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Subject: Scotch Wisdom rss

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Lewis Goldberg
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So the other day, on a lark, I bought an airline-size bottle of Dewar's 12. Now, for my whole life, I've kind of lumped all the "amber liquors" into one category, called 'disgusting'. So that would be whisky/whiskey, scotch, bourbon, rum, tequila, etc. (I know there's clear rum and tequila - don't get sidetracked here)

So anyway, I bought this for my wife to try. She sipped it and said "mmm". Then she gave me a sip, and I thought, hey, this is different, and good. I've never had anything 12 years, or 21, or 18, so I didn't know there was a difference.

I'm not imagining it, am I? Why is it different? It tasted "warm and cozy" I guess is how I'd describe it. As opposed to bitter and antiseptic, like the cheaper stuff I've tried on occasion over the years.

Anyway, I was wondering if there were any "Scotch aficionados" here that can share their wisdom on the topic. What to do, and not. What to buy, and not, etc.
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There's often a big difference between 12 year, 15 year, and 18 year which are the more common ages.
Sometimes it is deliberate-- they store the 12 year in sherry casks, and the 18 in oak casks, say.
Other times they have what they call their "reserve" and, like wine, these are handled/ stored a bit differently than the main offering.

I can say with moderate certainty that Irish Whiskey is triple distilled and is usually "smoother" and more approachable than a Scottish Whisky of the same length of aging, because Scottish single malts are "only" double distilled.

It all comes down to personal preference, naturally, and if you like smokey/ peaty or not, but aging does make a big difference.
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kSwingrÜber
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Now try some expensive SINGLE MALT, you might just discover that the Dewar's, like most blended crap, is pretty bad by comparison...
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Chris Long
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If you found something you like, stick with it. Whiskey varies so much between American/Irish/Scotch, and then between distilleries, and then even between years within the same distillery, often due to some of the concerns Mabby mentioned.

Personally, I really love Peaty scotches, so I tend to like Islay single malts, but even within that category there's a ton of variation. My absolute favorite was an 18 year by Laphroaig but they stopped making it years ago, much to my dismay.

The best way to figure out what you like is to try a bunch of stuff and compare. If you can find yourself a helpful bartender that will go a long way. But that can also get expensive, so again I'll say: If you found something you like, stick with it and be happy.
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Christopher Dearlove
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radynski wrote:
If you found something you like, stick with it. Whiskey varies so much between American/Irish/Scotch, and then between distilleries, and then even between years within the same distillery, often due to some of the concerns Mabby mentioned.

Personally, I really love Peaty scotches, so I tend to like Islay single malts, but even within that category there's a ton of variation. My absolute favorite was an 18 year by Laphroaig but they stopped making it years ago, much to my dismay.


They probably actually stopped 18 years before that.

Quote:
The best way to figure out what you like is to try a bunch of stuff and compare. If you can find yourself a helpful bartender that will go a long way. But that can also get expensive, so again I'll say: If you found something you like, stick with it and be happy.
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Lewis Goldberg
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Dearlove wrote:
radynski wrote:
If you found something you like, stick with it. Whiskey varies so much between American/Irish/Scotch, and then between distilleries, and then even between years within the same distillery, often due to some of the concerns Mabby mentioned.

Personally, I really love Peaty scotches, so I tend to like Islay single malts, but even within that category there's a ton of variation. My absolute favorite was an 18 year by Laphroaig but they stopped making it years ago, much to my dismay.


They probably actually stopped 18 years before that.


Exactly what I thought! It's not like they would just dump it all in the river

Dearlove wrote:
The best way to figure out what you like is to try a bunch of stuff and compare. If you can find yourself a helpful bartender that will go a long way. But that can also get expensive, so again I'll say: If you found something you like, stick with it and be happy.


I don't do bars, but I'll just use the Hivemind here as my bartender. meeple
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Andy Andersen
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Amber liquors = gulp

And no amount of chit chat will make me change my mind.

One caveat, there are an awful lot of private distillers in my area. Who knows???
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maf man
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lgoldberg wrote:
I don't do bars

any specific reason? If its the general bars suck, then I highly suggest searching for distilleries. You go, you sample, you lean, you leave with a bottle of what you now know as one of your favorite.
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Erik D
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In my experience, the worst single malt scotch is still better than the best blend, so if you liked that Dewer's, you only have up to go, my friend.

Try Macallan 12. It's just about as good a starter scotch as you can get. It has a rich flavor without being too peaty. One of the most reliable scotches in my arsenal.
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TonyKR
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Here's a recent thread from o'er yonder in the Punching Cardboard Guild:

Whisky/Whiskey recommendations thread...
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In general, whiskies get mellower with age. When I started investigating single-malt Scotch whisky twenty+ years ago, I was trying sips of everything. As time went on, I noticed that more years = better flavor. I made the first rule for myself: "Must be double-digit age", so ten years old or more. More time passed, as did more samples, and after a few tweaks to my rule, I am now at the point where "I only drink whiskies that are at or above the age of consent", so 16+.

I also paid attention to where the whisky was distilled. I find I prefer highland or lowland malts -- the islands are too peaty and rough for me. I like my whisky to flow down my throat like molten butter as I sip it.

About the only single-malt you'll find in your average bar is Glenlivet 12, which is on the low end, and not something I'll willing drink, especially after having tasted *much* better. You may think it's the best stuff ever made; if so, drink up!

My current favorites:
Highland Park 18 (the 12 is not bad, either)
Macallan 16
Any of the Glenmorangie 16s (sherry finish, port finish, etc. -- the last few years of aging are completed in used sherry/port/whatever barrels)

But, as multiple people have commented, keep tasting and find the ones you like, and drink that. There's a documentary by John Cleese about drinking wine, and he says to pay no attention to the price or rarity or anything like that; just "Do you like it?" If you like cheap stuff, drink that and make no apologies. I would say the same thing goes for whisky -- find what you like and buy/drink that and never feel ashamed for the brand or age or price or anything.
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Erik D
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I also like ryes. Great for when you want something rich like a scotch, only cheaper
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Lewis Goldberg
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mafman6 wrote:
lgoldberg wrote:
I don't do bars

any specific reason? If its the general bars suck, then I highly suggest searching for distilleries. You go, you sample, you lean, you leave with a bottle of what you now know as one of your favorite.


Expensive, and full of "other people". Much better times sitting in my livingroom with my wife. That's just how I roll

I think if my wife and I traveled where there was a distillery, we would visit. Thanks for that suggestion!
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Lewis Goldberg
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claymore_57 wrote:
There's a documentary by John Cleese about drinking wine, and he says to pay no attention to the price or rarity or anything like that; just "Do you like it?" If you like cheap stuff, drink that and make no apologies. I would say the same thing goes for whisky -- find what you like and buy/drink that and never feel ashamed for the brand or age or price or anything.


Yes, we have already adopted that policy with wine. Thanks for the suggestions, too!
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Eric Dodd
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I've been posting about my Whisk(e)y tasting on the Geek here:
Whiskygeek.

I'd echo most of the advice you've received with a few other new points. The warm, smooth hug mostly comes from the Sherry wood casks the whisky was matured in, rather than the Vanilla notes you get with Bourbon wood. Single Malts and long ages are not necessarily better than blends, but generally are good indicators of care. Very old Scotches can be disappointing, sold more on rarity than quality.

My favourite warm marmalade, chocolate orange, Christmas cake-like Scotches are from Glenfarclas and Glendronach and you should be able to get them for the same price as say, Johnnie Walker Blue.

New distilleries can produce excellent drams from even 3 years (the legal minimum for Scotch) as long as they have good wood and stills. Arran and Kilchoman are two recent distilleries who are producing great whiskies without great age.

For an interesting surprise look for the Indian Amrut whisky
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Andy Leighton
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claymore_57 wrote:
In general, whiskies get mellower with age. When I started investigating single-malt Scotch whisky twenty+ years ago, I was trying sips of everything. As time went on, I noticed that more years = better flavor. I made the first rule for myself: "Must be double-digit age", so ten years old or more. More time passed, as did more samples, and after a few tweaks to my rule, I am now at the point where "I only drink whiskies that are at or above the age of consent", so 16+.


Mostly true but that isn't always the case. There are some very acceptable 12yo single malts which I prefer to the 15yo expression.

Quote:
I also paid attention to where the whisky was distilled. I find I prefer highland or lowland malts -- the islands are too peaty and rough for me. I like my whisky to flow down my throat like molten butter as I sip it.

You should also include Speyside malts (Glenlivet is a Speyside) in your selection then. A Tomintoul 16 sounds right up your street. Tomintoul have recently reintroduced a 21 year old too. I haven't tasted it yet, a bit too expensive for me - twice the price of the 16, but some tasting notes seem to approve of it.
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Adrian Hague
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The Japanese have been upping their game recently with regard to Scotch.
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Andrew Simpson
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claymore_57 wrote:

My current favorites:
Highland Park 18 (the 12 is not bad, either)
Macallan 16
Any of the Glenmorangie 16s (sherry finish, port finish, etc. -- the last few years of aging are completed in used sherry/port/whatever barrels)


Highland Park is one of my favourites.

As an aside, my favourite tipple at the moment is:

Atlantico Gran Reserva Dark Rum

so smooth and warming, just to sip in my big arm chair whilst watching a film.

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John Hathorn
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AdrianPHague wrote:
The Japanese have been upping their game recently with regard to Scotch.
The Tomatin (a Scottish distillery owned by a Japanese company) 12 I had a few years ago was not good. The Suntori Hakushu 12 I bought just last year is very good, though for the price I think I'd rather have a Kilchoman Sherry Cask or a Laphroaig.
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Andy Leighton
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JohnnyOffice wrote:
AdrianPHague wrote:
The Japanese have been upping their game recently with regard to Scotch.
The Tomatin (a Scottish distillery owned by a Japanese company) 12 I had a few years ago was not good.

Strange it is fairly well regarded. Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2017 scores it 91.5/100; it has won a number of medals. If it was bad, bad, I wouldn't expect either to be honest. But to be honest the 14 sounds a more enticing flavour profile for me.

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Lewis Goldberg
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You guys are awesome, thanks!
 
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kswingruber wrote:



Now try some expensive SINGLE MALT, you might just discover that the Dewar's, like most blended crap, is pretty bad by comparison...


Nothing wrong with Dewar's. It's a good blend.

Welcome to the journey that is Scotch! There's a lot of amazing booze out there, and a lot of crap. Go to a whiskey bar somewhere and try stuff. Usually, the bartender will be able to set you up with a nice range of styles.
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Diane Close
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If you want some free, good advice, and some free scotch to boot, visit one of the American Craft Council Shows that circle the US once a quarter, and stop by the Balvenie booth for an hour-long (sometimes a bit longer) instructional tasting of four different years of Scotch (typically a 12, a 15-18, a 20-25, and a 30+). You'll learn a ton about how Scotch is made, what it should taste like, how to naturally enhance the taste to bring out hidden flavors, and all for free. I highly recommend it!

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