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Sep 28, 2007 04:29 PM

Mcallan or Oban?

Wanting to get my boyfriend a semi expensive bottle of scotch for his b-day. I know nothign about scotch. I would consider him more in the know, but still a beginner, as he has no staple. I have asked around, and being unable to fin Suntory Yamazaki anywhere (sigh), I think it's down to these 2.

Which one would be best for a beginner?

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  1. my pick is for mcallan

    1. Both of those two are very good and good for beginners. Myself, I prefer Oban.

      Suntory Yamazaki is also excellent. Depending on what state you live in, you may be able to order it on-line.

      1. The Macallan and Oban are both pricey single-malt Scotches. I would not choose either of these for a beginning Scotch drinker. I'd instead opt for a blended Scotch whisky, which tends to be smoother and less full of the peaty, very smoky flavors that make single-malts more challenging and harder for beginners to acquire a taste for.

        While I don't drink a lot of Scotch these days, having mostly forsaken it for American ryes and bourbons, I have fond memories from older days of these blends: Chivas Regal (an old fancy standby, very smooth and lightweight), The Famous Grouse, White Horse (a bit rough), Ballantine's, Johnny Walker Red (Black is smoother and pricier, Gold even more so), Grant's 8 Year Old (my budget brand, not so smooth), Dewar's, and Cutty Sark (a fine beginner's Scotch). If you wanted to make it seem more special, you could get one of their longer-aged (17 or 30 year old vs. the typical 12 years of aging) premium brands, which taste smoother, and have more impressive packaging.

        5 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          Back in the day, I didn't like scotch because all I knew were the Chivases of the world. I wouldn't go with that at all. A good, moderately pricey single-malt is a much better idea, IMO (and Oban and Macallan are both great choices). If you want particularly smooth, you might go with Tomintoul 16 year, which is not that expensive either. I also disagree with the assertion that the blended, cheaper scotches listed above will be "smoother." Quite to the contrary.

          1. re: tdg

            Smooth is in the palate of the beholder, I guess, but I always understood smoothness to one of the major reasons to blend Scotch.

            My recs are based on my experiences of trying to educate budding whisky drinkers, many of whom couldn't get past the pointed peat-smoke flavor of most single-malt scotches. If this guy is already on the single-malt Scotch path, an Oban or a Macallan may work for him. But I still say blends are a gentler starting point for neophytes.

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              Neither Oban nor Macallan really has much in the way of peat. These are very smooth whiskies. For a special gift, I wouldn't choose a bottle of one of the basic blends, just because they wouldn't seem special, though I like Famous Grouse (which includes a lot of Macallan and the even peatier Highland Park).

              Of course, a beginning Scotch drinker may love a heavaily peated Scotch. I'm not convinced that a smoother Scotch somehow prepares you for peat. Some people like peat, some don't and a beginner may have as much chance of liking it as a more experienced drinker (some of whom don't like peat as well).

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I don't think that most single malts have a "pointed peat-smoke flavor," unless you're sampling Islays. Another smooth option with no peat (aside from Tomintoul and Macallan - some people find that Oban has a bit of peat) is Dalwhinnie 15.

                In the interest of full disclosure, strong peat was what attracted me to scotch at first (Lagavulin, to be exact). Only more recently have I come to enjoy whiskies with little or no peat. So I definitely agree with sku's second point.

            2. re: MC Slim JB

              I just started drinking Scotch. We bought a "gift set" of Macallan (had two lovely glasses) over the holidays and I was hooked. Next we bought Oban (no glasses, alas) and I loved that too. So I think either of these would be a great gift for a beginner. Laphroiag was beautiful too!

            3. I would second going with the Macallan. It is certainly one of the best single-malts whiskies for a novice/beginner to use as an entry point. It is smoother (from aging in sherry casks) and without the peatiness of the single-malts from the west coast & western isles of Scotland. While a good beginner's single-malt, it is also so good that even an experienced drinker can enjoy drinking it for many years.

              1. If you're talking the younger Macallan (the 18 year old is a lot pricier!), I'd go with the Oban.