islay peat & jwise,
thanks again for great and thoughtful input. jwise, i actually have had Aberlour A'Bunadh on my radar--and "to do" shortlist--for some time now: you may have noticed a reference to glenfarclas 105, which was an alternative idea for something cask strength (which i like) and sherried (which i don't so much, unless in moderation--not a "sherry bomb")! i'll rethink that, tho'...
islay peat, i like your thinking, too. the yoichi 10 actually sounds tempting, but it's well within reach, as are all of the standard bottlings of yoichi, miyagikyou, yamazaki, and hakushu. i didn't fancy the yamazaki 12 (making me the odd man out, it appears), but i AM interested in the hakushu, which will be rolling out a new expression (or just the latest bottling? not sure of the japanese i read) later this month, if i recall correctly. i'm keen to find those expressions which are less expensive but worthwhile--the "bang for your buck" types--so a younger expression is likely more up my alley (e.g., hakushu NAS or 10 over the 12, if i try: likewise the yoichi NAS or 10 over the older ones). also, i have had thoughts of trying an islay blend like black bottle or the more expensive peat monster--or finlaggan cask strength? thoughts on that? or am i better served trying some of the well-known single malts that are often used as benchmarks in tastings?
i'm looking forward to this month's purchase, though. the research as i make up my mind is a lot of the fun, of course--and helpful responses like yours make it even more enjoyable. thanks!!!