I've been dabbling in Scotch a little bit and am looking for new things to try. I know the traditional wisdom is to start with the more mild, less smoky malts and work your way into the Islay malts. I actually had the opposite experience as I tried Glenlivet 12 about a year ago and didn't much care for it at all. I went back to bourbon and didn't think much of it until I was at a friend's house who insisted I try a dram of his Ardbeg 10. I fell in love with it immediately and picked up a bottle. He suggested I also try Laphroaig 10, which I did and liked that one slightly more.
A few observations:
- I've purchased some of the other expressions of Ardbeg and Laphroaig: Laphroaig Cask Strength, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Ardbeg Uigeadail. These are nice, but surprisingly I find that I enjoy the standard 10-year bottlings better than the more expensive ones. I'm thinking the higher alcohol content is somewhat overpowering the peat and smoke. With bourbon, I find I generally prefer higher proof, but that hasn't been the case with Scotch.
- I do really enjoy the Ardmore Traditional Cask and find it to be a great value for under $30. I know it's not an Islay, but it seems to have that smoky profile that I like.
- Last week I tried a sample of Talisker 10 which reportedly has a higher ppm than Ardmore but I tasted very little smoke. I can appreciate it for it's complexity, but it wasn't really what I was looking for.
- I do enjoy Lagavulin. It's very good malt with a balanced profile, albeit somewhat pricey.
- Some of my Scotch drinking friends have said I probably wouldn't like Caol Isla, Bowmore or Kilchoman as those contain very little peat. Another friend thought I might even like Teacher's Blended Scotch.
So I guess my question is, what would you guys recommend I try next? I'm always looking to try something new, but perhaps there's just not many malts out there that have that particular profile that I really enjoy.