Join 3,561 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Let's talk about Scotch Whisky
December 3, 2010 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Previously on Metafilter, we unearthed hundred year old scotch. So let's talk about scotch. There's a lot to say.

It's a drink with a long history. Iain Banks wrote a book on it. And of course, Michael Jackson wrote THE book on it. Sadly, Michael Jackson(not the singer) passed away, and there's been some debate about who is going to carry on his legacy, if anyone.

Maybe the web is better suited to the constantly changing world of whisky. Or maybe you're not ready to buy a book. Luckily there are beginner's guides out there for free. Or you could just AskMetaFilter, they've discussed this a few times.

Before you plunge into the tasting notes, and reviews, maybe start by learning how to taste it. But how do you buy it without embarrassment yourself at the liquor store? Here's a guide to pronouncing all of those Scottish distillery names.

Bottle in hand, you're ready for a drink. But the controversy isn't over. To water? To ice? How about circular ice? Or better yet, chilled marble cubes? And if there's any left over, you'll need to know how to store it.

And for the sake of us pedants out there, please stop spelling it "whiskey."
posted by Stagger Lee (99 comments total) 79 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just a bit of room-temperature water. I shall brook no disagreements.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:38 AM on December 3, 2010 [8 favorites]


This is a fine companion to the recent pipe smoking post. (Here's hoping for a less contentious discussion about this one.)

Laphroiag neat, please.
posted by usonian at 8:42 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


How do you buy it without embarrassment at the liquor store? Know the local slang for the size of bottle you want.

The first fall I lived in Ireland, I could feel the niggling beginnings of a cold coming on, so I went up to the local off-liscence (liquor store to we North Americans) to buy myself some whisky to make a hot toddy with. (Yes, I make hot toddies with whisky. Go away.)

I marched up to the counter and asked for a mickey of whiskey. Mickey being Canadian slang for a hip flask.

The man behind the counter looked at me in dumb amazement. I repeated my request. Again he looked at me. Finally, in frustration, I pointed to the shelf behind the counter where the item I wanted sat.

"That. I want one of those".

He took it down off the shelf, rang it up, put it in a bag and handed it to me. I thanked him and walked out.

Later, I asked an Irish friend about the shop keeper's reaction. Only to discover that "mickey" has a rather different connotation in Ireland than in Canada. Like, parts of male plumbing different.

Know your local slang when buying booze, boys and girls.
posted by LN at 8:45 AM on December 3, 2010 [14 favorites]


licence, rather.
posted by LN at 8:47 AM on December 3, 2010


(Here's hoping for a less contentious discussion about this one.)


Psssh. Good scotch is too expensive to become a hip fad.
And if it's bad for you, I'll do the world a favor by depleting the global reserves one dram at a time.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:49 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ah. Fond memories of walking into the Laphroiag distillery at 9am and being asked "A wee dram?"
posted by thecustodian at 8:50 AM on December 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


'You want a beer?'
'It's 7:00 in the morning!'
...
'Scotch?'

From my personal list of favorite movie quotes ever. I like the scotch. Preferably not blended.
posted by PuppyCat at 8:50 AM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


My pastor served us the best THING I ever drank, at a Christmas dinner a couple years ago. The odd thing about Laphroaig Quarter Cask scotch was that the highest compliment I could pay it was that it was like drinking grass and dirt. Fortunately, that meant that the ladies weren't interested, but my friend Larry & I kept asking for more dirt.

Someday I'm going to get a bottle of that stuff.
posted by bovious at 8:51 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have heard about the purists' complaint against ice in whisky, but find it somewhat inconsistent with the call to add water to "open up the flavor". Me, I like the whisky just cooler than room temperature, so I often will add one small cube of ice to it, which then melts quickly, opens it up, and then goes the hell away. Anyone with a problem with this may buy me a neat glass of Oban served however they prefer.
posted by norm at 8:53 AM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I bought a bottle of Lagavulin 16 a while ago, after being told repeatedly that it wasn't a beginner's scotch and to stay away.

I immediately regretted that I hadn't bought five or six bottles of the stuff, and was left with the terrible knowledge that I knew where my future pay cheques were going.


Smoke and peat. Smoke and peat.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:54 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


My wife and I were married in Scotland, spent three weeks touring the country, and made a vow that we would only drink Scotch from a distillery we had actually visited. We also vowed that the Scotch we drank would be 'our' Scotch, and we still toast each other on our anniversary with Quaich that we used to toast at our wedding.

You have no idea how glad we are that we happened to have stopover in Oban.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:55 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lagavulin, neat.
posted by tommasz at 8:56 AM on December 3, 2010


It burns with flames of love and madness.
posted by Mister_A at 8:56 AM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Went to a fairly good liquor store in New Jersey once, where the manager who was conducting a tasting asked us if we wanted to try some iz-lay. It's fun to say Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Brook Laddie! Good post.
posted by fixedgear at 8:56 AM on December 3, 2010


I have long been of the opinion that Laphroaig should make aftershave. I could smell that stuff all day.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:58 AM on December 3, 2010


They do make soap, middleclasstool!

By the way, LN, if you're in America, the correct terminology is "A thick flaccid penis of scotch."
posted by Greg Nog at 9:01 AM on December 3, 2010 [15 favorites]


I bought a bottle of Lagavulin 16 a while ago, after being told repeatedly that it wasn't a beginner's scotch and to stay away.

In AskMe, people like to say that the Islays are a poor choice for a first scotch, but I have got to disagree. The standard Laphroaig was the first scotch I ever tasted, and after the first sip, I thought, my god, this tastes like cough medicine that has really let itself go, you mean to tell me they pay money for this stuff? But I finished the glass to be polite and by the time I got to the bottom I was convinced that I was drinking one of the surpassing achievements of civilization, and many bottles of Laphroaig and Lagavulin and Caol Ila later I am irredeemably hooked. I've never been able to get excited about any of the other types of scotch.
posted by enn at 9:01 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I affectionately call Bunnahabhain "The Bunny".
posted by norm at 9:05 AM on December 3, 2010


Great post. Never knew about the ice thing. I'll be more careful from now on.

Got a bottle of Bruichladdich 1998 Sherry Edition for my birthday, and it was goddamn transcendental.

Or wait is scotch a hipster thing now? Am I a hipster? Oh shit! Hurry, Metafilter! People are enjoying something! THEY MUST BE PRETENTIOUS HIPSTERS OR DOUCHEBAGS OR SOMETHING AND THEY MUST BE STOPPED

STOP THEM
posted by pts at 9:05 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]



Or wait is scotch a hipster thing now?


I don't think so.

But...
CONTROVERSY! EVERYONE RUN AROUND WAVING YOUR ARMS AND SHOUTING!

Could be good for the industry, and I want to see the industry thrive. So by all means, let's spread rumors.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:07 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can always take an "It's a Small World"-style barrel ride for an authentic Scotch Whisky Experience.
posted by gladly at 9:13 AM on December 3, 2010


Need I be the one to point out the eponysteria?

Also: neat.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:14 AM on December 3, 2010


Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Ardbeg and/or Talisker, with a quick dash of cool water.
posted by klapaucius at 9:16 AM on December 3, 2010


There was a fun installment of Rick Steves' radio show about this about a year ago.

Glenmorangie, neat.
posted by cog_nate at 9:18 AM on December 3, 2010


Christmas is my biggest scotch-drinking season: a glass of Laphroaig at home in the evening, Dewars and water at an open bar, great oceans of whatever blend is on hand at our annual Winter Carnival. I've got a wide assortment of nips brought to me from Scotland at home; I guess I'd better get started this weekend.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:18 AM on December 3, 2010


Heh.. I am reminded of an infamous advertisement that ran in Scientific American, I think it was back in the 1970s. It was a whisky ad, but it was typeset to perfectly match the SciAm format. It had a pseudoscientific title something like "Melting Ice and the Proportion of Water in Whisky Over Time." The funny thing was that it did have scientifically accurate observations, which really meant not much of anything. I think the conclusion was that there was an optimal time when the melted water released the flavors, but you should drink your whisky before it got too diluted, and then pour yourself another one and begin the experiment again. Obviously more data is needed for your personal research.
The ad was wildly popular with that audience and ran for a long time, I think I even recall the SciAm editors making a note about it in one of the columns, to make sure everyone knew it wasn't an official science paper.
Oh SciAm sure has gone downhill since those glory days.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:20 AM on December 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have heard about the purists' complaint against ice in whisky, but find it somewhat inconsistent with the call to add water to "open up the flavor".

I think the main argument against ice is that it makes the whisky so cold you can't taste it. Same thing with beer; if you serve it at cellar temperature you can actually taste some of its subtleties. (This is not a good thing for certain mass-produced lagers that have no subtleties.)

A friend gave me a tip he picked up somewhere for really opening up Scotch: let your hands warm it up in the glass. It really does become noticeably more aromatic!
posted by usonian at 9:21 AM on December 3, 2010


I don't drink anymore, because malts got expensive, and money got short.

(There was also the all night fighting under street lamps and the hitting people with my leg, but that's another story).

But I love the fact that someone mentions whisky/whiskey around here and you're all immediately "Laphroaig and Oban and Lagavulin". Exactly like the sensitive cultured tasteful men and women I want to hang out with.

It just makes me feel at home in a way that an AA meeting never would.
posted by Ahab at 9:26 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


be sure to read Josie’s Well by John McPhee, it's all about The Glenlivet.
posted by Blake at 9:27 AM on December 3, 2010


I tend to really like the coastal scotches, with the hint of saltiness to them.

And scotch isn't hipster, it's bougie. Even if you pronounce it "scatch," like a friend of a friend does.
posted by klangklangston at 9:27 AM on December 3, 2010


I feel like I should learn Scotch. I've mastered bourbon and I'm currently working my way through a bachelors in rye, but Scotch has always eluded me. The couple of times I've had it, it wasn't my thing, and no one with me ever had the necessary love of the drink to convince me of why I was wrong.

But I hear about the passion for it here, and I suspect that I've been missing out.
posted by quin at 9:28 AM on December 3, 2010


Relative proximity to The Whisky Exchange was one of the reasons I chose my flat.

That place is like a temple to whisky. The often have rare casks that they'll draw you a 20cl bottle from for, I think, £20. Not cheap, but goddamn lovely.
posted by generichuman at 9:38 AM on December 3, 2010


Ardbeg or Lagavulin; Islay FTW. Though I do enjoy Mac 21 FO.

However this blend is the most amazing whisky I have yet tasted.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2010


Ah. Fond memories of walking into the Laphroiag distillery at 9am and being asked "A wee dram?"

Me too! Although I think it might've been closer to 11 am. We only managed to tour about half the distilleries on Islay (Laphroiag, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila), so we'll have to go back to do the rest. Bruichladdich also has web cams!
posted by rtha at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2010


And, god, I'm getting really thirsty, and my liquor cabinet - with its delicious, delicious collection of single malts - is 30 miles away. Dammit.
posted by rtha at 9:45 AM on December 3, 2010


The Edinburgh-based Scotch Malt Whisky Society is the place to get your top-quality drams if you're ever here. As a native, more or less, I do love the good stuff, although it started growing on me late. Thanks for a splendidly informative post, too.

A moment of heresy: the best whisky I ever had was a 1983 single-cask Heaven Hill bourbon (by coincidence I found a less exciting bottle from the same place just today).

The 1983 was like calm angelic liquid fire. Definitely to be drunk neat. Oh, and I got it in the SMWS before any cybernats snark too hard, and the rest of my top ten is all proper Scottish bevvy.
posted by imperium at 9:49 AM on December 3, 2010


I prefer a glass of Glenfiddich 18 year three fingers straight up. Two of these after a hard day works wonders. If anyone wants to try a good introductory scotch I recommend The Glen Livet 12 year. It's a good solid scotch and it's not to rough on the wallet.

Some other good Scotches I have sampled and highly recommend in no particular order: The Dalmore 15 year, Balvenie 15 Year, Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 year, Laphroaig 18 year, Craggenmore 12 year, Tullamore Dew 10 year old, Highland Park 18 year, The Macallan 15 year, and Talisker 18 year(hard to find).
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:50 AM on December 3, 2010


Still Life with Bottle: Whisky According to Ralph Steadman.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:51 AM on December 3, 2010


Oh, and Americans, just because Highland Park has a crap name, don't neglect it. Also, if you ever spot a blend called Te Bheag (pronounced Che Vek), pick it up. Single malt snobbery is over-rated.
posted by imperium at 9:52 AM on December 3, 2010


Lagavulin 16, drop of water.

I usually wet the tips of my fingers and try to shake loose a few drops in. It really makes people think you know what you're doing, as well as making you secure in the knowledge that all of your friends have drunk from your fingers.
posted by Vhanudux at 9:53 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I tend to really like the coastal scotches, with the hint of saltiness to them.

Have you had Clynelish? That's one of my favorites; it tastes just slightly of the ocean! Both my dad and I love scotch, and he's quite fond of Jim Murray's Whisky Bible. Whenever I'm visiting him in NH, and we try something new, he always cracks it open to see how Murray feels about the dram.

A few years back, when he had the 2006 or 2007 version of the book, I mentioned that Clynelish was one of my very favorites. He dutifully took out the book, like a teenage X-Men afficionado checking the value of his NM X-Factor #2, squinting at the page, furrowing his brow slightly.

"Hm. The Whisky Bible doesn't give it all that high a rating," he said.

"Hm," I said, my own brow furrowing. "It's a fine, fine scotch."

"Hm," he said, New Englandarily.

"Hm," I replied.

So anyway, next year, he bought the updated edition of the book. "By the way," he said, in conversation, which is to say after a long period of silence punctuated only by us saying "Hm" back and forth, "this edition of the Whisky Bible rated Clynelish much more highly. It seems to be one of the highest-rated whiskies in there now."

I nodded, and said "Mm-hm." Which translates, roughly, to "BOO YEAH MOTHERFUCKER, I TOLD YOU THAT WAS ONE KILLA MOTHERFUCKIN DRAM"
posted by Greg Nog at 9:57 AM on December 3, 2010 [29 favorites]


Single malt snobbery is over-rated.

I guess I agree there. I have a few goto favorite single-malts I love, but my recent discovery has been to find a couple of blended Scotches I very much enjoy.
posted by kingbenny at 10:02 AM on December 3, 2010


My first was Glenlivet 12 year. What blew my mind was I was expecting the harsh burn down the throat that I'd always experienced with straight whiskeys - (by which I mostly mean Jameson's Irish) - and it wasn't there.

I had the rare pleasure last year of having a sip of Johnnie Walker Blue King George V - pretty amazing stuff, though frankly not quite to my taste. To me it was more like a cognac than a Scotch. (Not that there's anything wrong with cognac...)

The one I can't get enough of these days, though, is Balvenie "Double Wood."

I used to do ice cube, but recently switched to small splash of water.
posted by dnash at 10:02 AM on December 3, 2010


Oh, and Americans, just because Highland Park has a crap name, don't neglect it.

Agreed Highland Park makes excellent Scotches.

Have you had Clynelish?

No, but now I'm intrigued...adding it to the list.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:05 AM on December 3, 2010


Balvenie Double Wood always works. And Talisker. And a few others.

Also, the pronounciation guide needs an entry for Auchentoshan. Not many adults like to point and squeal for the bottle, especially in a whisky shop.
posted by The Mouthchew at 10:06 AM on December 3, 2010


Or wait is scotch a hipster thing now?

I would say completely the opposite. If I ever hear someone going on, invariably at length, about scotch, and what scotch they like, and the best way to drink scotch, and how scotch is the superior drink, I roll my eyes and think 'what a Milhouse,' as I sip my tasteless American light beer.
posted by codacorolla at 10:11 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


My recent love of Scotch is just one more thing I got from Metafilter. Although a friend turned me on to it initially a few years ago, it was a few AskMe threads that exposed me to a bunch of different varieties and I'm happy to say I have a nice little collection going on. I'm also a few hundred bucks poorer, although I suppose in a sense I'm richer for the experience.

It was this post by Greg Nog that helped me find my current favorite, Ardbeg 10, something about the comparison to a fireplace which attracted me, and I too, am a card-carrying Laphroaig-drinking lover of ember-licking. If I ever again see you at a meetup, sir, I will buy you a glass of the scotch of your choice as a way to say 'thanks.'

I have yet to try really good Scotch (say, more than $100 a bottle, though I suppose that's still low on the "really good" cost scale) because I'm having trouble justifying the expense for something that I know I will consume in a month or two. I also don't have the type of friends who would buy me a really good bottle as a gift.
posted by bondcliff at 10:12 AM on December 3, 2010


This is going to be heresy to some.. A few years ago I had a serious drinking session with a senior JICA colleague and she put a Nikka Yoichi on the table (more). It was close to being the best thing that's ever passed my lips.

On other nights we worked our way through some of the better Suntory whiskies, but it's the Nikka that stays in my mind.
posted by Ahab at 10:21 AM on December 3, 2010


Laphroaig neat, though I'm having a nice fling with Highland Park at the moment. Any of the islands, really.

Last time I was in New York, at the discount liquor store by Astor Place, I picked up some blend called "Islay Mist". Dominating it is my friend Laphroaig. At at EIGHTEEN BUCKS a bottle, I've no complaints whatsoever.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:21 AM on December 3, 2010


Oh, another scotch story, from about a week ago. So my friend's visiting from Ohio, and wants cheap drinks in Manhattan, and we're in this bar that just has cheap-as-hell single malts. Like Oban for four-fifty, that kind of thing. They have a huge array of other drinks, too, good beers and shitty beers and shitty blends and whatnot, but everything's dirt-cheap.

So I'm looking at the menu, and I see they have Peat Monster for four dollars. That, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, is sort of a novelty scotch -- I mean, it's a blend that explicitly sells itself as "peaty", which, I mean, that's a bit one sided, like even if your dick is fucking enormous, you don't use a snapshot of it in your OKCupid profile. My general feeling is that The Peat Monster is to scotch what Gene Simmons' boots are to heavy metal. It is Brawndo's earnest declaration that it's got electrolytes. It is the episode of the Jetsons with Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah (in which George plays the drums? since when does George Jetson play the drums? Whatevs).

So but I kinda like Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah. I mean, I ain't saying it's Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, right, but you know, every once in a whie, a fellow likes firing up the ol' YouTube and listening to Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah

So I ask the bartendrix for a glass of the Peat Monster, and she just stares at me. Levels her eyes right at me, staring, not moving.

"Neat," I helpfully supply, but that was not the question she was going to ask.

"Can I ask you something?" she says. "We have all these amazng single malts for the same price. Why. Why would you get the Peat Monster."

"Because I'm unlikely to ever buy a bottle of it!" I say cheerfully. "I've never had it before!"

She sighs. "You know we have Laphroaig, we have Talisker, we have Lagavulin..."

"I know! I know!" I say. "I have a bottle of Lagavulin on top of my fridge! But I probably wouldn't buy the Peat Monster otherwise, and now is my chance!"

So she sighed again, and served it to me. And it was good! It was peaty as heck, but it wasn't as raw as like, Grand Macnish (which, incidentally is a really fucking good rotgut blend at like 15 bucks for a liter-and-a-half). It was a fine scotch! And she and I start talking about single malts, and then the guy next to me starts talking up scotch by talking down tequila, and then both the bartendrix and I start going on about how a good tequila can be just as good as a good scotch, and that is the story of how I got free tequila that night
posted by Greg Nog at 10:22 AM on December 3, 2010 [17 favorites]


Last time I was in New York, at the discount liquor store by Astor Place, I picked up some blend called "Islay Mist". Dominating it is my friend Laphroaig. At at EIGHTEEN BUCKS a bottle, I've no complaints whatsoever.

I really like Black Bottle for a cheaper blended Islay-based scotch.
posted by enn at 10:26 AM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really like Black Bottle for a cheaper blended Islay-based scotch.

Me too! I just discovered it last summer, when I was looking for something good-yet-cheapish to bring on a camping trip! It was perfect for passing around the campfire, taking slugs and then opening one's mouth slightly to let the fumes evaporate, mingling with the smell of the burning wood.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:31 AM on December 3, 2010


My cheap daily drinker is The Singleton at $30.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:52 AM on December 3, 2010


Scotch prices in Canada went bonkers. Apparently the Russian and Chinese appetites were choking out our distribution, making bottles of Oban $100!
Dalwhinnie 14 jumped from like $58 to $80 in a month.

For my money, I take the Balvennie 12 doublewood. Still great quality for the price.
posted by Theta States at 11:06 AM on December 3, 2010


I think the main argument against ice is that it makes the whisky so cold you can't taste it.

The complex flavours in a single malt come from aromatic compounds that only vaporize at room temperature. So, if you chill it with ice, you don't get the subtle flavours you're paying for. So, you might as well have a blended malt instead: otherwise you're wasting many dollars of your money, and many years spent maturing it.

There's nothing wrong with having ice in a blended whisky though, or a bourbon.

Putting a small amount of water in a single malt (not much) is fine too: you still preserve most of the flavour, and it takes away the sting that some find unpleasant.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:15 AM on December 3, 2010


A few years ago, I worked through a bottle of Caol Ila that acquaintances described as "new car smell". And not in a bad way, more in a "fascinating, I wasn't expecting that" way.

Guests to my residence are currently offered Bruichladdich if they ask for scotch. Enjoyable, enough sea air to be interesting, not so overpowering as to put people off on their first try.
posted by gimonca at 11:25 AM on December 3, 2010


The Glenrothes, couple of drops of water from the eye-dropper. And I say this as a mostly Belgian-style beer drinker who occasionally likes a bourbon rocks.

I got hip to The Glenrothes when I worked a pouring at a high-end men's shop. It's a Speyside, so it doesn't have that peaty *BAM* all up in the face if, like me, that's not your thang. Also, not only do they put out and annual product which is a blend (they've been used as a blending whisky by others for years), rather than label their scotch by age ("Just because something is X years old doesn't automatically imply they were good years"), they label it by vintage. They just keep aging it till... "Mmm, it's done. Slap a year label on it."

The 1994 I tasted: Oh, that was a sipping with friends before a meal delicious. Smooth, slightly fruity, ver nice.

The 1985 I tasted: Ho.... wow... hrrrmmm... smooth.... hmmmmrrrrrmmm... fireplace.... mmm... snoozing hound dog by the chair... ho, hrmmmmmm... pipe... hrrrmmrmrmrmrmrmnum... reading something important in a big, leather bound book..... hrmmmmm...

That 1985 was... wow. The Special Reserve they bottle annually is nothing to sneeze at. But one sip of that 1985, and for a moment I was the richest, warmest, most well-fed hobbit in all of Hobbiton.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:36 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, tell me more about scotch.

One of my top five non-work work activities is reading through metafilter threads about scotch and copying down inscrutable little lists of unpronounceable names on scraps of paper that I subsequently lose.

So far all I have accomplished is to make my mother buy me some Dalwhinnie numbernumber when she was visiting, which is tasty and nonthreatening and about half gone.

Pls talk more about scotch now ok
posted by little cow make small moo at 11:39 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


So I'm looking at the menu, and I see they have Peat Monster for four dollars

We brought home a bottle of Bruichladdich's Octomore 2, adverstised as the most heavily peated whisky in the world. And it's a lot like licking the inside of a charred whisky barrel - but there's subtlety there, too. A little saltiness, a lingering sweetness. It's not an everyday whisky, but it's lovely on occasion, like a cool foggy night. Thankfully, we have a lot of those in San Francisco.
posted by rtha at 11:44 AM on December 3, 2010


Balvenie Double Wood thirded, or whatever. Still one of my faves of all time.

For those of you who love scotch and enjoy bourbon, you should give this a try:

http://stranahans.com/

It used to only be available in CO, so we'd always pick up a few bottles when my band went through there. But this year they've gotten good distribution. It's not going to replace any of your high-end bottles, but it might replace your daily drinker.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:47 AM on December 3, 2010


I guess I agree there. I have a few goto favorite single-malts I love, but my recent discovery has been to find a couple of blended Scotches I very much enjoy.

Which you then promptly forget to name? Nice.

There just aren't enough things to say about whisky. It will save the economy. It will prevent needless waste of bacon fat, and it's good for your health. Also, it tastes good.

For blends, I like the Compass Box Asyla. Otherwise, my go-to is Johnnie Walker Black Label for nights out.

Like the others here, I'm a huge fan of Lagavulin, but my very favorite is still the Talisker 10 which is about as close as you can get to being nectar of the gods without being cognac.
posted by Hylas at 11:49 AM on December 3, 2010


Aberlour A'bunadh, with just a blip of cool water. After the kids are put to bed.
posted by newdaddy at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2010


Our biggest discovery last year on our trip to New Zealand was the Milford Whisky/New Zealand Malt Whisky Co. The distillery itself is no more. It functioned from 1984 to the late 1990, when it was bought by a big brewery and shut down. Almost accidentally, the whiskey casks survived and the remaining stock is now being sold off by the bottle.

They made some of the best scotch-like whiskies I've had the pleasure to ever put in my mouth. The Milford brand is fine, but the real treasures are the Cask Strength bottles (bottom of the page). We bought the 18 and the 20 year-olds and they were marvelous. The 18 is a smoky, peaty favour, the 20 a much smoother, viscous, golden richness. I'm only sorry we could only afford two bottles. When they're gone, they're gone.

If you're ever in Oamaru or Dunedin, very worth a look.
posted by bonehead at 12:07 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ones I currently like: Bowmore, Black Grouse
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 12:17 PM on December 3, 2010


I think I will try Bunnahabhain 12 year next (posted so I remember the name).
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 12:25 PM on December 3, 2010


fourthing Balvenie Doublewood, my first single malt and still my favorite.

I will be looking for a bottle of Glenrothes now, thanks PBZM.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 12:26 PM on December 3, 2010


I was introduced to scotch many years ago in South America (where Johnnie Walker in all its iterations reigns supreme). After five years or so making my way through the rainbow of blends, neat, with and without ice and/or soda water, I was pleasantly surprised by a single-malt that has become my go-to drink: Glenfiddich 12. It never fails to satisfy.

When I want something special: Balvenie 15 single barrel. Hmmm
posted by unintelligentlydesigned at 12:32 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Glenfiddich 12. It never fails to satisfy.


This is the one I bought as a "Hey, let's try scotch out!" bottle. I loved it at the time, and it helped start this whirlwind of experimentation and spending.

IMHO It's a very pleasant, sweet, accessible drink, and considering I bought it because it was one of three choices at my small town liquor store, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Thumbs up for the Glenfiddich.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:34 PM on December 3, 2010


I have also had the '85 glenrothes and I lack the lyrical ability to properly describe its magnificence.
posted by flaterik at 12:37 PM on December 3, 2010


Also, Stranahans is 10 kinds of delicious. Only Whisky I've ever bought a case of.

Well, at once.
posted by flaterik at 12:38 PM on December 3, 2010


Americans have a very binary relationship with alcohol. Confidently misusing it, while routinely defensive about it.

Part of it is a lack of understanding of how much is safe vs. unsafe vs. healthy.

Way back when I was a medical resident we would be on call every third or fourth night; but being just shy of full bipolar, I had great difficulty resetting my sleep cycle, which meant I was up two nights in a row and tired all of day 3.

And so began my two scotch/night habit. I know this is a very alcoholic thing to say, but it really saved me.

Now, two scotches might not seem like a lot, but as per the official definition of one ounce drinks I was actually drinking four scotches. And the one or two glasses of wine I'd occasionally have were, given the volume and the standard definition for 14% wine, really 2-4 glasses.

Meanwhile, a Hungarian and an Italian attending both told me they had breakfast wines and probably went through a bottle of wine a day. What was crazy to me was that despite this-- despite they and their friends having about a bottle a day regularly, not including extra on weekends or with friends-- whenever they talked to other Americans they were defensive and minimized their drinking; and they routinely admonished their patients to drink no more than 3 drinks a week. Their drinking was completely normal/appropriate for their culture, wrong for America's, but, and this is the point, what was considered excessive or not was guided entirely by the culture and the manner of drinking.

Scotch is great, but I suggest you all try rum. Zaya, a little water, no ice.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 12:48 PM on December 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Laphroaig is definitely my scotch of choice. After reading Douglas Adams at an impressionable age, I was happy to find something that approxmated a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster.

Lots of good memories with that stuff. It's a family tradition for the menfolk, and any of the womenfolk who can stand being in the room with it, to get roaring drunk on Laphroaig on Christmas Eve. The year my nephew was 19 he was deemed manly enough to stay up with us and I'll never forget the look on his face when he had his first glass. Had the same reaction as just about anyone with their first Laphroaig: "Good fucking God what the hell is that? Are you trying to kill me? Grarr! Ok, gimme more of that."

But the best memory was working at this software company under a vicious deadline. I'd keep a bottle in my office. Didn't open it much as I'm not enough of an alcoholic to often drink at work, but it made me happy just to see it around. So sometimes I'd break open the bottle when we were still coding at midnight. The only problem was that most of my friends in the office were Mormon but I couldn't leave them out. I'd drink my glass, pour them one, and they'd inhale deeply of those sweet, nasal-hair burning fumes. To this day, some of them will come to my house and breathe Laphroaig with me. Wish I could say I turned at least one of them into a drunken reprobate but they're all still on the straight and narrow.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:52 PM on December 3, 2010


Which you then promptly forget to name? Nice.

Ah, yes, sorry. I was referring to Naked Grouse and Johnny Walker Green, both of which I expected nothing special of but found surprisingly enjoyable.
posted by kingbenny at 1:04 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I keep a bottle of Highland Park 18 around the house, purely for medicinal purposes. A couple of years ago I was at the distillery on Orkney, and from the 18th century stone courtyard (which has a delicious permanent reek of peat smoke) you can look in one direction and see the spring that all of their water comes from, and look in the other and see the hill that all of their peat comes from. Locavores, eat your hearts out.

God help me if Asia ever discovers Highland Park (luckily, it doesn't have a fancy Gaelic name, and its character is probably a little too distinctive to suit the palates of Johnnie Walker Blue, Green or Gold drinkers).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:12 PM on December 3, 2010


I like scotch, but am almost entirely self-edumacated about it, literally buying more or less at random, 2 bottles from the state liquor store every three months. At this point, I've tried most everything mentioned in this thread and hopefully I'm not looking like a bumpkin when I say:

MacAllen, preferably 18 but the 25, at $500 a bottle, is outstanding.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:12 PM on December 3, 2010


Lagavulin was my first in a dark bar in the wee hours just before last call and it was a revelation, I was already pretty three sheets, but the taste and the magical sounding Gaelic word that always makes me feel like I'me going to swallow my own tongue if I keep repeating it. Also, Laphroaig, which is another lovely acrobatic Gaelic word. I can't seem to differentiate much between the two.

Well, that was followed by a whole bunch of other fun Gaelicisms over the years: Oban always rocks, as does (even more intensely) a spicy Talisker, and I too used to keep whatever bottle I had always in it's tube, on top of the refrigerator.

So maybe any old movie and two or three tumblers, neat or with a few drops of water or if sometimes, if I was feeling parched one small cube of ice (this really all depends on the Scotch and how intensely you want that first bite and what the gifts are floral and peaty and smoky and complex undertone-wise of a tiny bit of water). Small tiny sips, letting the glow and the warmth transport you...

One time, I tried an Irish Single malt Scotch that was superb, I forgot the name of it although I could probably recognize the bottle, but it had a lighter, more nimble yet still fantastic taste to it. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
posted by Skygazer at 1:30 PM on December 3, 2010


Connemara is Irish single peated malt. Nice, like $30 or so..
posted by fixedgear at 1:36 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have also had the '85 glenrothes and I lack the lyrical ability to properly describe its magnificence.

Surely that can be corrected by drinking more of it, right?
posted by nickmark at 1:41 PM on December 3, 2010


I have also had the '85 glenrothes and I lack the lyrical ability to properly describe its magnificence.

I'll give it a shot if you'd like. Where is your house?
posted by Skygazer at 1:52 PM on December 3, 2010


This reminds me I have an old LCBO gift card kicking around that should be put to good use...

Forgot to mention Macallan 18. I once got a litre of it when travelling. omg.

has anyone tried the Japanese Nikka Whisky? I bought a bottle once and it was the sharpest thing I had ever tasted, but had amazing complexity.
posted by Theta States at 2:07 PM on December 3, 2010


I've been loving Scotch for years, but the Asian demand has driven up prices on the well-known stuff so crazily that I keep having to find new ones. Balvenie and Glenrothes have been mentioned as excellent-but-still-rationally priced ones, Cragganmore and Bowmore (the young one) are great too. I like Caol Ila, but it's kind of hardcore.

The Japanese "scotches" are interesting, but they don't seem to have the hang of it yet. I had a bottle of Yamazaka (?) recently, and it tasted like four cheap single malts at once.

They all go great with Vosges dark chocolate truffles. But that's probably a different thread. :)
posted by Ella Fynoe at 2:13 PM on December 3, 2010


Great post! Anyone that likes scotch and can be in Toronto for May 14th next year should check out the annual Toronto Whisky show . It's a great way to try out a bunch of different whiskys and the Master classes are not to be missed. I am there every year if you wanted to meet up and get a bit of a guided tour.
posted by troll on a pony at 2:17 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lest anyone think me a plebe for making hot toddies out of whisky, let me point out my favourite single malt scotch, which to my sorrow I can no longer get in Canada: Tobermory

I don't make toddies with this. No sir.
posted by LN at 2:33 PM on December 3, 2010


I'm partial to Irish whiskey myself. The taste is much smoother and Irish whiskey doesn't have the smokey/peaty flavor, which doesn't work for me. The only catch is liquor stores are stocked to the gills with Scotch and Bourbon, but just a few bottles of Jameson's or Bushmills. Recently I've discovered rye whiskey to be (to me, anyway) smooth like Irish whiskey.

The Japanese "scotches" are interesting, but they don't seem to have the hang of it yet.

In the last ten years, Japanese whiskey has been winning prizes left and right--namely Nikka and Suntory.

I had a bottle of Yamazaka (?) recently, and it tasted like four cheap single malts at once.


Funny that.
posted by zardoz at 2:36 PM on December 3, 2010


If you like Irish whiskies you ought to try Redbreast and Green Spot, both nice alternatives to Bushmills and Jamesons. Without the Catholic/Protestant thing.
posted by fixedgear at 2:46 PM on December 3, 2010


hopefully I'm not looking like a bumpkin when I say:

MacAllen, preferably 18 but the 25, at $500 a bottle, is outstanding.


Someone who has sampled the drams up for discussion most certainly gets to opine on his favorite.

And how closely related are the kin you're bumpin'?
*RIMSHOT*

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:32 PM on December 3, 2010


Holy crap, Greg Nog, thank you for sharing. Merry freakin' Xmas, my shopping list just grew.

Check out some of the soaps this company makes...
"Ardbeg: Designed to compliment the many layers of Ardbeg. This bar looks stunning with contrasting stipes. Smokey peaty aroma."
"Bruichladdich: Wood shavings from inside the charred Bruichladdich cask are cooked with the soap resulting in a stunning black soap with a very oaky, smoky scent. A must for the "laddie" in your life!"
"Bunnahabhain: Created to combine the scent of the whin bushes, which surround the distillery, with islay seaweed to reflect Bunnahabhain's nautical theme."

!! They make lip balm!
"Have the delicious taste of Laphroaig & honey on your lips all day long! Options - Ardbeg & Coffee, Laphroaig & honey, Toddy (whisky, honey & clove)"

My husband just asked me to buy him lip balm. MY HUSBAND. I die.
posted by flex at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


The Japanese "scotches" are interesting, but they don't seem to have the hang of it yet. I had a bottle of Yamazaka (?) recently, and it tasted like four cheap single malts at once.

12-year, or 18? I've had both, and while the Yamazaki 12 is decent it's nothing amazing. The 18-year, OTOH...

(Perfect timing on this post; we just had a whisk(e)y tasting at work, which I had to miss, so I've been spending the day browsing the selection at K&L Wines. Did I mention it's walking distance from my office?)
posted by asterix at 6:44 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Inherited a collection from a friend who sadly cannot drink it anymore. In his honor, I hold scotch tastings. Most of them are from auctions, and many I can't even find with the Google.

My cabinet holds:
Cadenhead's 1990 North Highland
Glengoyne 17 year
Talisker 25 year
Bruichladdich Islay 26 year
and another 8-9 behind them.

Newbies and scotch afficianado's alike are always amazed at the range and depth of tastes in the pallate of scotch.

As for water - many use it in Scotland, and snob appeal aside, 80-proof will numb your tongue after a while. Some in my collection are over 100 proof. Those need water. I prefer to add water, not ice, since ice means the last sip will be overwatered and the first underwatered, but as long as you don't mix it with coke, it's your drink, dude. (Even if you do...)

Off to enjoy a wee dram. Port Ellen 23 year.

Here's to Jim.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:43 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


My cabinet holds:
Cadenhead's 1990 North Highland
Glengoyne 17 year
Talisker 25 year
Bruichladdich Islay 26 year
and another 8-9 behind them.


Party at your house. You can come, if you want.
posted by Theta States at 8:54 PM on December 3, 2010


Scotch is great, but I suggest you all try rum. Zaya, a little water, no ice.

If you like rum I suggest trying Flor de Caña. While I was living in Nicaragua I had quite the habit as you can buy 750ml for around $10. State side the Gran Reserva(7 year) will run you around $25 and the Centenario(12) $35. In Nicaragua, though, they drink it with ice and lime.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:48 PM on December 3, 2010


Must... not... derail... is... scotch... post...

Oronoco Brazilian cane-sugar rum. Made from fresh-cut cane, not molasses. Pirate, bartender, and monkey all agree: SO! FUCKING! GOOD!
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:09 PM on December 3, 2010


ND: Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:24 PM on December 3, 2010


quin See if you can find some Isle of Jura Bourbon cask (Jo not the Xu).
posted by GeckoDundee at 11:44 PM on December 3, 2010


I do wish I liked scotch, but sadly, it escapes me. My cousin, though, who's always had pretty refined (or expensive tastes) has gotten into scotch, and in a way, it gave me a chance to feel a little closer to my father right before he passed away, and it's all due to duty free. My cousin asked me to bring home a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue label, and another bottle of a Suntory (?) scotch. My father got wind of this, and asked that I bring home a bottle of Highland Park 21, if they happened to have it. My mother (they'd been divorced since I was four) heard that I'd be picking up a bottle for my dad, and asked if she could have one too.

This was the trip where I was bringing my Japanese in-laws to visit and meet my family, so at duty free, as I'm looking for the Japanese scotch my cousin has asked for, my FiL tells me that what my cousin's asked for is crap, and I should get him a Hibiki instead, since that's the really tasty stuff. So, there I am, in duty-free, picking up a (stupidly big) bottle of Johnny Walker Blue, a bottle of 12 (?) year old Hibiki, and two bottles of Highland Park 21. They loved me. They gave me promotional luggage with which to carry the booze, and four sample sets of various scotches as a throw in.

The thing is, my dad gets sick while I'm home. My in-laws never get a chance to meet them, and I end up saying goodbye to them at the airport, then racing back to my hometown to see him, and, well, he died about five hours after we got back, his scotch sitting out in the car in the parking lot. And yeah, the last remotely serious conversation we'd had (about a month before) had been about scotch, and how I'd never really liked it, and he promised that when I came back to visit, he'd have a sit with me and we could try a bunch of different scotches, and maybe I'd find one I liked.

We ended up cracking the bottle open after the funeral, my sister, my father's girlfriend, her son, and I. Everyone else was quitely savoring it, sharing a quiet moment. I drank it, but it essentially tasted like wet dirt to me. I'd love to learn to like scotch, for a bunch of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that it's something my father loved, and I'd like to try to experience and learn more about the things he wanted to share with me, but didn't have the time to do so.

So yeah, MetaFilter, where do I start? Any suggestions on how to go from someone who thought HP21 tasted like wet dirt to someone who'll be able to savor and understand the complexity?
posted by Ghidorah at 1:33 AM on December 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


There was a very similar thread over on Reddit a few days ago.

Talisker 18

Actually, I met my SO at a whisky tasting held by my friend, Dr. Whisky (the Balvenie Global Ambassador). And a few weeks ago at the Whisky Show in London, I met some other hilarious whisky non-snobs, CaskStrength.net who pointed us to an astounding Adelphi bottling of Bunnahabhain 41 Year Old.

Good times.
posted by Jon-A-Thon at 1:46 AM on December 4, 2010


@Ghidorah try these threads from askmeta.
posted by Stagger Lee at 6:40 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


@Gidorah a couple of the easier drinking scotches I usually have around for friends that don't like the Islay peat monsters are Dahlwinnie, Glenfidich and Highland Park. Also I trick I learned at a whisky tasting was to start with 50-50 scotch and water. This will really dilute some of the stronger/harsher flavours and allow you to find a whisky that you like the base flavours of. From there you can reduce the amount of water until you find your own sweet spot.
posted by troll on a pony at 7:55 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


@Ghidorah: Speysides like my adored Glenrothes tend to be less smokey and peaty than the Highlands or Islays. Take you a stroll by the riverside. :D
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:31 AM on December 4, 2010


« Older If you enjoy games like Myst and Riven, take a cra...  |  The cutaway drawing and its ar... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments