare Breed/Kentucky Spirit prices to get into the meat of the single malt lineup is daunting to say the least. It's good to know that there are some lower priced options, as well.

My local Trader Joe's, which has only a tiny selection of liqour, has several of the bottlings that you and Speedy John mentioned (no Famous Grouse, though http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/frown.gif ). However, the names (especially the "Glen.......s") all sound alike to me at this point; I'll have to print both of your responses to take along on a future shopping trip. (I don't think I have the nerve to take a shopping list into a bar. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif ) I think I recall McCallan 12 year, Dalmore 12 year, and a couple of the Glen......s at $29.99.

I have an almost instinctive hankering to go looking for Famous Grouse. Not only do I have the bird thing going in both bourbon (http://www.wildturkeybourbon.com/home.htm) and microbrews (http://www.mendobrew.com/home.html) , but their ads in Malt Advocate are so darned cute. I am really hoping that I enjoy drinking the product as much as I enjoy the ads.

On the subject of scotch blends in general, do some of them contain neutral grain spirits, as is the case with some blended American and Canadian whiskies? Do any of them resemble a particular regional single malt style?

Speaking of horror stories, I was a very slow learner. I've mentioned before that as a teenager I ruined my taste for bourbon (Old Grand Dad) the very first time I tasted hard liqour. Then came the aforementioned J.W. red binge while I was in the service. Later, with both bourbon and scotch on my no-no list I did it again with gin (don't recall the brand); by that time I was in my early 20's and should have known better.

Taken together, such experiences soured me on hard liquor (except in mixed drinks where the liqour flavor was barely noticeable) for many years. I was in my early 40's when I visited the Jack Daniel distillery, and that experience was so homey that I was drawn to try their product on the rocks. I guess it was sufficiently different from bourbon to allow me to drink it without recalling my bad experience. As I've described in another thread, only in the past few months, now that I'm almost six decades old, have I renewed my acquaintance with bourbon.

Recently at my son's behest I have sipped some of his discount-store scotch without triggering any old memories. However, I still dislike the smell of gin. Even a whiff of a drinking companion's nearby martini is enough to make me shudder.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

09-19-2002, 17:00
Bluesbassdad I can suggest some useful websites for these particular foreign products http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif : Malt Advocate provides tasting notes on all American, scotch and Irish...no discussion board. Also, I searched under "blended whiskey" and found "Cocktail: single malts vs blended scotch which to order" by Paul Harrington (hotwired.com). It appears some "lowland" scotch whiskys may contain neutral grain spirits...hence the lower cost of blends. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/frown.gif He gives a good history of the legal debate...ultimately, anything produced in Scotland can be called scotch (they use small s). Ok..now..provide us with a "starter kit of blues classics to listen to while sipping bourbon or whatever...I cannot say I have had much exposure..but living in the Chi-town area we have a lot of blues clubs...trendy with yuppies in the city. Do you get this way? Another idea...I would like to try a graduated drinking experience...starting with complementary beer then bourbon/scotch or vice versa...but all within a progressive tasting...not the same obviously..but compatible...impossible? Maybe. Definitely a home project..and not too much...to avoid any bad reactions. Now is this apostate or what? http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

09-19-2002, 17:10
One more thing...the Dalmore 12 yr is a nice choice too...Highland region...moderate body, not very peaty...a good midrange choice...and not too pricey, some higher range tasting notes..some oak..short finish..almost the Makers Mark of scotch! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif

09-20-2002, 10:55
Dave: It seems you're starting from scratch, so let's start with the basics. To learn what is and is not Scotch Whisky, go to Ulf Buxrud's links page at http://www2.sbbs.se/hp/buxrud/linklib.htm Go down the right-hand column to the General Whisky Information section and click on the link to "The Scotch Whisky Order 1990." Near the beginning, it gives a detailed description of what can be legally called Scotch whisky. Basically, (1) it must be distilled, aged and bottled in Scotland; (2) it must be aged for at least three years in oak casks; and (3) it may not have anything added to it other than water and caramel coloring.

There are four basic types of Scotch whisky:
(1) Blended whisky
(2) Vatted whisky
(3) Grain whisky
(4) Single Malt Whisky

BLENED whisky contains a combination of single malt whiskies from any number of distillers and grain whiskies. Examples: Dewar's, J&B, Chivas Regal, Famous Grouse, Johnnie Walker. VATTED whisky contains a combination of various single malt whiskies (no grain whisky). Chivas' Century of Malts is one of the few examples of vatted whisky available in the US. GRAIN whisky is made from grains other than barley. There are very few of these available, but in the last two years a little company called Compass Box has bottled some very nice grain whiskies. Very limited releases, but worth seeking out. SINGLE MALT whisky is made strictly from malted barley, must be produced by a single distillery and can not have anything added to it other than water and caramel coloring. Examples include Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Macallan, etc., etc., etc.

Where a single malt was produced used to have a great bearing on its flavor. But, those regional distinctions are growing less and less pronounced. Historically, there were four main whisky regions:

(1) Highlands, in the northern half of the country, historically the most rounded in flavor, medium to full bodied, with malt, floral and fruit notes.
(2) Lowlands, in the southern half, around Glasgow and Edinburgh, the lightest malts in body and flavor, due to traditional triple distilling.
(3) Islay, a small island off the southern coast, produces some of the peatiest malts, especially along the Island's southern coast.
(4) Campbeltown, a town on the southern tip of the mainland, once the home of 30+ distilleries, now down to two, can display hints of coconut and brine among the flavor profile.

Within the Highlands region is an area containing almost half of Scotland's working distilleries, referred to as Speyside, since the river Spey flows through this area. Speyside is home to the most well-known distilleries: Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Macallan.

Some folks break down the regions even further. A category called "Island" malts includes those not found on the mainland or Islay. Some divide the Highlands into East, West and North. But, again, these days regional differences are becoming less important as distilleries experiment with peat levels and especially wood finishes.

Clear as mud, right? http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif Anyway, I hope this helps a bit. Key points to remember:
(1) Single Malt whisky contains NO grain spirits and comes from ONE distillery;
(2) Blended whisky contains malt whisky AND grain whisky from many distilleries.

End of lesson. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif


09-20-2002, 12:55
Thanks for the nicely composed intro. I shall make good use of the information.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

09-20-2002, 13:38
Thanks for the great information. I am not a scotch drinker, but you have intrigued me to try some. What exactly do you mean when you say "peat" levels?

09-20-2002, 21:58
Throughout history, Scots have used peat as a source of heat, much like we use wooden logs. It was cheap and readily available from the many peat bogs around the country. In whisky making, peat was burned in large kilns and the resulting heat would dry the wet and germinating barley, thus stopping the germination process in preparation for mashing. The smoke from the peat fires would not only dry the malted barley, but infuse it with a distinctive earthy, smoky taste that would eventually wind up in the whisky. Peat "influence" could also come from the water used by the distillery, as some water sources would flow through or over peat bogs. Today, other sources of heat are used to dry the barley, and malt producers can control the "peatiness" of the malted barley by manipulating how much peat is used in the drying process. They measure the peat (or "phenolic") content in parts per million. The most heavily peated whiskies (like Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg) have phenolic levels of around 35-40 ppm. Some Ardbegs of the past have measured 50ppm. Bruichladdich, another Islay distillery, is experimenting with barley measuring 60ppm (but it may have actually been near 70ppm.) Bruichladdich also produces a malt whisky which is "zero rated" in that no peat is used in the drying process, but because of the water used has a phenolic contect of 2 to 3 ppm.

BTW, this is one of the major differences between Scotch whisky and Irish Whiskey. The Irish use no peat in the drying procees (except for Connemara which uses malted barley from Scotland to make its whiskey).


09-20-2002, 22:15
I would only add that for new scotch drinkers..the peatier products may be tooo much to handle...the nose is a very good indicator of the taste...if you like..try a sip...definitely not gulping stuff! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/crazy.gif

09-21-2002, 15:00

Strange you should mention Chivas Regal. It just happens that the only full-sized bottle of scotch in the house is Chivas Regal 12 year, which I bought to serve certain guests. (The 1 L. bottle is still nearly full, over a year later; where the Hell are those people, anyway? http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif )

Last night I tried about two ounces in my Glencairn glass. I rather liked the nose, which I found to be both flowery and grassy, even though it wasn't even remotely like what I think of as whiskey (i.e. high-proof bourbon from heavily charred barrels).

Unfortunately, what smelled good did not do well on my tongue. Just because I like to smell flowers and grasses, that doesn't mean that I like to eat them -- or in this case drink their essences. Isn't scotch supposed to taste smokey? Maybe the addition of a little of that flavor would render this blend palatable to my taste.

I think I'll leave the CR for guests and try to find your recommended blends in a bar before investing in a bottle of same.

BTW, I just discovered that I have a few 50 ml. bottles of scotch, which wouldn't quite fit in my son's stocking last Christmas. (Yeah, he's 28 years old, and he still expects to stop by and find his stocking hanging over the fireplace. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif )

Here's the list:
Macallan 12
Glenmorangie 18
Glendronach 15
Cardhu 12 (I wouldn't have paid $6.95 if I were buying for myself, but the burgundy, gold and black box surely does look cool.)

Should I try them now (if so, in what order?) or wait until I've set a baseline with the blends you suggested?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

09-21-2002, 15:22
I will let SJ answer..but take note that Glenmorangie may be the most bourbon like...in spends 10 years in bourbon barrels...from Heaven Hill...so you may find a weee similarity...they finish the whiskey in other woods as well. I do not have experience with Glendornach...by reputation Cardhu is quite unusual...last is good...I think people either like it or hate it. Macallan is very good...sherry butt finished. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif The list as is looks ok..not sure about placement of the two Gs.

09-21-2002, 15:36
</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
Ok..now..provide us with a "starter kit of blues classics to listen to while sipping bourbon or whatever...I cannot say I have had much exposure..but living in the Chi-town area we have a lot of blues clubs...trendy with yuppies in the city. Do you get this way?


I'm going to reply to this in the Off-Topic forum. (Who knows? Some non-Foreign Whiskey fans might want to join in.) See you there.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

09-21-2002, 20:19
I think John's posts have been great. I would only add a couple malts: Longmorn 15yo is a great value Speyside. Springbank (15yo or older) is definately worth a dram if you see it in a bar even though it is a bit pricy right now.

One note of caution. Whenever I have had a whisk(e)y that is a major departure from what I am familiar with it is quite an experience. Only about 20% http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/frown.gif of the time do I really appreciate it enough to really love it. Of the remaining 80% that I might not have initially liked very much, most of it has also grown on me. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif Many which I originally did not like at all, are now amoung my favorates. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif

09-21-2002, 20:30
"I think age 35 is the minimum for most people to start to enjoy whisky if they have graduated to darker beers. "

Sorry, I will have to disagree, as I like whiskey qute a bit for its taste profiles &amp; my favorite beer is a stout. . . . . . .Or maybe I just got lucky and avoided the learning curve http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif !!!!!!!


09-21-2002, 20:48
Is there as precise definition of "grain whiskey" in the scottish sense, like a minimum age amount or a specific aging vessel, because, to me, that is a very vague term.

A rather round-about (American) example is Georgia moon "Corn Whiskey" which is unaged distillated from a 100% corn mash (am i right here?), so isnt that the same as corn based vodka??? And to extrapolate, wouldnt that mean they could use "grain whiskey" as an umbrella tem to describe any number of distillates (aged or not)??

Tom (not trying to pick a fight here, I really am curious??)C

09-21-2002, 20:59
Yes, but how many of your peers have similar preferences? This is not meant to be a rule, but just a typical coming of whiskey age...ok...make it 30. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smirk.gif Anyway, it is not important...those of us in the know, know regardless of generation.

09-21-2002, 21:27
True Dat!



09-21-2002, 22:08
Scottish grain whiskeys are not neutral spirits..they are actual whiskey...usualy corn (moonshine!) and are distilled in column stills...most blends contain 20-25 single malts that make up 25-50% of the blend with remainder "corn whiskey." Info from a very useful site...search - Knowing and understanding distilled spirits...beveragenet.net.

09-22-2002, 05:52
Dave: No need to wait. Start with the Cardhu. It is the lightest of the four in both body and flavor profile. I know a few folks who really like it because of that. The Glenmorangie 18 has a bit of "spice" to it, most likely owing to its long time in the HH barrels. I would recommend you try the Macallan 12 and Glendronach 15 in a head-to-head tasting since both whiskies are from old sherry casks and are similar in style. Mac has the rep, but some prefer the Glendronach. Both are richer and rounder than the previous two and are fine aftermeal drams.

Judging from your post, I think you may not be a Scotch fan, at least at first. Floral and earthy notes in both the nose and taste are a trademark of scotch whisky. The Cardhu will be less "earthy" than, say, an Islay malt. But, like they say, scotch is an acquired taste. Fortunately, I acquired it in short order http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

As for smokiness: some malts are quite smoky and those that are rank among my favorites. Lowland malts and a number of Highland and Speyside malts are less smoky and find favor with those who enjoy a lighter, less in-your-face style of whisky.

Enjoy your explorations!

John Lovasz

09-22-2002, 05:58
Actually, Macallans (at least those bottled and released by the distillery) are aged entirely in old sherry casks. Other distilleries have recently begun releasing malts aged in a similar fashion, including the Glendronach 15. Still other distilleries offer whiskies which have spent most of their aging in old bourbon casks and then have been "finished" for six months to two years in old sherries casks. In recent years, distilleries have released more and more bottlings of malts finished in all types of wine casks, rum casks and even casks from other scotch distilleries (like the Balvenie 17yo Islay Cask finished). It's a trend that disturbs some malt lovers, while others enjoy the experiments, whether successful or not. But, that's a whole other discussion.

John Lovasz

09-24-2002, 16:11
I'm now sipping one of your suggestions, Famous Grouse, neat. (It's the bird thing again, don't you know.)

I find it much more full-bodied than I remember the Chivas Regal. My kid picked up this FG for me ($17.99 at Liquor Depot of Huntington Beach), and when he dropped it off, I gave him the almost full 1 L. bottle of CR, which I had found mildly distasteful. Now I wish I hadn't done that. Remembering how much my taste in bourbon has changed, it probably would have been a good idea to keep the CR around as a point of reference.

I find that this drink goes down much easier than most of the bourbons I enjoy. I don't know that that makes it better -- just an observation. If I took the same size sip of Russell's Reserve, I'd gasp a time or two before I exclaimed, "Man, that's great bourbon!" and wiped the tears from my eyes.

I'm glad none of the "scotch sucks" crowd frequents this forum. They'd likely call me to task for what I'm about to say. I can imagine a time and place where I would rather drink Famous Grouse than bourbon -- it just might not happen very often (as when I want to get buzzed really fast http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif ).

Thanks again for the recommendation.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

09-24-2002, 21:17
Oh my!! Now you did it...you threw the rock at the sleeping dogs! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/crazy.gif I always maintain that one should enjoy all this world has to offer (legally http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smirk.gif ) and should not become narrow in ones tastes..unless it involves liver! There is a time and a place for any form of whiskey....and wine, and beer and pizza. Hope the plug is not pulled on this forum!! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif

09-24-2002, 21:40
Oh no! You're not one of those "liver sucks" folks are you? Do you think the admins over at www.eatliver.com (http://www.eatliver.com) would allow a kidney forum? or for that matter an entire category dedicated to non-liver viscera? http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif

Don't worry guys, this forum isnt going anywhere ... it's a win/win for all parties involved.

09-24-2002, 21:45
the only thing I have against this part of the forum is the $$$$$$ restraints. I already spend way more than I should on bourbon, where the heck am I gonna get money to sample scotch?!?!?!? http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif

Tom (The Whisk{e}y Education Fund) C

09-24-2002, 22:18
You need to form a local "whiskey" society where the members get together and share a few communal bottles on the tasting night. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/smile.gif You can convert some Scotchies to Bourbon and vice versa. A win win and you save $. Of course the most important duty is to be the "Keeper of the bottles" with lock and key. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/grin.gif Liver eaters!! You knew there was a website for them... http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif

09-25-2002, 06:10
Alas! One of the great dilemmas of our time! I'd suggest that liver eaters stick with bourbon. Like you said in another post Tom, bourbon is much more assertive than scotch. A good pour of Elijah Craig 12 yr. should hold it's own when paired with a hot plate of fried liver-n-onions!

And don't worry about sacrificing bourbon money to purchase scotch. The money you save buying chicken livers rather than filet mignon should do the trick. And what you can't eat works great as catfish bait! So grab that bottle of Elijah Craig and head down to the river. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif

09-25-2002, 06:55
I'm glad you like the Famous Grouse. It is my favorite "everyday" blended scotch and is the biggest selling whisky in Scotland. And, since you seem to enjoy the FG, you might want to try some of the single malts that comprise it. FG is made by a company called Highland Distillers. This group owns several malt distilleries, including two of the most famous and most highly regarded--The Macallan (the king of sherried-casked malts from Speyside) and Highland Park (the great "all-arounder" from the Orkney Islands). Both of these malts are featured in FG, along with the group's other malts, Bunnahabhain (a less-peaty style Islay malt) and Tamdhu (a more run-of-the-mill Highland malt that is the "base" malt for the FB blend). All four of these malts are sold in the U.S. and are worth trying.

John Lovasz

09-26-2002, 10:55
&gt;You need to form a local "whiskey" society where the members get together
&gt;and share a few communal bottles on the tasting night.

Things like this are a great idea... it spreads out the cost of things.

One strategy that I've found effective for a "society of three" is to have
everyone buy one new bottle, and bring two of those empty "ass pocket"
glass bottles. You divide up the whisk/e/y at the beginning, and at the end,
everyone gets to go home with a little less than 1/3 of a bottle of each of
the three whiskies that arrived. I've fouind that to really appreciate a whisk/e/y,
you have to drink it at different times and on different days, so this allows
everyone to bring some home and really get to know each whisk/e/y.


10-07-2002, 09:08
Dave, and other Scotch (and Bourbon) fans,

I just looked at this forum for the first time, and it is great to see that there are many of us who enjoy Bourbon and Scotch. I will definitely have to explore more of what has been written thus far. I've recently been wondering why so many that frequent this site express their love of Bourbon and their disdain for Scotch. I enjoy them both, at different times, and I appreciate the different flavors of both. I particularly love the peaty flavors of the Islay Single Malts, especially Arbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin. I enjoy a variety other regional styles as well, but I find the Lowland whiskies to be generally too bland for my tastes.


10-07-2002, 12:29

I'm just happy that our host, Jim Butler, saw fit to establish a forum for so-called "Foreign Whiskey"; I say "so-called" because the phrase would certainly have a different meaning in Japan, Canada, Scotland, and maybe other places.

I'm actually surprised that a site with the name "StraightBourbon.com" includes as many knowledgeable fans of other whiskies as it does. (Perhaps even more surprising, I've even seen discussions as to the best ginger beer to mixhttp://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/shocked.gif with ryehttp://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/shocked.gif.)

I have yet to try any of the scotches that you mentioned. As you can tell from my other posts, I'm just getting started with scotch. Given my tendency to favor fuller-flavored bourbons (e.g., the Wild Turkey flock and the Van Winkles), I may find that my preferences in scotch are similar to yours. However, since I have yet to taste a scotch with a strong peat flavor, I'll just have to keep an open mind for now.

Right now I'm concentrating on getting to know Famous Grouse and Johnnie Walker black label. Lacking any semblance of a taster's vocabulary, I can only say that FG tastes more pleasant, in a casual, light-hearted way; while JW black is more interesting, to the point of forcing me to pay more attention to the flavor. I can only imagine how demanding of one's attention the heavily peated varieties must be.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

10-07-2002, 15:05
I too have a very broad fondness for whisky. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif Based on your interest in the Islays, you might also like Longrow (a heavily peated malt by Springbank). If you have tried it, let us know your thoughts. The 1991 vintage is available both as sherrywood (my favorate) and bourbon casked (also great). http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/laugh.gif

10-07-2002, 15:58
Personally, I acquired a taste for fine bourbon earlier than for good scotch whisky. I think what threw me with scotch is the peat element. It wasn't the malt-derived component because I like good beer. I didn't understand, too, that peat was a smoky element until I learned more but also drank whisky straight or with water only. To me, ice complements bourbon and rye but not scotch. Cold peat is almost a contradiction in terms. Yes, Americans and the world over ultimately got a taste for iced scotch but that was also because those whiskies were blends normally with low peat character (eg. Bells, Ballantine's etc.).

Once I tried malt whisky straight, I could understand it much better. A good ham, a good barbecue is smoky, so too can a good scotch. I found I needed the low-peat single malts as a "buffer" before I could "get" the big Islay malts (eg. Lagavulin, Ardbeg). The Glenlivets, etc. taught me to appreciate the biscuit/fruity element, and from there, I could see how a smoky taste added another layer of complexity.

Here is another pet theory of mine: Americans turned to the charred barrel not as an accident, but in the hope of recreating the smokiness the Scotch-Irish recalled from home-distilled spirit in the Old Country. All whisky there, then, would have been made from malt dried in turf (peat) fires. A good bourbon or Tennessee can have a smoky background, so the difference with peated whisky (peat after all being another combustible, not so far from wood or coal really) is really not very large.

The two drinks really are country cousins.

10-08-2002, 07:13
As luck would have it, I do have a bottle of the Longrow. The bottle states that it is 10 years old, but I do not know if it was distilled in 1991. I purchased it because I love Springbank's different bottlings, and I had read that Longrow has a higher peat influence than Springbank. I opted for the Bourbon wood version. It's been awhile since I've tasted it, but now I will definitely have to do so to share my impressions. I can say that I enjoyed it, and that the peat does make it's presence known. That said, the peat is not nearly as present as with the Islays.


10-08-2002, 07:30

As I know that you enjoy Wild Turkey, as do I (Kentucky Spirit is my fav!), you are definitely in for a treat when you are ready to begin exploring Single Malts. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/cool.gif In my early days of enjoying Scotch, I thought Johnnie Walker Red, and especially Black, were the best that could be had. I did not know the difference between Blends and Single Malts, but now that I do, there's no going back! http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/wink.gif As with the various Bourbons that we love, the more we explore, the more we can enjoy the differences, and understand (sometimes) the different characteristics that we most enjoy. I'm sure that when you are ready to try some of the Single Malts, you will also love the varieties that are available. I'd advise you to try Lagavulin first if you want to get a sense of the Islays, as it has a great peaty, smoky aroma and taste. It is wonderful! Let us know when you do.

Also, I agree that Jim Butler deserves our thanks for this site. Conversing with others has helped increase my knowledge of Bourbons immensely. Now that I'm aware of this forum, I hope to learn even more!


10-09-2002, 10:01
Another Dalmore product which is very nice, and reasonably priced, is their Cigar Malt. For those of you that would like to try something that has the influence of being casked in Sherry Wood, this is a good one to try, and much less expensive than the wonderful Macallan's.


11-30-2002, 15:30
As I'm sitting here sipping alternately at a glass of Famous Grouse and one of Teacher's Highland Cream I finally got around to looking at the article "Knowing and Understanding Distilled Spirits", originally published in the March 1999 issue of Beverage &amp; Food Dynamics, on the beveragenet.net site.

In the section on scotch I noticed the following statement, which is contrary to what someone posted in this forum:

"It is also important to note that each single malt is the product of a single distillery and comes from a single batch of whisky."

I question the "single batch of whisky" part. Didn't someone here say that, for example, Macallan 12 may contain several Macallan whiskies, the youngest of which is 12 years old?

Then, in the very next paragraph the article states the following:

"In the 19th century the technological advancement of the continuous still led to the establishment of large Lowland grain distilleries. This new still worked continuously and could accommodate grains other than malt, allowing the production of lighter-bodied whiskies from less expensive grains."

That statement implies that the pot still does not accomodate grains other than malt, which would surely have come as a surprise to early distillers of bourbon and rye in this Country. Am I missing the point, or should I now view the source site with some scepticism throughout?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

11-30-2002, 19:36
I'd like to take a shot at answering this.

The article is not correct that a single malt whisky is from a single batch (although it may be). As long as the whisky comes from the same malt distillery (using the pot still method), it can be called single malt on the label. Thus, The Macallan 12 year old can and surely does contain The Macallan whisky from years of production older than 12, i.e., it likely contains some whiskey that is also 14 years old or whatever (but never less than 12).

The article cited may be wrongly transposing the idea that U.S. bonded whiskey is from one season's distilling output.

Pot stills can of course use any mash including those made from mixed grains. What the article means is that to get the traditional full malty flavour, the Scots charge their pots with a mash derived from barley malt only. The continuous still, a later technological development, operates in a way that, used optimally, the resultant liquor will have a fairly neutral taste. So, one might as well use corn, wheat and/or unmalted (raw) barley - as well some of the more expensive barley malt (some is always needed to assist the ferment) in mash destined for the columns because, why use the more costly commodity only when its signature taste contribution will be rubbed out anyway?

Now, bourbon is made today (mostly) by continuous stills. Why then does it have full flavour and not taste like neutral alcohol? Because the U.S. column stills are operated in a way to lessen their efficiency to ensure that the liquor pours off the stills at a lower proof than otherwise would occur (from 110-150 proof or so instead of 180+). Hence the full flavour of bourbon - in part, that is, because of course the charred cask makes a big contribution to the traditional bourbon palate.

11-30-2002, 23:18
I almost hesitate to add here, but...

My guess is that by "single batch" the article was trying to say that all the whisky was produced in single batches (pot still runs) rather than an ongoing run such as column stills or the new pot stills at L&amp;G. Either the author mis-understood this or wrote it very badly. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif

FWIF, Single Malt Scotch can be produced in a column still as long as it is made from 100% malted barley at a single distillery. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/shocked.gif This is rarely done, but last year's "North of Scotland '63 Single Grain Scotch" would also qualify as a single malt because it was 100% malt. It is also a Single Grain because it was produced in a column still. http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif (It's pretty good too!) http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif

12-01-2002, 00:24
</font><blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr />
rather than an ongoing run such as column stills or the new pot stills at L&amp;G.


Are there any other distilleries that use "continuous pot stills" like the ones a L &amp; G??

Tom ( http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/images/icons/confused.gif ) C

12-01-2002, 05:58
This is a good point and thanks for the clarification. I think the '63 North British single malt may have been an experiment.

Few makers would call the result "single malt" because if not made in a pot still likely it would lack the palate traditionally associated in Scotland with whisky made from barley malt.

But indeed these distinctions are partly historical and for convenience. Some pot still products especially in the few Lowland malt distilleries left are fairly bland because of three distillations. In effect, as in (most) Irish practice, the pot still is used in a chain of distillations that are continuous in that sense. Correlatively, no doubt the continuous still, both by adjustments to control (lower) the proof of the distillate and in that North British case by using an all-malt wash, can result in a flavoursome product perhaps that exceeds in palate some of the delicate Lowland single malts.

Even grain whisky must by law be distilled about 6 points under 100% alcohol so that the grain materials influence the taste of the final product. In this sense, grain whisky is not vodka. Here the analogy with straight U.S. whisky becomes apparent especially when one recalls that most bourbon is distilled in the ranges I referred to earlier.

That being said, the fact that single malts continue almost exclusively to be made in pot stills shows that this production process is considered one which, as a combination of an all-malt mash and classic pot still method (especially the double distillation type), produces whisky with the taste generally considered worthy to be called malt whisky.