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Scotch

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Chat' started by mike_m235, Sep 19, 2012.

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  1. mike_m235

    mike_m235 Tourist

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    So here's the thing: I'm a bourbon drinker. But beyond that, I'm a drinker. Occasionally I drink single malt scotch. Macallan 12 is my drink of choice, because I think it's got a great quality to price ratio. They were out today and I picked up a bottle of glen morangie (sp?). It's not bad, but I definitely prefer the Macallan.

    What I don't understand is why. I get a little bit about scotch -- I understand there are regions and groups of distilleries within those regions. For example, when someone says they like Islays, I know that that means. What I don't know is why they like Islays over another region.

    So I pose 2 questions here:

    1. Why do you like the scotch you like?
    2. What do you believe is the best scotch value...meaning quality for the price.
     
  2. JillyFromPhilly

    JillyFromPhilly Tourist

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    If you thought my posts have a tendency to be long-winded, you ain't seen nothing yet, this is a topic I can go on about ad nauseum...But right now I only have access to my iPad, so you'll have to wait another few hours until I get to my laptop :evillaugh
     
  3. mike_m235

    mike_m235 Tourist

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    I'm okay with whatever you want to provide. You seem like you've put in some study. I'm willing put some study in as well if it leads to a better life. For example, I smoked ribs 15 times this summer as I experimented with different rubs and sauces. My heart doctor was not amused...but screw him.
     
  4. shifter

    shifter Degenerate Gambler

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    try the glenmorangie quinta ruban. so smooth and the port cask finishing provides a little bit of sweetness, that's great to balance out the smokiness. and not too pricey.
     
  5. JWBlue

    JWBlue VIP Whale

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    See my username.

    It doesn't get any better.

    There is no smoother scotch.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2012
  6. Reed

    Reed High-Roller

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    Fantastic thread! I don't think I have met a single malt that I don't like. Most of my experiences have been either speysides or islays. Normally Friday nights are pretty much scotch only for me so I usually buy handles of Glenfiddich or Glenlivet 12 year just because otherwise I could drink myself poor.

    At home I keep the above mentioned bottles along with Glenlivet 15, Balvenie 10, 12, & 15, and Macallan 10, 12, & 15. I also keep some Dewar's and Chivas Regal for a blend every once in a while.

    My favorite is probably Macallan 12 year. I love the higher end years I have had in some of the HL rooms, but by then (usually only play there in the evening), I have normally had enough drinks throughout the day that they could be pouring me J & B and I would not know the difference.
     
  7. numeno

    numeno VIP Whale

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    First, the odds of me ever buying an expensive bottle or having that $50 shot will most likely never happen. While I would go up to ~$100 for a bottle of scotch/whiskey/burbon most that I find I enjoy are much cheaper.


    Islay scotches are peated(is that the right word?) more. They tend to be very smokey and the flavor is very distinct. My understanding is that blends use Islay scotches to get much of the peat flavor.


    My 3 favorite reasonably priced are(in no order
    1) Glenfiddich 12 yr
    2) Lagavulin 16yr
    3) Bunnahabhain 12yr

    #2 is the only one over $50/liter.


    I'm mainly looking for good flavor initially and then distinct or unique finishes. I know it isn't a scotch but I had a bottle of Jameson 18yr and to me it was too close to a few dry cognacs I've had. The finish was very mellow, and I'm looking for something that lingers for a while. When I'm drinking whiskey/burbon/scotch I don't want it to be extremely smooth. I want that flavorful finish with some bite.



    Do you happen to have a favorite bourbon? I only recently started trying some and picked up a bottle of Bakers 7yr. I think it is good, but I assume there are some more unique uncommon ones.
     
  8. C0usineddie

    C0usineddie VIP Whale

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    You can make your own with an old range golf ball.

    1- cut the cover off to expose the rubber band ball

    2- put ball in a glass and light it on fire until the rubber melts

    3- drink it.

    This is what scotch taste like to me.
     
  9. JillyFromPhilly

    JillyFromPhilly Tourist

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    Welcome to Professor Jilly's Scotch 101 - Chapter 1: Why Scotch?

    Oh my, where do I begin...I guess I'll break this up into chapters like I do my trip reports, so it doesn't just wind up being one gigantic post. So, here I go:

    My personal love affair with Scotch goes back well over twenty years now, when I was drinking something [probably a rum & coke, maybe a whisky sour or a gin & tonic, I forget] - and someone jokingly called it a girl's drink - so, I said "Okay, I'll try something manly, Hmm, what sounds like a manly drink...bartender, give me a Scotch!"

    A few years later, talking about Scotch, a friend asked me, "which do you prefer, blended or single-malt?" - I had no idea - I'd never really thought about it - just went for whatever was the most expensive I could afford of the brands I knew and could easily find, assuming most expensive always meant best [what can say, I was young and still had a lot to learn about the world].

    So from there, I became determined to learn everything I possibly could about Scotch - even bought a book on it. I went through the book chapter by chapter, and every time I got to a new Scotch, if I could find a bottle, I bought it and tried it, until I'd tried at least one bottle of at least the entry-level "expression" [in Scotch lingo, a different type [i.e. 12-year, 18-year, etc. is generally referred to as an "expression"] of practically every operating distillery in Scotland that puts out a single-malt.

    I haven't gotten to all of them yet, but I'm close - I'm probably at around 90% - some people have wine cellars in their homes, as do I - but mine is filled primarily with bottles of Scotch :evillaugh - I haven't counted exactly in a while - plus because everyone who knows me knows my passion for Scotch, I also get tons of bottles as gifts in addition to the ones I seek out on my own - but it's probably somewhere around 800-1000 bottles at present if I had to take a guess [many are duplicates] - not counting the bottles that are also in the bars in my living room & "man cave".

    So at this point you're probably saying to yourself "Jilly, enough about you, what I came here to read about is Scotch" - so ok, now that I feel I've established my credentials, lets get to it...

    There are many different kinds of whisky in the world - and first off, when you're talking Scotch, it's spelled "Whisky", and not "Whiskey" - let's just make that clear - Yes, there's Bourbon, there's Canadian, there's Irish, etc. - and while I won't go into the flavor profiles and unique characteristics of each one, the primary factors that make Scotch whisky unique are that it is primarily made with malted barley [whereas Bourbon is primarily made with corn, Rye is primarily made from rye, etc.] - this is where the "malt" in "single malt" comes from - but beyond that, what really gives Scotch its most distinctive flavor component is the fact that generally, that barley is kiln dried by fires fueled by the wonder that is Scottish peat - and it is the peat that gives Scotch its smoky, earthy flavor, when compared to other whiskies. There are other factors - at least 2-3 years aged in oak casks, etc. - but it's really all about the peat.

    So, because of this smokiness & earthiness, Scotch is generally considered, perhaps more than any of the other whiskies, the one most likely to be described as an "acquired taste". Bourbon, for example, is generally considered "sweeter" [and, in many cases, fuller-bodied] than Scotch - though really more in a figurative than a literal sense. Likewise, single-malts, and single-malts from different regions, are considered an "acquired taste" again in comparison to blended whiskies, and even each other - but I'm getting ahead of myself, I'll get into that in "Chapter 2: Blended vs. Single-malt".

    Now, where the complexity of Scotch comes in - what makes single malts from one region of Scotland taste different from single malts from another region [Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Islay & Campbelltown are the five regions] - sometimes drastically so - is that, primarily due to the climate, terrain, source of the water used, proximity to the ocean, etc. the smokiness and peatiness will vary, along with other characteristics [colour, nose, body, palate and finish] - much like with wine, where the type of grapes, and even the actual physical land they are grown in, composes a major part of what differentiates one type of wine from another. But now I'm definitely getting ahead of myself...
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2012
  10. JillyFromPhilly

    JillyFromPhilly Tourist

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    Chapter 2: Blended vs. Single-malt [Part I - Blended Scotch]

    Okay, so now that we know the basics of what differentiates Scotch from Bourbon, etc. the next logical question is probably "what's the difference between Blended & single-malt" scotch? Well, there's two primary differences - the goals of the bottler and drinker, and the technical aspects. Let's start first with Blended Scotch - since, if you're new to Scotch, it's advisable that you develop a taste for blended before moving on to the single-malts anyway.

    Blended Scotch is - as the name would imply - made up of a blend of pure malted barley ["malt"] whisky, and "grain" whisky, which can be made with both malted & unmalted barley, and also made with other grains than barley. There's two primary reasons for this - cost and flavor. Grain whisky is cheaper to make and blander in flavor. In addition, the malted barley whisky portion of the blend is virtually always composed of multiple single-malt whiskies. There's a much smaller subcategory, called "blended malt" whisky - JW Green is an example - and blends multiple single-malt whiskies together without using any grain whisky - but that is such a small sub-category that's as much as I'll say about it for now, and maybe I'll touch on it again later.

    Anyway, the goal of blended Scotch is basically to make it smooth and bland - really, to remove the characteristics that make single-malts most "Scotch-y" - so that it will appeal to a mass market, and to people for who Single-malt Scotch is too, um, "challenging" - most all true Scotch aficianados, while able to appreciate a good blend, consider blended Scotch to be inferior to single-malt - even if that blend costs five or more times as much - although this price disparity only happens at the "entry level" of single-malts - i.e. some people might consider JW Blue or Chivas Royal Salute [both blends] "expensive" at $200+ a bottle - and they may very well cost several times as much as an "entry level" 12-year old single malt - but few blends get much more expensive than that, unless they're one of the "novelty" limited-edition blends in fancy bottles [where the packaging - ooh, look, a velvet-lined leather box! A fancy crystal bottle! - often contributes more to the cost than the actual whisky it contains] - whereas rarer and very old single malts can easily cost into the thousands of dollars per bottle - or more.

    edit: after re-reading the above paragraph, I just wanted to clarify - it's not that a single-malt can't or shouldn't be smooth - there are many that are very smooth, smoothness in and of itself is not a negative characteristic - on the contrary, the older and more expensive a single malt gets, an increased degree of smoothness does become an exponentially important factor - it's just that most serious single-malt drinkers aren't really looking for their Scotch to be smooth at the expense of everything else, and there's really only so much smoothness that can be achieved without the scotch losing its overall complexity and regional identity - so in a single-malt, smoothness is something that is important - and the smoother you can make it without losing its identity, the better - but it is not the only goal - whereas pretty much all blends are looking for smoothness first and foremost, above all else - and almost always at the cost of all the other regional characteristics that make a single-malt unique.

    So, when they're making a blend, a brand will first generally come up with a flavor profile [for example, compare JW & Chivas - JW is generally considered smokier and lighter [in "mouth feel", not color], whereas Chivas tends to be sweeter and more full-bodied [usually termed "buttery" in Scotch lingo]. But for both of them, and all the other blended brands, what they want is to provide the same taste bottle after bottle, year after year - consistent, smooth, nothing too complex - when you open that bottle, you won't get too much in the nose, or too much smoke or peat, or too long of a finish, or really too much of any one characteristic in general - and hopefully the person trying it for the first time won't spit it out because they can't handle it. Of course, the compromise for this consistency and approachability comes in the form of an overall lack of complexity and character when compared to single-malt Scotch.

    I think a good metaphor is too look at it as dry-aged versus wet-aged steak [another one of my favorite topics on here :licklips:] - to someone who's become accustomed to the fuller, more concentrated flavors of dry-aged steak, wet-aged steak is downright bland in comparison - and much like single-malt Scotch, dry-aged steak is often said to be an acquired taste - which is why often times, when someone who is unaccustomed to good dry-aged steaks gets one, they will actually think there's something off-tasting about it - while the person who is accustomed to a good dry-aged steak will love the added depth and range of flavors in a dry-aged steak and think that a wet-aged steak is bland in comparison. Of course, this doesn't mean that someone who [like me] prefers dry-aged steak will turn down a chance to eat a good, prime wet-aged steak if there's no other option - a prime steak is still a prime steak - it's just that they prefer dry-aged if they have a choice, because they know what they're missing when they're eating wet-aged meat.

    Or, another way of looking at it is if you're a craft beer drinker - maybe Coors or Heineken are good enough for most people - and sure, you'll probably still drink one if you don't have any other option, maybe you can even like it - but if you're someone who seeks out microbrews, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. [gee, that was a lot simpler - wish I'd thought of that one first before I used the dry-aged vs. wet-aged steak example, LOL]

    So does that mean as a Scotch aficianado that I turn up my nose at all blended whisky? absolutely not. Hell, some really hot summer days, if I know I'm going to be outside, I might actually prefer to just have JW Blue on the rocks - it's practically light & refreshing compared to a single-malt - and if someone's going to gift me with a bottle of Johnnie Walker blue, I'm more than happy to drink it [as long as I'm not paying for it] - it's just that, when I [or any other true Scotch purist] wants a glass of Scotch, most of the time "smooth" and "characterless" is not what I'm looking for - I want a complexity of flavor, a unique experience, perhaps even a challenging experience - one that is meant to be savored in sips - and definitely no water or ice [ok, well maybe ice - if I'm drinking something I'm very familiar with and not doing a "tasting", I don't have the same problem with ice many other Scotch purists do]. One that might even burn the mouth a little, have some harshness to it, or, even if it's smooth, still retains a full nose and range of flavor notes. One that has some character. One that dares to go off too far in one direction or another. One that has a long, lingering finish. One that doesn't always try to please the most people, or the people who've never had a Scotch before.

    Anyway, to achieve this "signature" flavor, what the maker of a blended whisky does is take a selection of different single-malt whiskies, and blend them together to balance out the flavors - a little Islay [but not too much!] for body & saltiness, a little Highland [but not too much!] for some lightness & sweetness, maybe a Speyside [but not too much!] for some grassiness, etc. etc. - then, they "water it down" further by mixing it with the cheaper, nearly flavorless grain whisky, and hopefully produce something that will please most of the people most of the time, and not offend the sensitive palate of someone who hasn't put in the time & learned to savor the rougher around the edges complexity and individuality of a good single-malt.

    Okay, since I rambled on about blended whisky longer than I expected, I'll have to break this chapter up into two parts. Next up: Chapter 2: Blended vs. Single-malt [Part II - Single-malt Scotch]. In that chapter, and subsequent ones, we'll also cover the topics of the five defining features of a Scotch - Colour, nose, body, palate and finish - and also go much more in depth into topics such as the influence of cask/barrel types used during aging on the five defining features, the characteristics that distinguish the different Scotch-producing regions [and why that is so], and finally what makes a Scotch - even a very cheap or expensive one - a good "value" for the money or not. Any questions so far? :evillaugh
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2012
  11. JillyFromPhilly

    JillyFromPhilly Tourist

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    Yes. Islays are considered the smokiest, peatiest & saltiest single-malts - they are also considered to be an acquired taste to even experienced Scotch drinkers.

    These are all single-malts [you probably know this already, but I wasn't sure since you mentioned them in the context of blends at first].

    The last two are both Islays. Lagavulin 16 & Laphroaig 15/18 [both Islays] along with Oban 14 [technically a Highland, but also considered a west Highland] are probably my favorite three favorite widely available "entry level" single malts.

    This guy, he gets it :thumbsup:
     
  12. numeno

    numeno VIP Whale

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    I just wanted to mention that Islays were not an acquired taste for me. The first one I tried it was more like "Where the hell has this been all along".

    I understand why some people wouldn't like them, but for me it was an explosion of flavors that I had never tasted. I can only assume this is the same reaction a foodie has with something from JR or some restaurant I will never go to. :)
     
  13. JillyFromPhilly

    JillyFromPhilly Tourist

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    It was pretty much the same for me - the first single malt I ever bought was an Islay [Laphroaig 10] and I too fell in love with it right away - which is probably why after that I never really went back to blends, and also why I'm still most partial to Islays even to this day.

    I think in general though, whether or not someone finds Islays an acquired taste or not usually hinges on two factors - if they are, or ever were, a smoker [even just a casual cigar smoker] - and if they like seafood in general and especially briny/salty things like anchovies, oysters, smoked salmon, caviar, etc. in particular - and if the answer is yes to one of those two, then in my experience that is one of the best ways to judge how they will react to an Islay the first time they try one, whether they have previous experience drinking Scotch or not.

    Likewise, if someone has had some experience drinking blended Scotch, and found that they prefer JW Black to Chivas, that's another good indicator that you can introduce them to Islays with a greater likelihood of success. Which actually brings me back around to the whole idea of blends vs. single malts for a moment - JW Blue is indeed far, far smoother than JW Black - that's what the JW Blue buyer ideally wants - but to many single-malt purists [myself included], if they have to drink blended, then JW Black is actually preferable, because it has a bit more of the smoke, salt, peat & bite of the Islays in it - whereas in JW Blue, those characteristics have been muted to a much greater degree - some would argue to a fault - in favor of smoothness over true Scotch-iness.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2012
  14. jerseyguy

    jerseyguy VIP Whale

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    Hope youre not giving a test on this at the end.

    Unless its a taste test,then definitely count me in. Funny you mentioned JW Black and Chivas,thats what they offered me at the Nugget VP Bar. Both taste like crap to me compared to Glen,but I guess it's a personal preference.
    Great thread,why cant I have a neighbor like you with a scotch cellar instead of all these wine fanciers?Cant wait to get to Caesars later today,I know they have Glen at the Casino bar on floor two.A Glen and a cigar,after dinner at Angelos I'm a lucky guy.
     
  15. mike_m235

    mike_m235 Tourist

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    Thank you all for all the info. Jilly, I'll read yours when I get a little more time, but thanks in advance for posting...I'll comment later in the day.

    Just want to answer the bourbon question. My favorite by far, and a favorite among most of the bourbon drinkers I know (and that's the drink of choice in my line of work), is Woodford Reserve. At $35 a bottle it's very reasonable. I've done taste tests with it side by side with bullit, knob creek, maker's, and a few others and it's just superior in every way.
     
  16. mike_m235

    mike_m235 Tourist

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    Jilly -- thanks for taking the time to write all that out. I look forward to the next installment when you have time.
     
  17. jrinct1

    jrinct1 VIP Whale

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    Hey Jilly, ya didnt give enough of an explanation and werent clear enough on the subject ;) LOL!!!! (Just kidding). I dont like scotch at all..prefer whisky or bourbon MUCH more. BUT after that SPECTACULAR dissertation on the subject, damn ya peaked my curiousity :nworthy::nworthy:. I might just have to give it another shot.:clap::clap:
     
  18. JillyFromPhilly

    JillyFromPhilly Tourist

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    You're welcome. It's a pleasure for me to share - like I said, one of my all time favorite subjects!

    Actually, after re-reading it, I felt I glossed over the difference between Scotch & other whiskies & what makes Scotch distinctive a little too quickly LMAO.

    Glad you enjoyed reading it & it peaked your interest :nworthy:
     
  19. PopMegaphone

    PopMegaphone VIP Whale

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    Awesome thread! Very informative!
     
  20. Bubbavegas

    Bubbavegas VIP Whale

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    Great posts Jilly!! For many years I pursued the Scotch bug, being an Upland Hunter and Guide trust me it's somewhat of a tradition, but went back to my Bourbons a couple of years back. I have drank most of the ones listed here over the years and while I found many I like they never really hooked me in, but I will say the best I ever had for my taste buds was a Glendronach 25yo a client brought with him on a three day hunt we did in 04, and thats saying something considering I am more a fan of the Highlands than Speysides by a long shot. Now for value, and I know this will be sacrilegious to some, it is damn hard to beat Famous Grouse. I still keep at least 1 bottle each of Oban, Grouse and Glenlivet in the house, none open at the time though.
     
    Cosmo Christmas
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