Expanding my scotch tastes
For years I've drank basic scotch like glenlivet but lately I've been playing with some of the more flavorful stuff and am really liking it. Last week I had a dram of caol ila 12 and loved it, the smokey component was just great. I'd like to find something like this (maybe even more smoke) in a more budget friendly bottle, perhaps a blend. Any suggestions on what might fit the bill?
On a side note I've heard people commonly using smokey and peaty to describe a scotch but I've yet to feel like I've experienced peat. Does it come off as distinctly different from say the basic smokey flavor i taste in caol ila?
Caol Ila makes a very good Scotch and I am glad it has become easier to find in the last few years. Also relatively inexpensive but nice, though I'm no Scotch expert, are Compass Box's Peat Monster or Dalwhinnie's ?15? year. In my opinion it was surprisingly light but still smokey.
Smokey? Ardbeg (either "Ten" or "Uigeadail"). Not cheap, but a little dab will do you with Glenlivet and perhaps Finlaggan (have not tried it, but the price is right!) handling the more pedestrian duties.
Peaty? Laphroig (very strong, medicinal) and Lagavulin (less strong, more balanced, but not cheap).
Generally complex? Highland Park (12 or, more expensively and admirably, the 18).
Any of these will serve wonderfully as a special occasion whisky, now or a bit further down the road. So enjoyed, a bottle can last a long time.
Your best bets for a cheaper smoky Scotch is the previously mentioned Finlaggan, which is a single malt of indeterminite origin; Laphroaig 10 year old, available at Trader Joe's; and Black Bottle, a smoky blend of whisky from every distillery on the smoky island of Islay. Laphroaig 10 and Black Bottle are usually in the $30 range.
The issue of peat vs. smoke is one that is often discussed in whisky-nerd circles. Smoke is the dominant flavor associated with Peat, but there are other flavors imparted by peat, including medicinal, oily and even salty flavors. In most cases though, peaty and smoky are used synonymously.
Do you live near a Trader Joe's? They carry Finlaggan, a malt whisky distilled on Islay, which is where most of the smokey/peaty whiskies come from. They sell it for $17-$18.
P.S. I think people use the terms smokey and peaty interchangeably. The "smokey-ness" comes from the barley being toasted over the smoke of peat-burning fires.