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I'm a home mixologist, but a relative newcomer to scotch. I'm looking for a very smoky scotch to use in small amounts for certain cocktails. The float on a Penicillin, a rinse of the glass for a smoked Old-Fashioned or Manhattan. But I'd also like this bottle for drinking neat or with a bit of water if I'm in the mood. Single malt or blend is fine, but I'd like to keep it at $60 or less.
I picked up Laphroiag 10-year, as it's one of the most commonly-recommended for this purpose, but after a couple weeks with it I don't think it's the right one for me. My problem with it is not the smoke, but rather the powerful medicinal, iodine, and hospital-like aromas and flavors. These notes come through for me even in a simple rinse and put me off, and I don't feel they blend too nicely with other ingredients in mixed drinks.
So what I'm looking for is something very smoky but not at all medicinal, if that's possible! I want a "bonfire" or woody smokiness, without the iodine. So far my understanding is that mainland peat (like you get in the uncommon peated Speysides) is less heavy on those medicinal notes than the Islays. I've also heard Caol Ila 12 is less medicinal than the Laphroiag 10, but I'm wary as many reviewers still describe a faint iodine taste to it. From all my research to date I think something like the Benromach Peat Smoke is my best bet to go with next, but unfortunately it isn't sold anywhere near me. So I wanted to see what you all thought here about this conundrum and see what other suggestions you might have before buying a new bottle.
Thanks for your time!
P.S. - to give you a sense of some blends I've enjoyed, I feel the light peat smoke of Johnnie Walker Black and Teacher's Highland Cream both form a great base for a Blood & Sand (perhaps my favorite scotch cocktail). Personally I don't get anything band-aid-like or medicinal from either of those. Still, they aren't smoky enough - I want more smoke, and it'd be great if I could have something strong enough on hand to control the amount of smoke on a per-drink basis.
@DMalley I too am always on a search for non-medicinal peat. I love smokey scotch, but I cant stand that burnt bandaid/mermaid bathwater flavor. Here are a few you might try
Highland Park 12
Highland Park Magnus
Johnnie Walker Double Black (Very smokey, no medicinal)
Black Bottle (This one has a little bit of medicinal flavor, but not much)
Shackleton Blended Malt (Mild smoke, but a great story behind this bottle)
I'll come back and post more if I find anything that meets your needs.
“I’m a simple man. All I want is enough sleep for two normal men, enough whiskey for three, and enough women for four.” ~Joel Rosenburg
I'm going to try this weekend a Balvenie Peated Triple Cask 14, don't know if it matches your requirements, but I'll keep you posted.
I think that Bunnahabhain Moine would fit your taste. It is very smokey but not with the medicinal things but with bonfire ashes. I don't like it myself as I get to much ash for my taste.
Thanks for the recs!
I just tonight got some samples of a handful I'd been wanting to try (some of which are available near me in full-size bottles, some which unfortunately aren't). These were: Ledaig 10, Ballantruan 10, Compass Box Great King St. Glasgow, Benriach Curiositas, and Benromach Peat Smoke (2006).
Honestly, I liked 'em all considerably more than the Laphroiag 10 and didn't find any of them as aggressively medicinal/iodine-like. The only one that was perceptibly bandaid-y to me was perhaps the Benromach. Here's my thoughts on each:
- Lediag 10 was probably the most pleasant surprise, with a robust flavor that was still smokey but reminded me of hay, grass, or even something savory like grilled corn or smoked meat rather than the iodine or medicinal notes
- The Ballantruan 10 smelled and tasted almost fascinatingly of stone, like the entrance to a wet earthy cave; more ashy than smokey I might say
- The Glasgow, being a blended scotch, definitely did remind me of JWB, relatively light and sweet with the peat more of an accent than a centerpiece; it would be a good mixer I think
- The Curiositas and Peat Smoke I liked less than I expected to. I actually found them sort of restrained in flavor compared to the Ledaig even though they were certainly still peaty; I was hoping for a more assertively smokey flavor from them. I tried them last though and I think I may have already been getting some palate-fatigue, so I'll return to what's left of my samples later and re-assess, heh
Lol "mermaid bathwater", so you know just what I mean then. I'll keep an eye out for these - HP 12 and Springbank 10 I've heard great things about, and I had given some thought to the JW Double Black too. Black Bottle was one of the first blends I wanted to seek out from what I read about it, but I was put off because apparently the blend changed not too long ago and a lot of folks who used to like it don't anymore. Any thoughts on that?@Vasco
Cool, let me know how that Balvenie 14 works out!
Ah, I've heard of Bunnahabhain the Distillery but not about the Moine. Considering I enjoyed the Ballantruan, which seemed to me somewhat ashy, maybe this is indeed one I'd enjoy.
I forgot about the Ledaig that you tried, I also found it be more bonfire than medicinal.
@DMalley They did change the Black Bottle, but for the better (for you and I). It used to be a combination of whisky from all of the Islay distilleries. It was VERY medicinal (mermaid bathwatery). Now it is much more tame. This is why people arent a fan of the new blend. Those people love that burning bandaid flavor and it just isnt as prominent anymore. Still worth keeping an eye out for it.
Also, i havent tried the Ledaig, but you description has me wanting to now. It reminds me of one of my favorite malts that I did not mention, Old Pulteney 12 Year. Not really smoky, but it has a grass/hay/salt flavor which is unlike anything i've ever had before. You should definitely put that one on your list!
And when you pick up that JW Double Black, be sure to try it on the rocks! This is one of the handful of scotches I prefer with some ice. Definitely my go to hot day scotch!
At last, I have tasted today The Balvenie Peated Triple Cask 14.
Definitely, it's not medicinal - or, at least, the medicinal character doesn't show itself as strong as some Islay's.
It is one of the most vanilla'ed + caramel'd peated drams I ever tasted - but I have to warn, I'm surely not as experienced as most of this forum's frequent users.
I also didn't find so much smoke as I'm used to, in an Islay dram, but maybe I'm getting a bit peatheaded, or maybe that was because I tasted the Balvenie after emptying a Kilchoman Machir Bay.
In resume, it is a very enjoyable, interesting, sweet and aromatic single malt for a light smoke enthusiast. I definitely recommend it, in the proper occasion.
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