Single Malt Scotches

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been sampling single malt scotches.

It all started when we went to visit Brett and Marnie in Paris, and were trying to think of a hostess gift for them.  Marnie likes Cognac, so we thought we’d bring them a bottle – there’s a whole story around that which I won’t get into, involving the TSA and difficulties in transporting bottles of flammable liquid on an airplane – and in doing that, I spent a lot of time online researching Cognac, and found it fascinating.

When we got back, I got to thinking about Scotch.  I have a couple of friends who are “into” single malts, and one who told me that the single malts are an entirely different beast from lesser Scotches (and whiskeys), so I thought I’d try it.  I started out with a mid-range bottle of Scotch (ca. $70), which was good enough that I’m now on my fifth bottle (all of varying degrees of emptiness), and I thought it was a good time to lay down some thoughts on the varying brands.

I didn’t keep track of the first bottle, but it was an 18yo bottle of something, and I liked it enough to consume the entire thing in short order.  Can’t say much about it aside from that.  Here are the others currently in my cabinet.

Laphroaig 18yo
Very, very smokey.  In fact, that’s about all I taste, but then, my palette is not yet very sophisticated.  Nonetheless, I really like this Scotch, and will keep it stocked.  I don’t yet know whether it would pair well with a cigar; it might be too much smoke, but then again, maybe it’d draw out the other flavors.  Definitely needs water; it’s 96 proof.

Balvenie, 15yo (cask 198, bottle 82)
Currently, my favorite Scotch.  Very smooth, very fruity.  Almost – very nearly, sweet.  Does not need water.

Tomatin 12yo
This tastes like what I expect Scotch to taste like; that is to say, it isn’t very distinctive to me.  Unfortunately, in the Army I once made myself extremely ill on a bunch of different alcohols, one of which was a whiskey that tasted very much like this Scotch, so I don’t much like the taste.  I may try an older Tomatin before I give up on the brand, but I suspect that I won’t be stocking this one.  Mind you: I’m sure it’s a fine Scotch, and this is purely a matter of personal taste.  It is well served (for me) by adding water, despite being (only?) 86 proof.

Glenfiddich 18yo
To my immature palette, this tastes identical to the Tomatin.  I have a map of Scotland, and where in it each distillery finds itself, and I strongly suspect that these two distilleries are in close proximity.  In any case, it’d take a more discerning palette than mine to tell the difference between these two, and (as I’ve said), I don’t care for this particular taste.

My next bottle will be a 21yo bottle of Balvenie, and I may purchase a step up on the Laphroaig as well. I also need to start learning to pronounce these names.

Copyright © Sean Elliott Russell

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