It seems like I have found the perfect place to learn and share my scotch experiences. I have always enjoyed scotch very much but I finally decided that I wanted to take that enjoyment to the next level.
To start, I confess I am very much a beginner with scotch. I apologize in advance if I ask any stupid questions! I suppose my initial attraction (as it perhaps may be for many) to the drink was seeing my father enjoy it when I was younger. In fact, as a child I would sometimes drink a Ginger Ale in one of my father's scotch glasses to pretend I was drinking with him!
One of the things I came to appreciate about scotch was how patient the spirit was. It was not to be rushed or "hammered" down like some fraternity party. I am also not a heavy drinker so the journey of appreciating a drink - "getting there," if you will, was important to me.
Here is a sample of both blended and single malts I have tasted over the years:
Dewars White Label - (My first love!)
Johnnie Walker Red, Black, Gold
Glenfiddich 12 year
Balvenie Caribbean 14 year
Macallan 12, 15
It was the Bowmore 15 that changed my life. My friend gave it to me without even telling me what it was and I was IMMEDIATELY drawn to the smokiness of the spirit. I had always preferred smoother blended scotches but the Bowmore 15 was the most incredible scotch experience I have had in my life. The peatiness was strong, but not overpowering and it warmed my entire body. That experience made me want to learn more about single malt scotch and to optimize how I enjoyed it.
I would welcome any and all advice as to how to begin my journey of single malt scotches! Perhaps some recommendations of "starter" spirits? What is the best way to taste/drink your scotch? How do you best detect the various notes of a scotch? Do you prefer it as a standalone drink or with a meal - and what kind of meal? How long is scotch good for after opening?
Thanks again! I can't wait to scour through this board and soak up all the expertise in here!
Hi MK , welcome to the group .
If you like a smooth smokey single malt try Highland Park 12 yo sometime . I've been trying several types recently and I really liked that one as the smoke stood out ;)
I will have to try the Bowmore 15 yo .
If you liked the Bowmore 15, try the Bowmore 12 YO Enigma, which is a sherry finish Scotch and incredibly smooth.
I would also recommend Caol Ila 12 YO, which is a beautiful smokey dram.
Finally, I would say that if you haven't tried it yet, get a bottle of Lagavulin 16 YO or the Lagavulin Distillers Edition if you can find one.
Great! Thanks very much for the suggestions - I can't wait to try them out.
What are your thoughts on the granite stones that are used in lieu of ice cubes? Also, any advice as to how to best detect some of the notes for a given scotch - in terms of both nosing and tasting? I would really like to be able to differentiate between scotches as best I can.
Overall, I suppose I just want to enjoy the spirit the "right" way.
Personally I would never ever chill a single malt, as it closes up the flavours. I did add a single cube of ice when I was still new to drinking Scotch, but now all I have is a bottle of mineral water by my side of the couch, for adding to certain malts, primarily the high ABV single cask stuff.
For me, to fully appreciate a good single malt, I will use my proper nosing glasses, which hold the aroma better as they are smaller at top, kind of like small brandy glasses. Then it is a question of taking in the aromas for a while before tasting.
Then, after tasting a small amount, if it is too strong neat (like the new bottle of single cask Laphroaig I received in the mail today from the society), I will add a few drops of water and repeat the process. Then add more water etc etc, until I find a balance that suits. A good single cask single malt changes throughout the process, but start with a very small glass, as some single malts are just killed with water, so when you first try it, you don't want to risk too much!
Whichever way you like to drink your scotch is up to you, and there is no right or wrong way if you enjoy it, but there is the more accepted way for purists - ie. no ice or mixers etc, but it's not a rule, just a suggestion.
For me, the more I drink, the more I learn, and I like a wide variety of scotch, which I think includes around 14 bottles open at the moment, as as my mood changes, so does my choice of scotch! I love Islay's, but have plenty of others types.
I also like to enjoy Scotch with good dark chocolate, preferably a good chilli infused chocolate, but again it is to taste.
Experiment, and enjoy.
When it comes to enjoying the drink, the goal is to EXPERIENCE the drink. This is done by enjoying its color, its aroma, and its taste. To drink Scotch Whisky in a red, plastic Dixie cup is to still drink whisky, but it does not lend itself to enjoying the whisky, as you cannot either see the whisky nor get the taste of a cheap plastic cup out of your mouth.
My grandparents had these aluminum cups from the 50's or 60's. Anything I drank out of them tasted the same (metallic). This is an example of what NOT to drink your whisky out of!
Selecting a whisky glass is SOMEWHAT of a personal decision, but there are reasons why the glass in the address bar is a Glencairn glass.
The Glencairn is perfectly shaped to best "nose" the whisky, and the bell at the bottom allows you to see the whisky's color. It is clear, and not etched, so you can watch it move about in the bowl. It is small, as drinking a nice dram should not be a rushed affair, but a time-consuming event. There is no room for multiple cubes of ice, or large amounts of water, or other cutting agent. This glass is intended to be used for the tasting of fine whisky, taken neat. For this reason, I refer to it mostly as a "tasting" glass, not a drinking glass. A tumbler is a drinking glass.
On the other hand, I also really like etched crystal brandy snifters.
I like drinking out of these glasses. It makes me happy. They still have big bowls for viewing the color, and the mouth of the glass is a bit focused (tapered?) They aren't meant to hold ice, water, or (forbid the thought) soda. All in all, I think snifters are the next best thing to a Glencairn tasting glass.
To experience the TASTE of the whisky, a glass or crystal glass is best. This should not be surprising. In addition, not all whiskies are created equal. I have whiskies that are cask strength (60% ABV), and others that are 40% (most are between 43% and 46%.) Some are non-chill filtered, others are. Most of my whiskies are taken neat. However, I have at least one whisky that I ALWAYS drop one piece of ice into, as I prefer it that way. I do this for many reasons, here are some: (1) the whisky is non-chill filtered, so when ice hits it the whisky puts off the most intriguing particles, which dance in the glass; (2) the whisky is cask strength, so it is better when cut; and (3) the colder ice creates the most amazing "caramel" flavors in the whisky, that water does not. So, putting a cube of ice into my glass when drinking Macallan Cask Strength is the only way to do it for me. I enjoy it most this way. However, most all other whiskies are at their best when taken neat, or with a very small amount of water. I have added too much water to a glass, and when that happens the enjoyment is lost. For this reason, I tend to drink my whiskies neat. I just drink smaller sips, and hold it in my mouth longer.
As for what to pair your whisky with, that is another personal decision. The idea is to enjoy the taste, not to overpower it. I like smoking cigars. I really like smoking cigars and drinking whisky. However, I save my best cigars to enjoy with water, and I save my best whiskies to be enjoyed without a stogie. I like to eat aged gouda, dark chocolate, or a salty snack with my whiskies. The flavors complement each other. But of course, if drinking a very fine whisky, I eat nothing, wanting to experience the whisky more fully.
The truth is, to get a true tasting of a whisky, you should taste it multiple times over different days. This assures you are detecting its true taste, and not something you ate earlier!
I LOVED reading your comments - thank you for sharing! :D Also, I am a fan of The Macallan Cask Strength - next time, I'll drop in an ice cube. "...the most amazing 'caramel' flavors..." you say? Yes, I will try it!
JoJo- I have read others say things like "sweet" or "caramel" when describing a whisky, but never thought they had their head screwed on straight until I tried the Macallan Cask Strength with a cube of ice. Drop in the cube and watch the most amazing sight to behold, as the whisky interacts with the ice. Once the whisky drops a bit in temperature and mellows a bit after absorbing perhaps 1/4 of the ice cube, take in a drink. Leave the whisky in your mouth; let it completely envelope your senses, as you smell, taste, and experience the whisky burn your cheeks. There, in the midst of this strength, this incredible flavor appears: caramel.
I have let others try my Cask Strength, and every time I MAKE them taste it on ice. They all have said my recommendation did not disappoint. Try it and let me know!
Maybe I should try this too with a Nadurra!
JEALOUS! I left my cask strength down in Houston, and I'm up in Dallas for Christmas. Of course, I brought plenty of my poison to keep me! Portwood gets opened in 5-4-3...
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