Reco's for Islay single malt as a gift?
I am looking to give a bottle of scotch as a gift... Something under $100, but closer to $75 would be better yet. What I know is that he is partial to Islay single malts. He is a relatively new scotch drinker. There are probably lots of makers out there that he has not tried so I would like to get him one of those. I know he has already has tried bottles of Ardbeg, Caol Isla, Lagavulin, Bowmore (several types) and Laphroig (several types)...I don't know the particular types (12 yr, 18 yr, etc.), but I know his favorite was Ardbeg and the only one of the bunch he did not like was the Laphroig Quarter Cask Strength, which he thought tasted medicinal. I saw a few Bruichladdich scotches in my price range, would those be the best kind for him to try next, or is there something better? I also heard him comment about Speyside scotch once or twice, don't know if those are pretty similar to Islays or not, but recommendations for those would be appreciated also. Thank you!
If the person you're buying for likes Ardbeg, he likes the peaty taste of Islays, but not all Islays are peated (peat is what gives Islays the characteristic smoky taste). It looks like there are only two currently functioning Islay distilleries that he has not tried, Bunahabbin and Bruichladdich, and both tend to make low-peated Scotchs. As Simon notes, there are now some peated Bruichladdichs, including 3d and PC5 and 6. 3D is in your price range. PC5 is very hard to find and runs $120-140 in the states and PC6 is not yet available in the US.
My suggestion would be to get him a Talisker 18 year old. Talisker is not an Islay, hailing from the neighboring Isle of Skye, but it has some of the same smoky qualities your friend seems to enjoy. The 18 year old is an excellent whiskey and is right in your price range.
Speyside single-malts are very different from the Islays. They do not have any of the smokey, iodiney taste that is characteristic of most Islay single-malts.
Scroll down for the thread here titled "Best Single Malt." You will find much information and many helpful suggestions there.
Thanks for the info on Speysides, that is good to know... I saw that thread but as a scotch "outsider" myself it was hard for me to follow which particular kinds were Islays. Most of the people specifically mentioning Islays seem to NOT like them, so I gave up halfway through. I'll have to give it a closer look :)
I posted right at the end of that thread about my trip last week to
meet all the distillers of islay
I was lucky enough to taste some incredible whiskies although I can
certainly see why some of the heavier expressions such as Laphroig may not
be to everybodys tastes
If you are looking for something with a note of peat but more of a
fruity elegant nose then try some of the Caol Isla 10 or 12. Their malt is
identical to Lagavulin, but the long, beautiful stills allow for more
of the heavy spirits to be refined. They also use a much faster
distillation process. I loved the ones I tried.
Bruichladdich have released a huge range if different expressions
recently, primarily because, under new ownership, they really had to use the
stocks they bought with the distillery to make money until their own
distillation came through which it is now doing.
If you can find bottles of their P6 (their own spirit distilation),
that is definitely worth trying. I was less keen on some of the others
where spirit from the purchased stocks have been finished ( or as they
call it "undergone additional cask evolution") in all kinds of weird and
wonderful wine barrels. " Redder Still" and the like. The packaging is
wonderful, but, in the case of some, better than what is inside. But,
the P5 and P6 are great if rare as hen's teeth.
Also, many of the islay distilleries are now, alongside their normal
ranges, also producing spirits going back to old styles ( before bourbon
barrels) and producing malts soley aged Oloroso sherry barrels rather
than the 85% bourbon/15% Oloroso of say Bowmore 12
These are definitely worth looking for. The sherry barrels give a
slight sweetness to the end notes which compliments the peat. I tried a
number at Lagavulin.
I would tend to avoid whisky that has been "finished" i.e moved from
one cask ( usually bourbon) after X years and then put in another barrel
( sherry and, increasingly wine) to add another layer. These always
taste as if one style has been grafted on to the other giving the benefits
Finally, don't ignore some of the interesting companies creating boutique blends. I am sure the good spirit stores can guide you