Looking for a Recommendation..
I am very glad to be on this forum as a newly-obsessed scotch fanatic . I have become very interested and have tried quite a few malts and blends in the past month.
I am looking for a good sort of middle of the road single malt to get in my bar (aka the cabinet above my fridge) and hopefully into my favorites. Basically I am looking for something that runs along the light, sweet, fresh, sherry, fruity speyside kind of range that has just a HINT of smokey/peaty flavor. I would prefer an older expression (18-21+ years) as they tend to seem a bit more complex and rich in flavor and texture, however I would also appreciate younger (at least 10-12 years) recommendations that are more affordable. I don't want to spend over $200, and cheaper is always better as long as it's good.
I realize this is an odd request for a single malt, as malts tend to have regional traits, but I am hoping the trend of regions blending will play to my favor here. I have had Laphroaig and it was just too much for me, I am trying to get used to it but its not a favorite, although it has a wonderful nose. The smoky flavor I am looking for would be similar to that found in Johnnie Walker Blue Label, for those who have tried it. But I can't bring myself to spend that much on a blend without an age, even if I enjoy it. The closest thing I've found so far has been Clynelish, but not quite enough smoky-ness for me. I haven't found anything that gets just the right smoky amount as I have found in "nicer" overpriced blends.
For reference, here is what I have tried so far:
-JW Black Label
-JW Green Label
-Glenfiddich 12 (great for the price)
-Glenlivet 12 (too much spirit heat for me)
-JW Blue Label
-Balvenie 15 Year Single Cask @ Cask Strength (odd nose)
-Glenmorangie 12 yr Lasanta
-Glenmorangie Extremely Rare 18 Year
-Laphroaig 10 Year
-Clynelish 14 Year
-Chivas Regal 12 Year
Thanks to those who made it through all that and replied. I appreciate all answers.
I think you would probably like the Highland Park 18. it is a good mix of honey sweet and lovely smoke, without a big peaty bite. It's not sherried whisky though, it gets it's honey sweetness from bourbon barrels.
You could also blend your own. It looks like you have everything you need to get going. The peat and smoke from Laphroaig will spice up any of those other whiskies. Keep in mind that a few drops might be all you need in an oz of the primary whisky. I blend my own all the time. Custom for your palate.
You know, I haven't even thought of that until you suggested. No joke.
Do you have any proportional suggestions to get me started?
Also, I have recently come to realize that part of what I enjoyed so much about the JW Blue blend was the thick and lingering texture, or as many call it an oily texture/consistency.
Perhaps that is just as important as the slight smokiness. Does anyone know of any malts that have this quality?
IF you can find it you'll love it . The OCTOMORE 10 year old. Oily sweet and massive smoke .
Going to Scottish options, have you tried Bowmore and Caol Ila? Another Irish whiskey I really liked was Cask Strength Connemara.
I thought of Highland Park 18, but Dalmore 15 could also be a good one.
The Dalmore King Alexander, the Tomatin Decades and the Bunnahabhain 18y may fit to your expectations. Also an older Bladnoch would be a good choice.
If more character is allowed, it could also be a Longrow....
Since you mention a number of the Walker blends, I'd guide you to try a number of the single malts in the Diageo stable and/or are the malt hearts to their blends. Smoky with a little oiliness is Talisker, lighter-sweetish fruity Speysider is Cardhu. Also look for Clynelish (JW18), Oban, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, Glendullan, Knockando, Glenkinchie, Dalwhinnie, Lagavulin and Lochnagar.
I like Royal Lochnagar but they're quite hard to find in the U.S. Clynelish bottles vary greatly, the best bottling I've had is an 11 Year, Gordon & Macphail bottling. Glendullan, bottled under "The Singleton of Glendullan," is a simple malty-fruity Speyside. Cragganmore is richer in body has interesting undertones of candied ginger, to me. Dalwhinnie is lighter and drinks somewhat like a heavier lowland whisky (if this makes any sense) - delicate flavors, as you expect with Glenkinchie.
If you live near a good whisky bar, something from at least 10 of these should be on their list.
Might want to try the Springbank Longrow CV. Has smoke but a nice tough of fruit in it.
I have added:
-Lagavulin DE 16
-Balvenie 21 Portwood
-Highland Park 12, 15, 18, 25
-Glenfiddich 15 Solera Reserve
-Macallan 10 Fine Oak (awful)
-Macallan 12 standard sherry (amazing)
-Aberlour A'Bunadh #41 (a lot of sulphur..)
-Glenfarclas 21 (disappointing)
-A few other blends I didn't like, such as J&B.
-Knob Creek and Makers Mark bourbon.
The most disappointing of them all was dalmore 12 (their efforts went more into packaging if you ask me), macallan 10 fine oak, Bunnahabhain 12 (absolutely no smoke) and the BenRiach. The others had some quality that made it at least semi worth the expenditure, minus the bourbons. Im just not a bourbon or rye man.
Hope to try these next:
-Highland Park 30
-Balvenie tun 1401 if I ever seem to find it here (can't order)
-Ardbeg Uigaidal and Coryvreckan and Galileo.
-Caol Ila and Bowmore
-Dalwhinnie 15 and Oban 14
-Too many more
Add Peat Monster to the list. Its really not that peaty, but its well blended and very nice all around.
You HAVE to try the corryvreckan. I've never had anything like that. A roller coaster in a bottle! My bottle of Uigeadail tastes like thinner and weaker corryvreckan with a bitter note. Considering all the hype, I'm a bit disappointed in Oogy. Corry is the only one I would describe as chewy. Almost like a creamy coffee. I get a taste of chocolate, but without the sweetness. The burn is translated as a pepper burn like from capsaicin instead of alcohol. Then its a resin taste. About like if the barrels were coated in smoke resin. And the smoke is from something that isn't wood and doesn't taste like it would have been peat either. Lots of interesting things I can't put words to.
What are your favorites? What will you buy again? What will you not buy again?
Well, the first times I had laphroaig then ardbeg I thought to myself "well, that was a waste of money." because I couldn't stand them. And it was mostly just the chemical, meaty taste to them. I loved their noses though.
But now I've started opening up to them some. I'm not necessarily in love with Islay but I find myself wanting them more and more often now that I experience more and more bland malts. What eased me into it was highland park, which is still my absolute favorite. However I find that everything above the 12 year has less and less smoke substance, but instead more sherry.
So I'm at the point where I like both sweet sherry bombs and savory Islay monsters (though less often). I was interested in oogy as I've heard it is like a kind of sweeter less powerful ardbeg.
More and more I am picking up this nasty sulphur hint in sherry bombs so I may end up obsessed with peat some day.
Right now I don't see buying anything again. I already have so many open bottles of liquor at my place that I'm starting to feel like Jim Lahey from Trailer Park Boys. And my interest is to experience as many as possible. Once the local selection runs out of options I'll start thinking about revisits.
Is that Bruichladdich "Rocks" any good? Is there any difference in the malt between the older green can and the newer black can? I've seen both and can't decide.
Several years ago, not knowing anything about scotch, I searched around online reading opinions and ended up scratching 3 names on a piece of paper: Laphroaig, Glenlivet, Aberlour. I tried to find Laph at a few liquor stores, but they didn't carry it. It was $100 to order, so I just forgot about scotch.
Then one day I was out and about... went into a shop and asked the guy what a good scotch is. He recommended Macallan. Alrighty then... one is as good as another, but not knowing if I should spend $50 on a big bottle of something I didn't know anything about, I got the wee $5 bottle. Drank it all that night. It was good, but I was thinking scotch is supposed to be something vastly different from regular ole whiskey from TN or KY... and it wasn't. I couldn't see spending $50 for a 1/5 of Macallan when I could get a whole 1.75L jug of Evan Williams for $25 (that's how I was at the time).
So I was done with scotch again, but I still wanted to know why everyone was on about Laphroaig. Every now n then I'd stumble on that piece of paper and wonder when I was ever going to try that. Finally I found a place online that sold the 10 for $30 and the 1/4 cask for $35, so I bought one of each and thought I had a really good deal... even if I didn't like it I was well under the $100 the liquor shop wanted. When the fedex guy delivered it, I ripped open the box, popped the cork and took a sip. My 1st impression was, "that tastes like cough syrup!". My friend sent a text, "So how is it?". I said "well.... you've never had anything like THIS before".
He came by that night and we had a few... drams I guess is the "in" thing to say, though I've never used the dram word before. His impression was "its smokey". I said "smokey!?!". All I'm tasting is camphor, eucalyptus, or something of that sort. He insisted it tasted smokey.
So I set about searching for this smoke taste, and to this day I still wouldn't describe it as smokey. The more I drank of it, the more sweetness I found. And I loved how the taste evolved into many things I couldn't put words to. I loved the aftertaste... and how it lasted a long time and made other things taste better. Most whiskey tends to have an alcohol taste, which I don't like, and which Laph doesn't have.
Before long I was carrying it around in flasks camping and vacations. Everyone who tried it, seemed to love it. To me, this is what scotch was supposed to be... something different from TN and KY. Something different enough that it justifies paying a premium.
If it hadn't been for the Laph.... if I had tried the Macallan, Glenlivet, and Aberlour first, I wouldn't be here now. I would have just decided scotch is just whiskey and went back to something cheaper. Because of the Laph, now I wanted to try more.
Glenlivet was next. Like Macallan, I thought its just a smoother TN type whiskey. But as the bottle moved on, I picked up some flavors I really liked. Sweet ones. I can see why my uncle used to drink it. I wouldn't pay the $50 the liquor shop wanted though... not when I could have Laph for $30.
Aberlour was last on the list, but this time I ordered a whole big selection. Aberlour, Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, Compass Box, Ardbeg, Taliskers, Caol Ila, Highland Park, Lagavulin, and who knows what all. It was 2 big boxes and 1 little one. That's when I knew I was commited and I finally got to see the nuances in each.
Now there are bottles I don't think I'd want to live without. It would be like deciding to live without chicken and just eat beef, pork, and fish. Each has their own flavor and I go to a different bottle on each whim. Some things, like lamb and deer meat, I don't care for. Same with scotch.
I know I can't try every bottle on earth and I really just wanted to know a bit about scotch... and I know enough to laugh at the mere selection of Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, JW, and Chivas Regal at the high-priced restaurant serving Dom Perignon. No Lagavulin???
I also suspect there isn't going to be that much more variation from the flavors I've had. I'm just going to be paying more and more for less and less "newness" and "difference" it seems. Its just going to be slightly more refinement (less alcohol taste)... hit or miss on good and bad batches.... and with scotch being in demand now, they're using crappy barrels to churn out more product. This makes me want to try more Compass Box. John Glaser is on the uptrend and is building a name for his company. I believe he used to work for JW. The man knows how to mix a good whisky! I don't think he will let a bad batch out. I think a lot of distilleries may be riding on their name and rep and not making as good of whisky as they could.
I've never had Bruichladdich, but I do want to try some. I figure it will fall somewhere near Laph and Ardbeg, but I'm eyeing the Octomore. Not sure if I want to drop $200 on something I'm guessing won't blow my socks off anymore than Corry does, but I'll probably cave in sometime. I mean... 170 ppm phenol... my god! Laph is what... 20?
In the mean time if I want something sweet and fruity, I sip on some Glenfiddich for the pears, Glenmorangie for citrusy florals, Aberlour for the apple cinnamon, Highland Park for the butterscotch. I hit the Balvenie for the plain ole whiskey type taste. Compass Box or Caol Ila for something complex I have to think about. Laph for the peat, Ardbeg for the chewy, resiny flavor. Taliskers tastes like nutrasweet to me. Lagavulin is good, but I'm content with Laph at half the price. I don't need an expensive addiction. The only one expensive on the list is corry and its different enough from anything else that the price is justified.
I have the oogy, corry and the 10. I wouldn't describe the oogy as less powerful than the 10 (it has higher 54.2% abv compared to 46% and higher ppm phenol I bet) and I certainly wouldn't describe it as sweet.
The corry though... if it wasn't 57.1%, I would have already sucked the bottle dry, broken it apart and licked each piece of glass clean. :D
Sipping the oogy now just to be sure... peppers, peppers, peppers, just a wee hint of a spirit taste, bitter like orange peels. Maybe even a slight orange flavor. Bits of what I taste in the corry... chocolate, coffee, resin. Not as chewy and creamy feeling as the corry. I might be able to see a christmas fruitcake in there somehow, but nothing I would call sweet. After a number of sips, it seems to sweeten up some, but I wouldn't call it sweet overall. And its really prone to a bitter taste that lingers like chocolate, coffee, and orange peels would have. Really, I think its a watered down corry, and the 10 is a watered down oogy. The prices reflect that too... $40, $60, $80 roughly. 46%, 54.2%, 57.1%. Good, better, best. 10, oogy, corry.
Your whisky story is a bit similar to mine in that I've never been a fan of American whiskey, or any spirits for that matter. Bourbon has this indelicate sweetness that reminds me of molasses and sorghum, and it is surrounded by a massive alcohol taste. To be fair, I've given it a chance - I've had Makers Mark, Jack Daniels, Evan Williams, Jim Bean and Knob Creek. And now that I'm more interested in whiskies I don't dislike them as much as I may have at one time. But lets just say that if I go to a bar with a limited selection I'd rather have Johnnie Walker black label (which I hate) than any kind of bourbon. I'm not a huge fan of Canadian Whiskey or Irish Whiskey, either. For some reason, I've found something in scotch (and some Japanese whiskies) that distinguishes the beverage from the world of alcoholic spirits.
We aren't from the exact same region, but I would assume that Georgia and Oklahoma are similar in that fine spirits isn't exactly a booming market. In my region beer is king.
For that reason, nice whiskies are somewhat hard to come by, it requires a bit of hunting and I think that's one of the supplemental reasons I got so hooked on scotch. It's more than just the taste for me, it's finding good deals and rare products, as well as tasting as many different things as possible.
I will say that Islays are growing on me more and more. For example last night I had a half a drink of macallan 12, a half drink of Cragganmore, a half drink of glenfiddich 15 - all ok but not exciting. Then I had a half a drink of Ardbeg 10, Lucy I'm home. It was like oh this is perfect, but only right at first and then last. That medicinal meat taste in between the nose, initial palate and finish is just in appealing to me. I'm guessing that's the peat. It's not as awful to me as it once was, but I don't necessarily like it. I love the nose, the initial palate and the finish but just not that quickly overpowering peat part. Maybe I should fall back onto some laphroaig for a while, as it's slightly less peated.
And I completely agree about the crappy barrels. It seems most of the sherried whiskies I have had have this nasty sulphur hint in them that I didn't start picking up until recently. Maybe a lot of people miss it and that's how they get away with it. But it's very unfortunate, seeing as I don't have the money or access to older bottles or proprietary bottlings.
I am very much aware and very much frustrated with the fact that I have become interested in scotch whisky right as it is starting to be ruined by mass production and the dedication to consistency. But if it is mostly connoisseurs that buy these older, rarer high dollar bottles, then why is it that the companies are ruining their product if their main customers are the small population that would probably be able to sense that change? I can understand macallan, glenlivet, glenfiddich, etc as they are mass produced and mass consumed. But I can't imagine there are a great deal of inexperienced, unknowledgeable non-scotch drinkers that would be buying 25+ year scotches, right?
But what do I know, the companies never asked me.
Ardbeg 10 has been on my favorites list from the first sniff.
Most of my favorite single malts, particularly the Japanese ones, are 10 year bottlings, but the Yamazaki 12 is my favorite of all their single malts. I also like their blended Hibiki 12 over the more prestigious 17.
If you ever get to Japan, make a trip to Sendai and try the distillery-only bottling of Miyagikyou 10.
Your dislike for the Macallan Fine Oak mirrors mine as well and I'm more curious than ever to try a non-Fine Oak.
J&B and Knob Creek in particular, but also to a lesser degree, Makers Mark, left me wondering what it is about them that attributes to their popularity.
Have not yet had the chance to try the Corryvreckan, but Uigeadail is another of my absolute favorites and definitely belongs on the shelf next to the 10.
A word of caution on both Galileo and Blasda - just because one likes Ardbeg 10 or Uigeadail, does not necessarily mean they'll also like these two - I didn't, and although it may be overly judgmental of me to say, felt they should not have even made them.
Galileo struck me as an incredible mistake, and Blasda was simply a very non-descript experience.
If I get another chance to try them both, I definitely will, but I think that buying a full bottle is a risk I'll not be taking.
I tend to like smokey things... smoked meat, cheese, liquid smoke. I like smoking tobacco. I like camp fires. I like anything cooked over fire. So it was only natural that I would like alcohol aged in charred barrels. I had all the big name US whiskies at first, but really I rarely drank them because they weren't that good and I don't care for alcohol that much. There was no escaping the spirit taste and it was easy for me to be offended by too much sugar (jim beam, southern comfort, etc).
This is hillbilly country, but I'm also not too far from Atlanta and Chattanooga, so its a clash of cultures. Most people drink budlite beer or jagermeister, but the liquor stores have a decent scotch selection. They even carry Laph now.
My friend, who I mentioned before, drinks canadian whiskey almost exclusively. He's an old beer drinker who stopped drinking beer for health reasons and drinks canandian because its the cheapest thing he can choke down. But he drinks for the alcohol effect and not so much the taste. I can't torture myself like that. That canadian is absolutely horrible. He agrees its not good, but he likes the spirit taste... and $17 for 1.75L, the price is hard to beat.
Out of all the whisky I have, the only one he would consider paying money for would be the Laph. I'm sure if Aberlour came in a 1.75L jug for $17, he would buy it, but at $40 a 1/5 he sees that as grinding up fillet mignon to make burgers. $40 a bottle is expensive in the minds of most people. They're not used to savoring whisky drop by drop... they guzzle a bottle shot by shot.
Big names scare me. I've learned that too many companies ride on their name. Whether it be whisky or lawn mowers. Luckily this creates a void in the market for new-comers and while everyone is busy buying a flashy name, I can be sipping a bottle of something plain.
Another reason to like Laph. Plain bottle. Label is pasted on crooked. Website is fairly plain. If you watch the videos, you'll see the stuff they have is old and simple. They're not worried about how the place looks, they just want to make a good product.
If you were here, I'd give you a glass of Caol Ila and Peat Monster. I can't taste peat in either one. I'd love to hear what you think. From what you've been saying about not liking the peat so much, but liking everything else about Islay, I'm betting you will like Caol Ila and Peat Monster (has Caol Ila in it). Caol Ila is very easy to drink. Nothing really special, but nothing offensive either. Most of what Caol Ila produces, goes into blends.... like Peat Monster. It says on the Monster bottle that its a thinking man's whisky. I think he nailed that one perfectly.
The sherried whiskies... I have trouble getting around the alcohol taste. I think the oil and lack of cold-filtered in the Islays does a great job of masking the flavor of alcohol. The sherries are stripped clean and really have to be a great drink to be able to mask the alcohol taste. I suppose that's where the good barrels come in... of which there aren't so many anymore. With demand like it is, the whiskey from the good barrels will be at a huge premium. I'm not sure what you're interpreting as sulfur. Maybe I'm not sure what sulfur tastes like. Could it be the spirit taste?
Oh, I've been meaning to ask... what did you think of the Springbank?
Islay Peat, what does Uigeadail taste like to you?
Can you say more about the Blasda and Galileo? I've read others saying they weren't impressed either.
I wish I could give you specific notes on how Uggy and corry taste but I am note free. I'm still to learn about that. Both are close to perfection.
I think you can find utube video on that by people much better educated than myself. ralfy.com is one that works for me.
Lately I have been doing a tour as I call it. Starting with the light and working my way up the ladder. Sometimes going from balvenie doublewood to McCallan to Scapa to Abalour then toss in a Lagavulin 16 last.
Talk about putting a freshly extinguished camp fire in your mouth.
I love it.
Like Oscar, I have not, and probably never will be, a note-taker, leaving some of my impressions fairly murky.
The Galileo on the other hand was fully offensive to my nose and palate and left one of the worst emotional impacts of any drink I've had so far. Again, it may deserve a second chance, as there are some who like it, but I'm not necessarily looking forward to it.
Uigeadail is something much more complex than Ardbeg 10, and which I prefer is quite changeable. Tonight, the 10 ruled completely, but there are nights when the gentler flavor and greater complexity are exactly right.
The best I could say, and it may be of no help whatsoever, is that if you like Ardbeg 10 and Lagavulin 16, you will also like Uigeadail.
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