A new whisk(e)y drinker needs advice

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A new whisk(e)y drinker needs advice

Postby coltrane » Thu May 01, 2003 10:34 pm


Relatively recently I reached the American age of majority so I can buy liquor legally in the States. I know that many people are very particular, but I've found that I really enjoy all sorts of whisk(e)ys, bourbon, scotch, irish, and canadian included. I'm eager to learn more but I'm on a bit of a budget (college student :P ).

My question is this. What do you all enjoy the most when it comes to semi-budget whiskeys, especially scotch? I just bought a bottle of Macallen 12 year old scotch and I enjoyed it very much. I had also considered buying the Glenfiddich and Glenlevit, which were similarly priced. Do you have any suggestions about this category? I'd love to hear them. I also should tell you that I really enjoy regular old J&B rare, and i'll admit it even if that says i have poor taste. Still, I'll be awaiting your comments. Thanks in advance.


P.S. If you're curious about my bourbon preference, I have yet to find a better tasting bourbon than Gentleman Jack Daniels. :P At least i'm honest right?

I might as well also mention that I love jazz (i'm sure you guessed) and fine beer, especially the ESB and Amber Ale that is brewed by the Anderson Valley Brewing Co. It's truly top of the line. I may not know about whisk(e)y, but i know my beer! I encourage each one of you to try some AVBC beer ASAP! tell them coltrane sent you. they'll look at you funny.

[This message has been edited by coltrane (edited 01 May 2003).]

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Postby Aidan » Fri May 02, 2003 7:47 am

Welcome Coletrane, from a fellow jazz and whiskey fan.

My main thing is Irish whiskey, although I also love scotch. There is no better tasting whiskey in the world for the money than Powers Gold Label ($20), in my opinion. I don't think it's that available in the U.S. but you should buy it if you see it. For a little more money (~$30) you can get Powers 12 yr old, Jameson 1780 (now just Jameson 12) and Redbreast (the best whiskey in the world, for me - the Love Supreme of whiskey).

Scotch, well I think even at $40, Lagavulin is great value. Obviously, the blends are going to be cheaper, but there are some terrific ones out there. Black Bottle is usually one you'll be recommended. Teachers is very good, as is JW Black Label.

For U.S. whiskey, I love Maker's Mark and Wild Turkey. Neither are that expensive over here, so they should be good value in the states.

Take care


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Postby mcalpin1 » Fri May 02, 2003 11:20 pm

If I had the sheet of paper at the end of the Bushmills tour, I would recommend you take the test.

It educates first time whisky drinkers on the different flavors of whisky and concludes with your favorite.

I have asked Bushmills for a copy so hopefully some day, I can send it around.

Now understand more about single malt scotch... I would like them to throw a good scotch on the table versus mass produced one. Hey, the drinks were free...

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Postby Admiral » Mon May 05, 2003 3:45 am

Perhaps a more structured introduction into Scottish single malts would be helpful in you establishing which styles (i.e. regions) of scotch you prefer. Maybe try one or two distilleries from each region that are recognised as being good examples of their style, e.g.

Speyside - Glenlivet 12 or Cragganmore 12
Islay - Lagavulin 16 or Laphroiag 10
Highlands - Glenmorangie 10
Lowlands - Glenkinchie 10
Islands - Talisker 10 or Highland Park 12
Campbeltown - Springbank (what else?)

Each of the above are widely available, quite reasonably priced, and are quite characteristic and typical of the regions they represent. Once you determine which styles you like, you can then branch out and explore all the other different malts and expressions.

Enjoy the journey of discovery!

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Postby Rudy » Mon May 05, 2003 9:04 am

Hello coltrane,

look at Admirals list above, great idea to do the exploring in a structural way!

As far as your taste is concerned, what really matters is what you like yourself, not what others say. They can only recommend from their own experiences.
Therefore, I have some comments on the list above. This does not mean that I think that Admiral gives you bad advice or has a bad taste, on the contrary!! It only proves that we can have different tastes and I simply have other preferences:

Speyside: agree on Cragganmore (very complex, delicate), would also recommend Balvenie 10 or 12 (slightly honeyish), Longmorn 15 (sherryish, flowery), Glanfarclas 12 (also sherryish, more powerful body).

Islay: agree on that (careful with Laphroaig, that's the most extreme), would like to add Ardbeg 10 (is explosive!).

Highlands: agree with Glenmorangie 10 (stay away from the finishes, but that's personal, others love them), would like to add Clynelish 14.

Lowlands: don't agree on Glenkinchie, prefer Rosebank or Bladnoch.

Islands: perfectly my taste Admiral!

Campbeltown: well, Springbank has a shortage and can not supply market demands, so is overpriced. In the meantime, buy the others!

For the descriptions: difficult to express myself, I'm also in the novice phase. I recommend you read some books with tasting notes about whisky, so you see the opinion of others. (But bear in mind that they are descriptions or opinions, and you may not experience or think the same.)
Best recommended book for exploring all the tastes: Dr. David Wishart, Whisky Classified: Choosing Single Malts by Flavour.

Another advice: explore with miniatures! I never did that myself, but I ended up with lots of bottles. Some I prefer less, so they take some time (years) to finish and I won't buy these again. With limited budgets, try to avoid that and spend your money wisely!

Single malts go well with both music and books, so,
have fun Image !


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Postby hpulley » Mon May 05, 2003 1:53 pm

My suggestions for some firsts by region:

Irish: Redbreast
Lowland: Bladnoch or Rosebank
Speyside: Glenfarclas or The Balvenie
Highland: Clynelish or The Dalmore
Island: Highland Park or Isle of Jura
Campbeltown: Springbank
Islay: young Caol Ila or young Bowmore

I left out the powderkeg islanders and Islays like Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ledaig and Talisker even though I love them. When I tried most of them at first it was because they were at a tasting and I didn't like them and certainly wouldn't have bought a full bottle of them at that time. They are acquired tastes. It was neat to try them, though, so if you can get miniatures (the Classic Malts 6-pack of 50mLs is decent with Lagavulin and Talisker as excellent, Oban and Cragganmore very good and the other two, while not my favorites, are still good) or can get to a tasting I suggest you try them but don't be turned off if they are too strong at first -- come back to them after a while and you'll be surprised at how much your tastes can change. Highland park and Caol Ila will give you a taste of the isles without knocking your socks off.

I agree with the above post that Glenkinchie is not the best example of a lowlander, or the best lowlander around. It is widely available but that shouldn't be the main factor IMO.


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Postby coltrane » Tue May 06, 2003 2:42 am

It's me again!

Thank you, everyone, for all your wonderful suggestions. I might have a bit of trouble rounding some of these brands up here in semi-rural Pennsylvania, USA, but I have good tips to go on.

I'm also not so heart set on single malt. I know that some blends are quite tasty. For instance, I'm sipping on a bit of Johnnie Walker Black Label right now that turned out to be quite good. There is something about it that I think I like even more so than the Macallan 12 year old, but to be sure I'd have to taste them in the same day. I noticed that a lot of the tasters really enjoy the whisky from the Islay region a lot. Does "peaty" mean salty or another distinct flavor? I've never tasted peat so I'm not sure.

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Postby Zeno Marx » Tue May 06, 2003 4:31 am

I'm not sure how you could possibly beat Maker's Mark at $17 or so a bottle. I'd put it up against anything up to the $30 mark and most anything up to the $35 mark. What's the limit of your budget?

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Postby SpeedyJohn » Tue May 06, 2003 3:33 pm

Coltrane: As a resident of the Pittsburgh area, I feel your pain when it comes to the selection of whiskies in our fair Commonwealth. But, many of the bottlings suggested are available at the larger "specialty" and "super" stores of the PLCB. What area of PA do you live in? Perhaps a jaunt across the border may be in order.

As for suggestions on a budget, I would recommend:

Irish: Powers Gold Label IS available in PA (at least it is in my area) for under $20. The standard Jameson and Tullamore Dew are available in miniatures. Jameson 12yo (aka, Jameson 1780) is available for about $31, but goes on sale several times a year for about $28.

American: Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13yo is my favorite American whiskey at the moment. It sells for about $25 in PA, but is in limited supply. (It, like all other products sold by the PLCB, can be transferred to your local store at no additional cost. Just ask the clerk at your store about transfers if they don't have what you want in stock.)

Bourbons around $25 or under to try: Elijah Craig 12yo, Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel, Knob Creek, Wild Turkey 101, Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve, Old Rip Van Winkle 10yo/107 proof and (when it goes on sale) Woodford Reserve. Again, all are available in PA. If they're not at your local store, ask about having some transferred.

Selection of miniatures in PA has been rather limited. But, recently, my local superstore began stocking a few pretty decent bourbons and single malts, including Knob Creek, Blanton's, Woodford Reserve and Glenmorangie 10yo and 18yo. They also have minis of several XO cognacs. I don't know if these minis are widely available throughout PA or just at the superstores.

Happy Hunting!


[This message has been edited by SpeedyJohn (edited 06 May 2003).]

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Postby mcalpin1 » Thu May 08, 2003 5:23 pm

Ok, I just received a copy of Bushmills Irish Whiskey sampler today. There goal is to teach you the different taste in whiskey. Of course, it emphasizes on the Irish side.

This is what they used.
Blended Scotch - Jonnie Walker
Bourbon - Jim Beam
Scotch Malt - Glenlivet

The process works.. you drink the bottom three on the left and put your best in the Irish slot above. Then you compare the three on the top left and you will decide the winner. The same applies for the upper two on the right. Try the two on the bottom right and place your winner on top. Then compare the Scotch to Bushmills higher grade whiskey.

When I was done with the tour, I liked the Black Bush.

Url: http://backyardgardener.com/bushmill.jpg

[This message has been edited by mcalpin1 (edited 08 May 2003).]

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