Scotch
January 14, 2004 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Scotch: It's coming up on my beloved stepfather's 50th birthday, and he's recently developed an interest in Scotch. I'd like to get him a bottle of something good that he might not pick up himself. We sat at a bar over the holidays and I quizzed him on the bottles on display and would estimate he's tried most of the commonly found brands (or at least most of the ones I've heard of). I'd like to spend in the neighborhood of $50, but could be talked into being slightly more extravagant if it seemed really worth it. Any recommendations?
posted by jennyb to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
lagavullin, talisker,glenkinchie.......migs will show up and help too ...i'm in scotland if thats any help.
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:37 AM on January 14, 2004


When God sat down to rest after creating the world, he did so with a glass of Talisker. (If you fancy getting him sone Irish whisky, I recommend Jamesons.)
posted by Pericles at 7:51 AM on January 14, 2004


Balvenie - either the 'normal' one or some special wood-finish. Oban. Or if he's ready for some intense flavors: Laphroaig or Lagavullin (as mentioned above). Does he like any style/brand in particular ?
posted by swordfishtrombones at 7:59 AM on January 14, 2004


Does he like any style/brand in particular ?

Not that I can recall. I don't think he's into it enough to have particular brand/style preferences. This would be a good opportunity to introduce him to some different styles, I imagine.
posted by jennyb at 8:02 AM on January 14, 2004


My personal experience is that there are no BAD single malts, since each of them seems to have their devotees. So it's quite difficult to go wrong if you choose one at random. It may be a bit cheesy, but how about the "classic single malts" collection ? Basically a marketing trick, since they are all owned by the same company. But it is a nice introduction and comes complete with a 'holder'. Might be a tad expensive, though.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 8:13 AM on January 14, 2004


Bowmore. Very smoky, simply the most flat-out flavor of any scotch I've had. Now, some don't actually like the flavor, but, damn, there's a lot of it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:16 AM on January 14, 2004


Wow! I just checked the average price of a Malt and I seem to be lucky living next door to Scotland...
posted by swordfishtrombones at 8:17 AM on January 14, 2004


The Glenmorangie and Balvenie wood finishes are nice.
posted by sad_otter at 8:20 AM on January 14, 2004


Glenrothes is a very nice, less-popular single-malt Scotch (it runs about $60/bottle here in New Jersey). Glenrothes differs in flavor from year to year, but tends to run smoky, and a little sweet (or even slightly fruity).

Also, I second the recommendation of Bowmore, but I'd purchase 12-year or older (they make a brand called "Islay Single Malt Legend" or something like that, with an unspecified age, that I don't like quite as much as the 12-year).
posted by Prospero at 8:25 AM on January 14, 2004


My personal experience is that there are no BAD single malts, since each of them seems to have their devotees. So it's quite difficult to go wrong if you choose one at random.

Actually, I think it is quite easy to go wrong if you pick one at random, especially if you are new to Scotch. There is such a difference in taste, even among the "classic single malts", that you could easily pick a bottle that will go ever as well as a watered-down bottle of Wild Turkey. For example, I would drink Dalwhinnie any day, but I turn my nose at Oban. There is also a fine scotch that some enjoy, but "tastes like band-aids" according to one source (I've had it, and it does, though I cannot recall the name).

Since he doesn't yet have a preference, I suggest (as part of his gift) taking him to a respected public establishment with a broad selection of single-malts, and have a tasting. Then, when he has found something particularly pleasant, acquiring a bottle of the same. Otherwise, all you will get from us is a list of our favorites, which may not necessarily please your stepfather's palate.
posted by Avogadro at 8:29 AM on January 14, 2004


The tasting is a great idea, Avogadro, but unforunately I live about seven hours away from him. I'm driving to my parents' this weekend for his surprise birthday party, then turning around and driving back and probably won't see him again until the summer. That's such a good idea that I'm pretty bummed I can't do it for him on his birthday.

A list of member favorites is okay, though. I have a feeling our local ABC store isn't going to be brimming with options, so a list of recommendations here will at least get me on the path of "something good" and prevent me from totally picking at random.
posted by jennyb at 8:45 AM on January 14, 2004


(I actually intend to print this thread, highlight the brands, and take it into the store with me.)
posted by jennyb at 8:46 AM on January 14, 2004


Have you thought about giving him a reference work on scotch? I don't always agree with this author 100%, but he's sure prompted me to try new things on occasion, when I might otherwise have just reached for another bottle of Laphroaig or Lagavullin.
posted by clever sheep at 8:47 AM on January 14, 2004


you might be as well reading this guide
posted by andrew cooke at 8:48 AM on January 14, 2004


Here's a cool little Find a Spirit page.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:57 AM on January 14, 2004


Second the recommendation for the Michael Jackson guide (the man knows his booze!). As for specific single malts, for $50 you should be able to get a bottle of Lagavulin, to my mind the best whiskey in the world—but (like all Islays) it does have a very pronounced flavor that is too much for some people. If you're worried about that, you can't go wrong with Cragganmore, which is extremely tasty in a smooth, subtle way; I can't imagine anyone not liking it. As for Bowmore, the older versions I've tried have been very good (do not get the Legend), but I feel they're somewhat overpriced. Oh, and Glenlivet, which was the first single malt widely available in the US (back in the '70s me and my boozehound friends thought it was the only one in existence, and getting a shot of it was a highlight of any evening of bar-hopping) and therefore was the victim of a certain amount of disdain when other, pricier malts became available, is actually a damn good whiskey, and if you see it at a good price (under $30?) you need have no shame about giving it as a gift.
posted by languagehat at 9:29 AM on January 14, 2004


I'll second the Cragganmore recommendation from the funny-talkin' gentleman in the hat. However, I had the opportunity to enjoy a Springbank over the holidays. I found the taste to be soemthing quite special, but it's not for everyone.

(I understand it's getting harder to find in the US (or Florida at any rate), so it may be worth looking up.)
posted by ahughey at 9:40 AM on January 14, 2004


I'm partial to Islay malts & would buy a Lagavulin, or similar, for myself, but another fine single malt with a distinctive but smooth & easy-to-like taste is Highland Park. If your stepfather has a sweet tooth, then the The Macallan has a faintly sweet sherryish flavour that many people enjoy.
posted by misteraitch at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2004


I would think that Islay malts (Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Talisker), though excellent IMO, may not be good gift choices as they are strong, flavour-wise, and we don't know if he likes that sort of thing.

There is no scotch-drinker on the planet who would not be happy with the Macallan.
posted by transient at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2004


I love Lagavulin, but it is not to everyone's tastes and is unfortunately impossible to get right now. Oban is similarly hard to find.

In my cabinet right now is a Tobermory, an Aberlour, a Campbeltown private bottling, and a couple others whose names escape me or are out of your price range.

I personally lean toward Islay-made scotches, but if he's not too familiar with scotch, I'd suggest looking for something from the Highlands or Speyside, which will be milder than anything from the islands. Aberlour is from Speyside, and would be a fine introduction to that region.
posted by me3dia at 9:56 AM on January 14, 2004


BruichLaddich.
posted by dobbs at 9:58 AM on January 14, 2004


I'm also an Islay fan, and recently started enjoying Ardbeg in addition to the other fine malts of the region... if he's relatively new to scotch-drinking, though, he might prefer Macallan or other smooth Speyside malts.
posted by judith at 10:03 AM on January 14, 2004


Ardbeg is fantastic, as is Macallan; the latter is probably a safer gift. (I find it interesting that so many people, including me, warn of the perils of giving Islay malts while confessing they themselves love them... but nobody here confesses to having a problem with them. Coincidence, or another proof of the superiority of MeFites?)

Lagavulin... is unfortunately impossible to get right now.

Where do you live? In NYC there's no problem (except the extortionate price -- just a few years ago you could get it for under $40.)
posted by languagehat at 11:12 AM on January 14, 2004


(I find it interesting that so many people, including me, warn of the perils of giving Islay malts while confessing they themselves love them... but nobody here confesses to having a problem with them. Coincidence, or another proof of the superiority of MeFites?)

I think it's that folks generally begin their Scotch-drinking lives by enjoying the milder Speysides before hitting the Islays, so buying a relatively new imbiber a bottle of ~battery acid~ would result in a little-used beverage. And I would never assume that this (or any other thread, for that matter) is proof of superiority, just that the folks who like ths Islays have a longer history with the fine malts.
posted by Avogadro at 11:18 AM on January 14, 2004


See here. It's probably so much more expensive because it's harder to get. Here in Chicago, pretty much everyone's sold out.

Apparently there's a 12-year Lagavulin out to make up for the shortage of 16-year; I'll have to look for it.
posted by me3dia at 11:22 AM on January 14, 2004


I third, er fourth, the suggestion of Macallan as a gift. The 12 is a very nice scotch that is sweeter than some (and a good price $40), but has enough complexity to be interesting. The 18 is smoother than a baby's bottom, but it's about twice the price ($95).
posted by zpousman at 11:23 AM on January 14, 2004


Highland Park. Fantastically heathery, but a bit hard to find. This may well be my favorite Scotch.

Do not waste money on the younger Laphroaig. The 14-year-old is magnificently medicinal; the 10-year-old is a dim shadow and is easily outdone by almost any other Islay malt.
posted by Fley Mingmasc at 12:08 PM on January 14, 2004


I really would avoid the Laphroaigs, Lagavulins, and other Islays for this gift. The peat will kill you if you haven't worked up to it.

For $40-$50, you can get a great Balvenie - I would recommend the 12-year Double Wood, but even the cheaper 10 Year is fantastic. Whenever I want to introduce someone to the whole single-malt thing, I pull out the Balvenie. And it is always a hit.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 12:33 PM on January 14, 2004


I vote for Highland Park as an approachable Scotch of good quality that is in the ball park for price. Of course I'm now salivating and wanting to try each of everything else that has been mentioned (except the Band-Aids).
posted by cairnish at 12:59 PM on January 14, 2004


Count me among the chorus that says Islays are wonderful, but not for new scotch drinkers. I'll also add my voice to those praising the Balvenie -- I've used it to draw friends into the world of the single malt. If you're willing to shell out the cash, zpousman's right on with the Macallan 18.

If you can find it, Blackadder is one of my favorites. It's delicious and very flavorful without the peat of Laphroaig or Lagavulin, so it's a safe gift. There are two downsides: it can be hard to find, and only younger bottles are affordable. A '90 or '91 will likely cost $60, and a bottle from the 60s or 70s will run you anywhere from $150 to $400.
posted by amery at 1:13 PM on January 14, 2004


Bruichladdich: a true weapon of mass drunkenness.
posted by homunculus at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2004


Wow, fantastic responses. I had a feeling there would be some scotch drinkers lurking on ask.mefi. The advice and links ensure I will be well armed with scotch knowledge when I descend on the ABC!

Thank you all very much!
posted by jennyb at 3:58 PM on January 14, 2004


me3dia: Thanks very much for the article; it was informative (if depressing). I've actually drunk whiskey with John Hansell (at the great d.b.a. bar on First Ave.), so I trust his judgment, and will look out for that 12-year Lagavulin (normally I'd be deeply suspicious of a less-aged version).

Avogadro: I was just kidding about the superiority, and I agree with your analysis.
posted by languagehat at 5:33 PM on January 14, 2004


Third (or was it fourth? Or, better yet, fifth?) the recommendation for Lagavulin. Magnificent. It's salty and peat-y and leather-y, but in a good way.

You also can't go wrong with The Macallan. Glenmorangie is also a nice "starter malt."

A good liquor store may have a selection of miniatures. I know you can get Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Glenmorangie in miniature bottles -- why not get a collection of those, and promise a full bottle of whatever he likes best?
posted by Vidiot at 6:29 PM on January 14, 2004


American-style product differentiation has hit the single malt industry recently. You can try to get him a specialty version of one of the well-known single malts. For example, Macallan has a line of whiskys distilled in the style of the 30s, 40s, 50s, and Glenmorangie does a "sherry cask finished" version.
posted by fuzz at 11:21 PM on January 14, 2004


I am going to add to the Lagavulin votes. Also, I want to say that I never was a big scotch drinker and most of the ones I have had since I started drinking them have rated a big shrug on my pleasure scale. Lagavulin made me understand why people like scotch and is my favorite. It is the reason Scotch is my "hard liquor" of choice.

I don't think you have to "work up to it." I didn't and I'm a GIRL. (laugh) If he already knows he likes scotch then I say go all out and get him something that will make an impression and at the least add to his collection of fine and distinct Scotches.

I also think the smaller bottles of various kinds is a great idea.

Damn. Now I am thirsty.
posted by jopreacher at 2:21 AM on January 15, 2004


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