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Scotch, where to start?

As of late, I have begun to explore distilled spirits and have found two or three bourbons that I've really taken a shine to. My preferred serving is "on the rocks". I would like to venture into the world of scotch but don't know where to start. My budget won't allow me to partake of Pappy Vanwinkle's bourbon and the same financial limitations apply to scotch. Where to start?
 
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You can get some pretty good single malts at decent prices. I'll throw out Glenfiddich 12-year as one I like that won't break the bank and is easy to find. I too like a couple ice cubes in mine but real scotch lovers will cringe at that.
 
I haven't had that one in a long time but as I remember it was pretty good. I think just about any 12-year single malt is a good place to start. If you really enjoy the peatiness, you can try some of the longer aged ones but 12-years are kind of a sweet spot for me. Nice flavors but not over the top.
 
I personally don't like very peety scotches like Lagavulin or Laphroaig (or really any Islay variety). I enjoy Macallan and Highland Park. But if you are going to go on the rocks, why not try Johny Walker Black Label - I find it very good for that purpose.
 

12stones

Contributor
Both Glenfiddich 12 and Glenlivet 12 are nice whiskies, and while some would classify them as scotches suited for the beginner, I don’t know that I’m one of them. I’d probably look for even less complex, yet smooth whisky like a Dalwhinnie 15 or Macallan 10 to ease your way into it. Scotch is definitely not bourbon.

Or you might even go blended with Monkey Shoulder which is a very good blended scotch at a great price point.

I’d stay away from the Islay scotches for now. While they’re my favorite, that full peaty flavor can turn some off never to return. Though when you’re ready, treat yourself to something decent like Lagavulin 16 so you get a taste of “good”, and then you can settle into Laphroaig 10 as a daily dram.

And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your whisky the way you like it. I’ve known a few whisky loving Scots that ice their dram, so don’t let any purists tell you differently. Just remember that ice and the cold numb your taste buds thereby muting some of the true flavors of your whisky (which is why many people prefer their whisky on the rocks).
 

Multum in parvo

Contributor
If you like ice in it - and I do cringe a bit ;) - then go all the way and try a Whisky Highball.
Glenfarclas 105 and Japanese Nikka From The Barrel are ideal for it. A Highball also works astoundingly well with Sushi and Sashimi.

My standard suggestions for Single Malts are The Famous Grouse 12y andThe Singelton of Dufftown 12y though. The former is an excellent blend of Single Malts only with a tiny hint of peat while the lauter is a typical Speyside with Sherry tones.
 

Avi

Contributor
One high level idea is to do this by region ( get a rec. for each region ) and at your first pass at a bar w/ friends and/or really good food:


The regions are listed here:


Regions are vaguely similar ( people will object to this ) but the differences in regions are quite noticeable so you’ll get a nice breadth from this approach.
 
As of late, I have begun to explore distilled spirits and have found two or three bourbons that I've really taken a shine to. My preferred serving is "on the rocks". I would like to venture into the world of scotch but don't know where to start. My budget won't allow me to partake of Pappy Vanwinkle's bourbon and the same financial limitations apply to scotch. Where to start?

I would start with "blended" Scotch. First off, it can be more budget friendly. Second, you will be able to explore different distilleries all in one glass.

EXAMPLE: Peat Monster by Compass Box is a blend of heavily peated Malts. By sampling this, you can determine if the smoky Isle of Islay is where your tastes lie (or not), and then branch out into, "What aspect of the blend do I like?" At that point, you can look to an Islay Malt that brings those characteristics to your glass before investing in a Single Malt that may not meet with your liking.

The same would hold true for sherried Scotches.

The ONLY caveat I would make to this notion is that you should try Glendronach. It is a VERY good "value for dollar" single Malt, and a wonderful example of a sherried Scotch.
 

Doc4

Stumpy in cold weather
Moderator Emeritus
I've been gifted a bottle of 12yo Glenlivet, where does that fall on the drinkability scale?
Give it a try! It's a very good "beginner" malt ... "beginner" in that it is a good, reliable, middle-of-the-road single malt that isn't overly "challenging" the way the more unique or advanced whiskies can be.

So give it a whirl and let us know what you think!
 
Speyside is a great place to start so the Glenlivet is a good starter whisky. By all means have it on the rocks but try it by itself as well. It might grow on you. I also recommend a Balvenie (Double Wood). The Arran whiskys are good value and are quite approachable. The best bet is look about for tastings where you can try a variety at a reasonable price without having to buy a whole bottle.
 
If you enjoy bourbon, you will likely find the Sherry or Port finished ones like Macallan, Glenmorangie, or Dalmore pretty accessible. I totally agree on Dalwhinnie, too. It is very light and to me has a honey like pleasant note. In a bourbon comparison I would liken it to Evan Williams SB. Personally I find all of the big names like Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Glenmorangie delightful on the rocks. Up a notch or two in complexity, I like a lot of the Glen Rothes and Aberlour. If you want to give Islay a try, I find Bowmore 10 and Ardbeg 10 to be among the most accessible. Both are relatively affordable. I would not spring for a Lagavulin or any of the pricier Islays unless I liked some of the more affordable ones. As you get into some of the Islays like Lagavulin or Ardbeg Uigedahl, I'd try them with no ice and just the tiniest splash. They are going to provide layer upon layer of flavor. Cheers!
 
Thank you all for your suggestions. Some of your choices were already on my radar after doing some reading once I decided to jump in. It's a relief that my research has been corroborated by you guys as sometimes these "best whisky" comparisons can be quite biased.
 

Chango

Contributor
If you enjoy bourbon, you will likely find the Sherry or Port finished ones like Macallan, Glenmorangie, or Dalmore pretty accessible. I totally agree on Dalwhinnie, too.
From another bourbon drinker, this is very good advice. I don’t care too much for the strong smoke and peat flavors. So I enjoy Scotch like Glenmorangie a lot. This is my favorite at only $39/bottle

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Chivas is the gateway. Try it on the rocks, then just with a hint of water. Now try it straight up.
Chivas has hints of most styles of scotch. Which do you like?
 

Herrenberg

Contributor
Chivas is the gateway. Try it on the rocks, then just with a hint of water. Now try it straight up.
Chivas has hints of most styles of scotch. Which do you like?
Just to make the point that tastes vary, I love Scotch, and strongly dislike Chivas. But I like Laphroaig, so I guess I'm an outlier.

I once attended a blind scotch tasting run by an irascible but lovable Scotsman. There were some greats in there. He was thoroughly disappointed with us when the group blind choice was Johnny Walker Blue. His point was that we had failed at our tasting duty, beguiled by the sweetening effect of sherry casks.
 
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