Originally Posted by Unregistered
I did some preliminary research and found that there are two types of scotch: single malt and blended....single malt generally considered to be of a higher caliber.
I also found that before venturing into single malt, it is good to drink blended for a while to get used to it.
Is this advisable? And after I've been having blended for a while, what would be a good single malt to try? (definitely not looking to spend four figures or anything close.....)
Welcome to the forum. There are a number of quite knowing folks participating so you'll have a chance to learn some from here.
In brief to a couple of your questions, there are better blends than others and the same is true for single malts. Some distillers pay more attention to detail than others; many malt distilleries are merely pumping out a quantity of spirit for the blenders. Hence, their malt expressions don't drink very well - as might also be the case for the blend they're going into?
Since you're just getting into this, buy and read the book 'Appreciating Whisky' by Phillip Hills. IMHO, it is probably the best book I've read about wine & spirits in 30 years. I am very critical of the industry and Hills hits the nail on the head about many things in the industry - namely how poor product is marketed as good. You'll also learn from him that whisky doesn't stay fresh once opened and that you have a couple months (at most) to drink a bottle at its best. This is something a lot of people don't get - because they never learn how to critique product, and their opinions are based on nothing more than whether they like something. I know some people in the industry who are malt heads and have over 100 open bottles in their stash. I hate drinking with them because 9 out of 10 bottles are at some level of dehydrogenation, yet they don't know it. I've had a lot of bad drams in bars and restaurants because of this but whence pointing it out the bartender or establishment owner they don't believe it. It's frustrating and drives me nuts, anyway, you will learn a lot from this book.
Where there are some very acceptable blends, the core of most of them is grain whisky. A good base grain whisky can coax things out of malts so that the blend is something the malt cannot be, assuming the grain whisky(s) and malt(s) are of good quality. Grain whiskys are much lighter than most malt whiskys so they usually drink lighter than the malts. So, I suppose, they can be easier for new drinkers. However, many of them are not much less expensive than some of the bases malts.
For example, in the U.S., it's not hard to find a 750ml Macallan 12 for around $45. Johnnie Walker Black in the same size will run mid to upper $30s most places. You can find some very decent malts (Tamdhu & Speyburn 10) for about $20-22 bucks in the U.S. right now.
The main thing you'll find with the different malts is how different they can be. Thus, if you're inclined to Scotch, I'd suggest you don't need to spend too much time with the blends. Buy and drink the malts, as most bars and restaurants have few of them but do have the main blends. Thus, sample the blends when you're out on the town.
Right now, I'm working through Glengyle's Kilkerran 'Work in Progress, Highland Park 12, Tamdhu 10, Blair Athol 15 yr Signatory bottling and Benriach 10 Curiositas Peat. I'm finishing a Dallas Dhu 10 (I found in a store for $45), as I write. The DD bottlings now available are generally over 20 years old and over $100. This is relevant because the distillery was closed in 1984 and is now a museum. Too bad because it's a really solid dram. My point is, with a little info, you can treasure hunt and drink really good and interesting stuff for the same you'll spend on mass produced blends. Obviously, it appears I'm leading you to the malts - but they've become my passion.
Good drinking and welcome to the wonderful world of whisky!