Download the book for FREE at…
For starters, I’d say you might pick something more like Aberlour or the MacAllen. The Laphroaig is powerfully peaty and something to grow into rather than to try and be surprised and disappointed.
Laphroaig grew on me pretty quick, I split a bottle with an English barkeep after hours the first time I tried it. I don’t know how, but I got up a couple hours later and rode from Westbury, England past Stonehenge, thru the Chunnel, and on to Paderborn, Germany. It was a rough day … thank goodness it was only the 750ml bottle!
Yes, I don’t believe peat is an acquired taste, either you like it or you don’t, and there is more than one type/taste, so it can be quite interesting. Lighter styles may be good for those starting out, but not because of lack of peat, but to aid in learning the flavors in Scotch. It’s kind of like when you start drinking wine, you don’t typically start with the most powerful and flavorful.
I do enjoy a number of single malts that are not single cask or cask-strength. However, as I have experienced many styles and flavors, I have mostly moved on to single cask, single malts, as each one is a singular taste experience and the true expression of the spirit. There is no Master of Malt mixing the casks to create a flavor profile. Whatever spirit is in the cask goes in the bottle. The only decision is when or if to bottle it.
Another benefit of cask-strength Scotch is that without the distiller adding water to the Scotch before it is bottled, all the flavors of the Scotch are in the bottle. No flavors or nose are lost during bottling. You can add as little or as much water as you want. Many are so good and smooth full-strength that water is a mere after-thought, just to experience the changes that occur with the addition of water. When the Scotch in the bottle is already watered-down, you lose that experience.
As water is added, it releases flavors and scents that might not have been discernible when at full-strength. To have a proper experience with a cask-strength Scotch, it takes a long time. The Scotch needs time to show itself as water is added a few drops at a time, and for you to nose and taste the different nuances as the water is slowly added.
I have read that Masters of Malt, as they are tasting, continue to add water to the Scotch to the point where it gets to about 20% alcohol. A typical cask-strength Scotch starts at about 60% or more of alcohol. The younger ones, such as a 7 year old often are in the mid-60s in percentage of alcohol, where a very old Scotch might only be in the upper 40s or low 50s in percentage of alcohol. There are many factors that play into how much alcohol remains in a cask over time.
A number of the Aberlour Scotches are also peated, but less so compared to Islay Scotch that is noted for their peat monsters. They also use a lot of sherry casks. Their A’Bunadh series, cask-strength, aged in Oloroso sherry butts, was amazing up to about batch 61, then it seemed to be living on its laurels. Macallan, in my opinion, is over-priced. They also chill-filter and color their Scotch. They do have some good Scotch, but there are many others at least as good and a much better value.
I have no affinity for Glenfiddich. I have had a number of their offerings, up to quite expensive (over $200), but none I found desirable, nor exciting. I have had a couple from Oban and have enjoyed those. There are many Scotch distilleries that rarely release their own production, typically used in blends, or ones that are now closed, but an independent bottler or another distiller bought their casks. Getting a single malt, cask-strength from one of those can be quite the experience, and can blow away the big labels, and be much better priced.
"These bottles are being snatched up for as much as $380 by counterfeiters who fill the bottles with cheap booze and resell the bottles for “way over $2,000,”
BTW, I received a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label for Christmas, I have been enjoying it as a gift, but don’t see myself rushing out pay the refill price
@Gary_H I recently discovered ANOTHER distillery in the bowels of Chesapeake, VA. Deep Creek Distillery run by an Navy SEAL Master Chief retired, the dude makes good hooch! I think I have enough options not to order my bourbon on line but thanks. Hope you enjoy your Blue! Had a bottle once and it was fair to middlin’ to use southern speak for pretty good. Have recently been enjoying Makers Mark 46 as well as 1792. While I’m not over the moon on any name brand MM 46 used something I was unaware of in its aging. They knocked out 12 staves and replaced them with chard French white oak staves. Surprisingly smooth with no hints of peat or moss, very enjoyable sipper. 1792 is fast becoming my go to easy button. I have more sampling to do from the good Master Chief fortunately he is about 200’ from the front door of work.
@Gary_H, the Whiskey Advocate magazine covered the issue of counterfeit liquor about a year or so ago and explained what to look for when buying an expensive whisky/ey. I don’t believe I will ever be willing to pay that much for a whisky. I will admit I have been tempted, but unless I decided to start investing in it, I just do not see myself drinking something where one dram costs more than one or more bottles of typical good Scotch. The most I have ever paid was about $350 - it was very good.
@Craig6, the 1792 small batch is definitely a good whiskey, my wife likes that one. I recently read about that new version of MM46. If I recall, it is also bottled cask strength.
I don’t understand your comment about the French oak staves (no hints of peat or moss). Those flavors do not come from the wood. Peat is what is used in some Scotch for flavor. It used to be what was used to malt the barley, but back then the peat used was very dry that did not smoke when burned, so did not flavor the malt very much. Now most of the malt process is typically gas-fired heat. The peated Scotches are made by using wetter peat that smokes when burned to finish the malt to add those flavor notes. There are a few distilleries that use 100% peat for some or all of their malt, but those are atypical today.
I just had the last dram of a wonderfully heavily peated, single-bottling, Islay Scotch from an independent bottler, blended at 50% abv. It was like drinking an awesome barbeque, full of campfire, tar, resinous, almost chewy, all sorts of delicious notes playing on the nose and palate, hints of vanilla, oak, brine, iodine, stone fruits, caramel, though not sweet, and and very smooth. That seems to be one characteristic of peat, young peated Scotch is much smoother than an unpeated whisky/ey of the same age and proofage.
@Dave17 perhaps it was just the time frame that affected the observation. I was down to the last of a bottle of MM46, 1792 and Larceny when I took to reading the labels on the bottles then took to sipping each. The 1792 was as always very smooth with a bit more “nose” on it. The MM46 was just very nice. I couldn’t help but get that peat/moss taste from the Larceny that as you note I am more used to in Scotch and frankly am not a fan of. Not sure how that works but that’s the flavor I got.
That is interesting. Another interesting thing to do in whisky/ey tasting is pour some into two different glasses, such as a rocks glass and a Glencairn, or my favorite, the Schott Zwiezel glass I posted in this thread last year. The difference in the nose and taste can be quite dramatic.
A friend brought over a bottle of JD last year. He was new to Scotch, and that was his go to, though always over ice. I wanted to show how the glass and temperature affect what you taste and smell. The difference between the rocks glass and the chimney style is very different. In the rocks glass, the caramel, sweetness, and vanilla were very prominent; in the other glass there was far more apple and stone fruits in the nose and palate. I had not had JD since I was a young adult. I was surprised at how good it tasted, though still a bit sweet for me.
I have noticed that the vessel dose change the nose of the particular beverage but never really quantified it. Usually at the “Bourbon Fests” you get a Glencairn of some nature when you pay for the extended pass that has the logo for the event etched on it. When I was first introduced to GOOD Scotch in 1999 it was served in a smallish (probably 5 - 6 oz ) brandy snifter and I was able to try a great many high end Scotches on the cheap as well as a good many high end cigars.
Back story: I was for all and intents purposes going through medical school (Submarine Independent Duty Corpsman School) and Friday night was my only real “night off” unless I was in the ER. I wasn’t into the dating scene (married) or the large crowds (too loud) I just wanted someplace to go and have a drink and bleed off the week for a few hours. I discovered a cigar bar that was mated to a strip club (anybody that has been in Groton CT for more than 5 minutes knows Rosies) called the Mouse Trap. The owner of both (Mike) was also the bartender at the Mouse Trap. I’d come in drink a couple beers, keep to myself cause no issues and be on my way. One night they had a cigar vendor in the house and I got in on trying a fairly high end cigar for free. I looked at Mike and said “I can’t sit here and smoke a great cigar and drink a Miller Light, do you have any brandy or scotch to go with?” He looked at me funny and said “The distributor was in today and gave me 3 bottles of scotch that he said would go good with cigars and that I should offer a taste to the cigar smokers. So lets try.” He gave me a finger of each and I landed on the Glendronach 12 y/o it was a match made in hevean . So for the next 9 mos I would walk in he would put a cigar and a 3/4 full snifter of Glendronach on the bar and I’d put down a $20 have the cigar he chose and 2 glasses give him a report on the cigar and walk out well insulated from the evening chill.
Every now and then he would put something new in front of me and say “try this” then i would get a Glendronach and compare and we would chat about it. Alternatively I would get a cigar that tasted like crap and he would hit me with a couple different scotches to see if one worked better than another. Little did I know that he was developing a “menu” of cigar and scotch pairings. The last time I was in before graduation he gave me a package of 4 different bottles of scotch and 4 boxes of cigars matched to each bottle that I had really enjoyed. Then he showed me the chalk board titled “Doc’s Pairings” and it listed all the cigars and scotches I had chosen over the preceding months as good combinations. I was shocked to see that most of them FAR exceeded the $20 I would lay down on Friday night for a cigar and TWO scotches. That was quite a memorable and enjoyable time.
Very nice way to expand one’s knowledge. I personally would not smoke a cigar while trying to enjoy a Scotch as I feel the smoke would impair my nose and palate.
@Dave17 that was the purpose of the “pairing” to find those that complimented each other as opposed to each on their own merit. I’m sure you have an experience of don’t drink XYZ with ABC food, not a good combination.
I do enjoy a good single malt. Used to like the peaty Islay scotches, but then my tastes changed and I started to prefer the highland types. However, on a fixed income, I usually prefer a good bourbon. Can buy a bottle of Makers Mark 46 for about half of what a decent scotch costs.
But then I also have one more unopened bottle of A.H.Hirsch 16 year old bourbon in the back of my pantry to drink on my death bed. Almost impossible to find now, and if you can, expect to pay several thousand dollars a bottle.
When I am having a dram of Scotch, it is always on its own, typically in the evening after dinner - not often, or with a friend or two when having a Scotch Experience. With wine at dinner time, I don’t choose a specific wine with a specific food, but I do try to match a style, though with all the wines we drink, many being ones we never had before, it is difficult to know if a specific wine will be what one might be expecting, to have it pair well. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t dwell on that so much, if it tastes good and is a good quality to price, I might buy it again. I rarely take notes on wine and food pairings as most of the time they pair well enough, and it is more important to me that they are good. Often we start the bottle with dinner, but finish it after dinner, making the pairing is less important than the overall quality/taste. Like my Scotch experiences, I tend to drag them out to fully enjoy what I am having.
My “pairings” usually consist of a shot and a beer.
If is good enough then, it is good enough now. Appreciate it while you can. That reminds me of a discussion my wife and I had with one of her cousins many years ago. We were on a family trip to Italy, mostly Sicily where my wife’s father’s side is from. After dinner one evening we mentioned to her cousin that organized the trip that this was our first trip abroad and that we would like to see more of the world, but wanted to see more the USA first. He stated, if it is important to travel, travel abroad while you are young and healthy enough to do it. He pointed over at his father at another table who was 70, stating that this trip was very difficult for him, and that it, too, was his first trip abroad. His father passed the following year.
I am not suggesting to guzzle it, but to enjoy it, and enjoy with friends and family that can appreciate it. It will build memories. I bought a nice bottle, a 40 year-old, a couple of years ago and had a number of experiences with it with friends (and my wife who also enjoyed it). It is still mentioned at times about how good it was and my friends being appreciative that I shared it with them.