Which Scotch says "happy 30th" the best?
September 24, 2010 7:55 AM   Subscribe

My friend is turning 30, and I want to get him a really special bottle of single-malt Scotch. I would appreciate your help with a recommendation. I have a few ideas inside.

At the moment, I'm considering three options: the Highland Park 18, the Auchentoshan 18, and this Macallan 18 (not to be confused with this Macallan 18 - don't ask me what the difference is apart from $100).

I would appreciate any advice on which of these bottles might be the best. Any other recommendations for bottles that are available at the LCBO would be welcome.
posted by Dasein to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
If your friend would receive a bottle of The Macallan 18 with anything less than rapturous ecstasy, then they have been replaced by a robot and you have bigger problems.

In other words: The Macallan 18.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:58 AM on September 24, 2010

Quarter cask laphroaig.
posted by TheBones at 8:01 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's really going to come down to individual taste. The price of a bottle of Scotch is as much a reflection on market demand and rarity as it is its quality. The more expensive Macallan is likely a 'Distiller's Edition' which might have a double oak maturation. Instead of spending its whole 18 years in one cask is might spend 12 years in 1, and then 6 years in another which might give it a slightly different taste. Some distilleries to this in small batches and charge a not unreasonable premium.

FWIW The most trendy whisky at the moment is Lagavulin. It is incredible.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 8:04 AM on September 24, 2010

Quarter cask laphroaig if anyone wishes to give this to me I would be pleased, but I would never give this as a gift to someone unless I knew they like Islay's

BTW - I'd get the Macallan w/o having any insight into the persons tastes. If it were for my own consumption I'd probably get the Highland Park - but all 3 of those choices are good.
posted by JPD at 8:04 AM on September 24, 2010

Actually I take back what I said about the Macallan - that's aged in Sherry Casks - I'd probably do the Highland Park if only because it is more straight forward.
posted by JPD at 8:07 AM on September 24, 2010

True jpd- laphroaig, and most of the islay scotches, are seriously "scotchy."

It isn't the most approachable scotch out there, but DAMN IT'S GOOD!
posted by TheBones at 8:10 AM on September 24, 2010

Response by poster: The most trendy whisky at the moment is Lagavulin. It is incredible.

I know. It's probably my favourite, but it is likely going to be included in a scotch tasting at the party, so I want something different.
posted by Dasein at 8:14 AM on September 24, 2010

Macallan 18 is probably the single finest single malt I've singly had in my singular existence. And its the Sherry Oak one you refer to that I've had.

I would not recommend an Islay malt (Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg) unless you know before purchase that your friend likes that end of the scotch spectrum.

Also, if you want something out of the ordinary, consider committing blasphemy and buying a japanese single malt. It's damn good. Unfortunately LCBO only has the 12 year, which I've not had.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:15 AM on September 24, 2010

When I first came to Scotland, I asked a selection of people what their favourite whisky was, most said The Balvenie. I cannot disagree, it is a lot cheaper over here than on your website
posted by epo at 8:15 AM on September 24, 2010

Oh god the Japanese single malts are great. I'd almost suggest looking into those, just because they're a bit out of the ordinary as well as oh-so-smooth.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:16 AM on September 24, 2010

Compass Box, if you can find it. It's pretty unusual, and the bottle I got (Peat Monster) was delicious and unique. It says, "Hey, you may be 30, but you are still COOL AS SHIT, DUDE."
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:19 AM on September 24, 2010

If your friend doesn't appreciate the Macallan 18, please send it to me.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:19 AM on September 24, 2010

Response by poster: I'm a freaking idiot. The first bottle of Macallan 18 I linked to was $100 cheaper because it's a half-bottle. That's out of my price range. Pretend I didn't mention it.
posted by Dasein at 8:23 AM on September 24, 2010

Casting another vote for Macallan 18. Thirty is a good age to start having an expensive bottle of scotch stashed away for special occasions.
posted by felix betachat at 8:23 AM on September 24, 2010

Those who rave about The Macallen 18 have not yet tasted Springbank 21 (or the 25yr if you have a CEO's salary). Ok that's personal preference, but you'll think you've died and gone to whisky heaven. Downside is your wallet may die with you, if you can even find it in the states. You can find the 18yr for relatively cheap though.
posted by elendil71 at 8:35 AM on September 24, 2010

I went on two golf trips to Scotland and for me any Scotch with the word "Glen" in it seemed exceptional! One of my favorites was Glenmorangie. A lot depends on your friend's personal tastes...because Scotch is an acquired taste and brands vary so much. Well, but the Scotch from Scotland is all first rate! Buy something that costs 30-50 dollars for something special. Here is a good list. I only had one Scotch in Scotland that was "too much" the name sounded like Vavoline--and it tasted like "jet-fuel" ...we drank it anyway. haha.
posted by naplesyellow at 8:36 AM on September 24, 2010

This link has a really useful map to flavors. In honesty, the single most important bit of info you can get is what flavor type they prefer.

My brother, for example, adores Laphroaig. I don't.

For something a little more unusual, I'm going to recommend Springbank Distillery's Longrow 14 yo. It tastes lovely and isn't nearly as common as many other single malts out there. It says it can't be shipped to the US but I would be surprised if there wasn't a US stockist.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:36 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'd try to find something rare, it doesn't have to be expensive. I once found a hand-signed bottle of (IIRC) 20 yo Glen Mhor (a distillery that has long been closed) online for about €80 and damn was it good. There are online stores out there that have this kind of stuff.

As for the Islay malts that have been mentioned, be sure that he is into the peaty stuff before you buy, many people don't like it at all.
posted by cronholio at 8:39 AM on September 24, 2010

Edradour Sauternes http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/P-8495.aspx may be very difficult to find in the US but is said to be exceptional, maybe keep it for yourself and just give him a taste?
posted by epo at 8:42 AM on September 24, 2010

I am rather partial to Caol Ila I would head away from the really peaty ones like ardbeg and the laphroaigs and lagavulen's unless you know they like scotch. As a bonus the Caol Ila is usually had for around $50 per bottle or so.
posted by koolkat at 8:43 AM on September 24, 2010

My personal favorite Scotch is Balvenie "Doublewood" 12 year old. It blows my mind every sip with how good it is. I haven't yet tried other Balvenie options, cuz every time I think of getting one I end up sticking with the Doublewood.

I also like Glenmorangie "Lasanta" (aged in sherry casks) and "Quinta Ruban" (aged in port wine casks).
posted by dnash at 8:48 AM on September 24, 2010

Don't overthink it.

First, figure out whether Islay is the way to go or not (Islay, in general, is the stuff with the smoky/peaty flavour you get in Lagavulin, Laphroig, etc).

Then, go out and get something (anything, really) that is aged 14 or more years. That makes it special.

Personally, I'm not so into the whole peaty-Islay thing. So for non-Islay I like MacAllan, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Oban and Talisker. But so long as you go over 14+ years, it will seem like a special Scotch.
posted by molecicco at 8:49 AM on September 24, 2010

I vote Highland Park 18.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:49 AM on September 24, 2010

Oh oh! I can't speak for the 18year, but I've had a 12 year Auchentoshan and it was definitely lacklustre.
posted by molecicco at 8:51 AM on September 24, 2010

I bought the Highland Park 18 for my husband for Xmas a couple years ago based on some awesome reviews we'd read online (I think it was top pick on a bunch of sites, and we hadn't heard of it before so we were intrigued). The 18 was actually rated higher than the 21 IIRC.

It was excellent, and it's quite approachable for a wide range of tastes. So I'd go with that.
posted by flex at 8:57 AM on September 24, 2010

>> FWIW The most trendy whisky at the moment is Lagavulin. It is incredible.

TheOtherGuy is right, it comes down to individual tastes. I happen to find Lagavulin to be incredible as well... Incredibly unpleasant :-)

Do you know other Scotchs your friend enjoys? If you can identify a style or region, you might be able to find something great. Lagavulin is an Islay where Macallan is a Speyside. Huge difference in flavor, character, and enjoyment that depends on the person. I prefer samples from the Highlands more than the Islays. If he likes Lagavulin, he may enjoy being punched in the throat by an 18 year Laphroaig. If Macallan is more his speed, he'd probably enjoy the Glenmorangie 18, my personal favorite.

If you really want to try something interesting, take a Glenkinchie for a walk.
posted by boba at 9:11 AM on September 24, 2010

Highland Park is great. Talisker is also divine.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:14 AM on September 24, 2010

Auchentoshan (the 12 year, at least) is a superb beginner's scotch - very sweet and mild. It's one of the most sippable whiskies I've had, and I've heard they've improved quite a bit since I had it. But I wouldn't get it if he's a Scotch lover - It won't blow you away.

Going to jump on the Lagavulin bandwagon. I've heard good things about the Highland Park 18, though.
posted by Vhanudux at 9:31 AM on September 24, 2010

Is money an issue?

If not, I'd think Laphroaig 30 would be appropriate.
posted by chicago2penn at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2010

Macallan's over-marketed. It is rather bland. You want the Balvenie 15yo Single Barrel. If they don't like smoke, Glengoyne is the awesome.
posted by scruss at 9:40 AM on September 24, 2010

After looking at the actual selection at the lcbo site, I came to the same conclusion as scruss, the Balvenie 15yr single barrel. The Macallans's cask strength is nice, but seems to be over-priced at the lcbo, the Laphroaig quarter cask is a relative bargain, but is a riskier choice, they'd love it or hate it.
posted by ecurtz at 10:51 AM on September 24, 2010

Response by poster: Sadly, no store in Ontario has the Balvenie in stock at the moment. I'm acutallly leaning towards the Auchentoshan because of what cronholio said - I'd try to find something rare. Only 4800 bottles were ever produced, and there are only 2 left in Ontario.
posted by Dasein at 11:07 AM on September 24, 2010

Clynelish has some lighter, fruit notes and a complex flavor that I find really enjoyable.

The flavors aren't as strong as something like Balvenie DoubleWood or Lagavulin, (which I also enjoy) but I find the Clynelish enjoyable for its more subtle approach.
posted by Fleebnork at 11:18 AM on September 24, 2010

As a Green Cask Laphroig afficionado, I recently fell in love (temporarily, my lovely Laphroig, even your 10 will do;p) with Dalwhinnie
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:53 AM on September 24, 2010

I should have added that the Dalwhinnie is smoother and warmer than the Laphroig, for those who've pointed out its not for beginners...
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:54 AM on September 24, 2010

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist is the finest Islay whisky I've tasted. The Uigeadaill is also outstanding, but a little more, uh, brutish.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:16 PM on September 24, 2010

You know, as you may be gathering from the replies so far, "a really special bottle of single malt scotch" means very different things to different people. The variation in the taste and character of scotch - and of good scotch - is huge.

Do be sure of the answer to the "Islay Question" though: I know scotch lovers who hate the Islays and I also know scotch lovers who think they are the pinnacle of scotchy wonder (I am in this latter group). I would strongly advise against going the Islay route unless you know for sure your friend digs the peat, as it were.

You can't really go wrong with Macallan or Highland Park as good single malt choices for people who you know like scotch but you're not sure where they stand on the flavour/character spectrum. I had a Highland Park 18 just the other night and it was beautiful: smooth, slightly oily, rich and full... quite gorgeous.

Interestingly, I was distinctly unimpressed by Balvenie Doublewood. To my palate it was a pretty ordinary malt. This is the problem, you see. Different strokes.

Macallan or Highland Park and you can't go wrong. Unfortunately I can't comment on the Auchentoshan as their stuff is still on my untried list.
posted by Decani at 5:40 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it helps, I'm buying my husband a bottle of the Balvenie for his 32nd birthday, on suggestion from our bartender friend who both pours and drinks a lot of scotch :)

He's also really enjoyed the bottle of Macallan 12 that we last bought.
posted by echo0720 at 8:18 AM on September 26, 2010

On preview, I see that you can't the Balvenie where you are, sorry my suggestion was not useful
posted by echo0720 at 8:19 AM on September 26, 2010

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