Who Doesn’t Drink Scotch?

Laphraoig 17Phillip here. My thoughts on single-malt scotch, which I don’t really drink anymore

J&B is to scotch what a Big Mac is to fine dining. I suspect most people who drink J&B do it to get drunk, and quickly so as to put themselves out of their misery from drinking the stuff in the first place. But if that’s what tastes good to you, and you enjoy it, then fill your boots. It all comes down to what you like, and what tastes good to you might go down like Buckley’s Mixture to someone else. The easiest thing to do is try a bit of everything, scotches from all the regions, and then focus in more of whichever region has the most interesting flavour or sensation. Explore.

Like most people who know nothing about single-malt scotch, I tried Glenlivet. I didn’t know how to drink it, so I drank it as a quick shot, straight down, which was warm but never burned. Later on I tried the next most-available (i.e., cheap) single-malt, Glenfiddich, which, although not awful, isn’t as good as Glenlivet, and is the last single-malt I would choose to drink.

Lagavulin was the first real single-malt I had, and as soon as I opened the bottle, and the aroma of peat filled the room, I knew I was dealing with something completely different. I’ve never gotten over that experience. I instantly fell in love with the smoky, earthy sensation and flavour of the Islay scotches (which are strong with peat), and they’ve been my favorites ever since.

One of the cheapest Islay scotches, and actually one of the best, is Laphroaig. Some people describe its flavour as medicinal, but that’s an adjective that can apply to all single-malts. No doubt about it: single-malts are an acquired taste. But once you’ve acquired it, it can be a hell of an experience.

The best single-malt I’ve had (excluding that time with Lagavulin) was a 15-year-old cask-strength Laphroaig which smelled like rubbing alcohol when I opened it, and then exploded with a peaty aroma and flavour as soon as I added some water. Unbelievable.

If had the money for it, I’d have a bottle of that cask-strength Laphroaig in the house, a regular bottle of Lagavulin, an 18-year-old Macallan, and some scotch from the Lowlands. That’d do me for a long time.

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John's, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at mudsongs.org.

10 Replies to “Who Doesn’t Drink Scotch?”

  1. > Lagavulin was the first real single-malt I had, and as soon as I opened the bottle, and the aroma of peat filled the room,

    You don’t mention that I was there and that we were stunned when we opened the bottle, grinning like kids on Christmas monring who got the Six Million Dollar Man action figure. A memorable moment.

  2. I am a fan of all the “glens”.
    As far as the peaty ones, we are trying to work on a bottle Ardbeg, which is really peaty.
    It’s a tough one.

  3. “Lismor”? Never heard of it. Let’s google it

    Okay, from that 60 second research it appears that “Lismore” isn’t a distillery but a name used by a bottler. It’s a vatted scotch; that is, a blend of single-malts from different distilleries. Nothing wrong with that, but it ain’t technically a single-malt. I’d like to try it, though.

    Single-malts must come from one distillery and must contain a blend of malt whiskies that are at least as old as the stated year; a 10 year old single-malt Laphroaig may contain a blend of 12, 15, etc. year old Laphroaigs.

    Today’s single-malt lesson comes with this caveat: I ain’t close to being an expert. If you want to know more about scotches, drink some, read about them, and drink some more. Here is some reading material I have:

    There are a ton of scotch related books available. Whisky Magazine is another good read, writing about every type of whisky and all aspects of it.

  4. On this page (scroll about half way down), I read the following about Lismore single-malt:

    Location: Glasgow
    Bottlings: Lismore is bottled by Wm Lundie & Company, and is available in a wide variety of bottlings, mainly blends.

    A visitor to maltwhiskey.com asked about Lismore so I located a bottle labeled “Pure Single Highland Malt” which is available in the US (no age statement). My first surprise was the unbelievably low price ($13).

    My second surprise was that it was actually pleasant! It has a malt and toffee nose, and a sweet, lightly floral palate. Its main shortcoming is a somewhat abrupt and rather tart finish. Unfortunately there is no indication of the source of this malt.

    Don’t throw away your prized Balvenies and Glenlivets, but don’t dismiss this too quickly either. We can’t all afford to drink the finest whiskies every day.

    There are also 21 and 25-year-old bottlings of Lismore single malt that would be worth trying.

  5. Cudos on that Lismore Single Malt! Tis a grand design for the frugal Scotsman/drinker and currently comes with a free GlenCairn Crystal whisky nosing and tasting glass……..as does Glenfiddich Gran Reserva 21 year old but at an affordable $19 rather than $60!

  6. Lagavulin is my favorite. It wasn’t always this way. I first thought it tasted to medicinal. Like all great things, the ones that are hardest to like in the beginning are the ones you like the most. I just love the sea-saltiness and peat in Lagavulin. Laphroaig is another one that takes time to learn to appreciate.

    Single Malt Scotch Ratings

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