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Scotch Basics?

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
I am looking to start drinking some scotch. I am mostly a gin and tonic and beer drinker now but want to try scotch. What are some good brands to try and how do you guys drink it? What are the qualities of a good scotch?
post #2 of 43
I started by jumping straight into Johnny Walker Black Label. I liked it on my first sip and it has really grown on me. I understand, though, that the high Islay content that gives it its smokey and peaty character may be off-putting to most beginners. To me, though, that was the attraction. Those characteristics are what set it apart from Bourbon and other whiskies.
post #3 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrpologuy
I am looking to start drinking some scotch. I am mostly a gin and tonic and beer drinker now but want to try scotch. What are some good brands to try and how do you guys drink it? What are the qualities of a good scotch?

I'd suggest drinking it on the rocks or with a bit of water to start with. You can always start with some relatively low priced Scotches such as the previously mentioned Walker Black, or a single malt Glenlivet 12 year, Macallan 12 year, etc which should be fairly mellow before getting into more peaty/smoky scotches.
post #4 of 43
I'll probably post something informative after I sleep a little, but the 'Anyone for A Scotch' thread is great -- it's right on the main SL,F&D page, with a post like 13 hrs ago. ~ Huntsman
post #5 of 43
I would recommend starting with a gentle, mild Scotch such as Glenlivet 12, or for an Islay, Bunnahabhain. Dalwhinnie would also be a good choice for a beginner, as its flavor is very accessible.

I started with the Glenlivet and it made me fall in love with Scotch.
post #6 of 43
I started when a friend bought me a bottle of Walker Black for a birthday, and even then (in college) I wasn't philistine enough to actually mix it with anything. I started off drinking it on the rocks, a glass before bed at night now and then. By the time I'd finished off about half the bottle, maybe a week and a half later, I'd determined that a) I liked it much better neat, and b) I absolutely loved this stuff. The first alcoholic drink--besides wine--where I really understood why you'd drink it even if you had no desire to get intoxicated.

I +1 the aforementioned suggestions: JW Black or the Glenlivet 12-year. The latter is still what I buy as my generic "go to" drink, since I can't afford to drink my Lagavulin/etc as often as I'd like.
post #7 of 43
I've weened friends who don't normally drink booze straight by fixing them a rusty nail (scotch+drambuie). Once they started to like that, I pulled away the drambuie and by that time they grew to like scotch by itself.
post #8 of 43
Dalwhinnie 15 is a good beginner's scotch, it's sweater than others and more approachable IMO. Glenlivet 12 and Highland Park 12 are classic entries as well, as is the Macallen 12.

If you get a classic, it makes little sense to engage in bar tastings -- the economics are foolish, just by a bottle (if it's not to your liking, you'll always have some on hand for guests). If you have friend(s) into scotch, then start by doing a tasting over at his/their house, and for good measure bring along something you enjoy to share or as a thank you gift for allowing you to explore.

I would also recommend premium bourbon -- such as Van Winkle Family Reserve 15, or for perhaps the best buy in bourbon, Elmer T. Lee (preferably from a hand-picked barrel program, which you'll find indicated by a second label afixed to the bottle). Bourbons typically run sweeter with more of a caramel backbone to them than scotch, and are a fine entry into the world of whiskey just as many of the scotches listed above.

Whatever you do, I recommend against starting with a 'low end' bottle. Spend the extra $10+ and get something that will expose you to what this marvelous drink can be rather than what some pass it off as.... Also, while there are some delightful blends out there (Compass Box Hedonism, for example), buying a single malt is a move that will help educate you on the traits of scotches from different regions.
post #9 of 43
Mac 12. The End.
post #10 of 43
Forget scotch, drink bourbon.

Actually, I posted this on the Anyone for Scotch thread, but the below website is a good introduction to the world of scotch.

http://www.scotchwhisky.com/
post #11 of 43
You can get JW Black in small sizes (down to one shot in an airline-size for 1.99) to keep the pricing down for your taste test, but I agree that you need a bit more to get into it, perhaps the 275ml for 18.75.

You might just start with J&B on the rocks.
post #12 of 43
I'm the farthest thing from a Scotch expert, but single malts (which several people here are recommending) are generally thought to be a little more 'inaccessible' for neophytes - an acquired taste, if you will. If you find the single malts unpalettable it might be best to start w/ a blended whisky. Dewars, Johnny Walker Red (or Black), Chivas, J&B, etc. For price performance, I know folks who have nothing but good things to say about Cutty Sark & Crown Royale, but I've never tasted them...
post #13 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by whodini
I've weened friends who don't normally drink booze straight by fixing them a rusty nail (scotch+drambuie). Once they started to like that, I pulled away the drambuie and by that time they grew to like scotch by itself.
A Rusty Nail is one of my favorite cocktails to order, mostly just because it sounds cool.
post #14 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by romafan
I'm the farthest thing from a Scotch expert, but single malts (which several people here are recommending) are generally thought to be a little more 'inaccessible' for neophytes - an acquired taste, if you will. If you find the single malts unpalettable it might be best to start w/ a blended whisky. Dewars, Johnny Walker Red (or Black), Chivas, J&B, etc. For price performance, I know folks who have nothing but good things to say about Cutty Sark & Crown Royale, but I've never tasted them...

Enhhhh....no, I don't think so. While it is true that the blends (that is, blends of grain and malt whiskys) were developed to dilute strong malts for consumption in the lower part of the UK, the majority of blends are not as accessible as many malts. For instance, JW Black (as Kent mentioned) has a high proportion of peaty Islay and stronger Speysides, and is much heavier in character than, say, Dalwhinnie -- a Highland single malt cited above. Basically, blends have a range as do malts.

Chivas and Cuttys (my well scotch) are lighter, the Walkers not so much. I can't stand Dewars for whatever reason.

Qualities of good scotch, are naturally, complex nose, which carries to the mouth, flavour components of smoked (debated and style dependent), caramelly notes, esters (ripe fruits and such), vanillin, sweet solventy stuff, winey qualities (depending on the finish), the finish of the scotch itself, the weight of the mouthfeel, and on and on.

Since you're a G&T guy, try a blended scotch and soda. I take it neat (rarely), with a dash of water (typically no more than 10% by vo.l), with a singel ice cube, and blends on the rocks or with water. Rusty Nails are my after-dinner drink.

BTW, if you try the malts above and don't like them, well, they are a great survey of the cream, so...

Regards,
Huntsman
post #15 of 43
The majority of blends are not accessible as many malts? Interesting - I'd always been under the impression that blended whiskys were created as a smoother or, for lack of a better word, more generic alternative to the distinctive malts. As I said, I'm no Scotch expert - my main point was to suggest that the OP try a blend if he found the single malts not to his liking...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Huntsman
Enhhhh....no, I don't think so. While it is true that the blends (that is, blends of grain and malt whiskys) were developed to dilute strong malts for consumption in the lower part of the UK, the majority of blends are not as accessible as many malts. For instance, JW Black (as Kent mentioned) has a high proportion of peaty Islay and stronger Speysides, and is much heavier in character than, say, Dalwhinnie -- a Highland single malt cited above. Basically, blends have a range as do malts.

Chivas and Cuttys (my well scotch) are lighter, the Walkers not so much. I can't stand Dewars for whatever reason.

Qualities of good scotch, are naturally, complex nose, which carries to the mouth, flavour components of smoked (debated and style dependent), caramelly notes, esters (ripe fruits and such), vanillin, sweet solventy stuff, winey qualities (depending on the finish), the finish of the scotch itself, the weight of the mouthfeel, and on and on.

Since you're a G&T guy, try a blended scotch and soda. I take it neat (rarely), with a dash of water (typically no more than 10% by vo.l), with a singel ice cube, and blends on the rocks or with water. Rusty Nails are my after-dinner drink.

BTW, if you try the malts above and don't like them, well, they are a great survey of the cream, so...

Regards,
Huntsman
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