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Please Help-I need a GREAT Single Malt Scotch


I've done a board search and could not find what I need.

I'm going to a 50th birthday party for a true SMS lover. I really know not very much about SMS-other than the more common names like Glenlivet, Glenfidditch (sp?), Ober...

Myself, I likes me the occasional Dewars or even an SMS, but I am no afficianado. Nor do I, or my liver, need yet another alcohol to start developing a deep love for.

My friend is an SMS lover. He knows them all. I would like to get a great SMS and spend no more than $ 50 - 75. You might ask, "well what does he like, what are his tastes?" Sorry to say I really don't know.

I think he would be happy to receive (or I would be happy to give) something fairly unusual--like not a Glenlivet--that a single malt scotch lover doesn't see every day and maybe is nicely aged--like he himself is :)

Any ideas?

Many thanks,


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  1. Hmmm. It's hard to pick for someone whose tastes you don't know; it doesn't even really make sense to suggest distilleries, though I know few malt fans who wouldn't be pleased with a good Highland Park, Springbank or Ardbeg, or on the more obscure side, a Linkwood or Glendronach.

    The best thing to do to get something unusual is to look for independent bottlings by companies such as Gordon & MacPhail, Scott's or Douglas Laing. These are companies that buy casks of Scotch from distillers and bottle them under their own label, but also inform you what distillery they are from.

    Since you appear to be in the Boston area, I would head to a good liquor store like Federal Wine & Spirits on State Street or Julio's in Westborough and ask them for a good independent bottling in your price range.


    2 Replies
      1. re: sku

        Another strong rec for Federal Wine & Spirits. Ask for Joe, tell him what you posted here, and he'll take care of you. He can taste you on things if you care to taste, but either way, he'll help you find something in your price range that's a bit more uncommon (like a Blackadder bottling).

      2. Michel Couvreur makes a great Islay-style scotch. It unusual in that he buys the spirits from the distillery and ages it in his vineyard's casks. Good story and it's possible that he's never had it before. The importer is in Medford, MA (as I recall), so it's available in Boston. I think Cambridge Wine and Spirits has it, and I think Atlas does too. Should be $60-ish.

        1. It would be a very big help if you could learn whether you friend prefers SMS from Spey Valley or from Islay. Why don't you ask him what he likes?

          They are certainly not the only two SMS-producing regions in Scotland, but they produce a lot of SMS and they have 2 very distinct styles that are almost as different as night & day. The SMS from Islay tend to be very smoky/peaty in taste and that turns a lot of people off. The SMS from Spey Valley tend to be smoother and more mellow in taste.

          If you simply cannot find out what style your friend prefers, Highland Park, which is not from either Spey Valley or Islay, is somewhat in between in taste and is an excellent choice. You should be able to find the 15-year old bottling for under $75.

          2 Replies
            1. re: DavidT

              Here is a thread from 6-12 months ago that will help you:


          1. I really dig the Longmorn, also Edradour, Ben Nevis, Caol Ila, and Bunnahabhain

            1. I gave a SMS loving friend (who loves very peety scotches such as Laphroig) a bottle of 12 year old Bruichladdich. He loved the taste and gave me a taste as well. At the time I hadn't had a scotch I liked, ever; but I did like the taste of this scotch. In fact it made me try others as well. Now I can say that there are some scotches I really like. Since this one appealed to both of us, it may fit your needs.

              And the bottle is pretty too :)

              1 Reply
              1. re: cosmogrrl

                The only problem with Bruichladdich is that they release so many expressions (and give them different brand names, rather than just age statements or cask descriptions) that it can be hard to keep track of them. I'll second the suggestion of Caol Ila. The 12-year-old is my favorite Scotch: it's heavily peated but it's got a smoky-sweet balance which is really nice.

              2. Hey Everyone--I want to thank you so much for all the help.

                I have found out he's not a lover of peat--but a bit is OK.--and he's beginning to like Irish.

                I'm about to call around and see what stores have what. I need this for tomorrow, so timing has been great from all of you.

                As always, Chowhounds come through! Thanks again!!!


                3 Replies
                1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                  Non-peaty single-malts to consider in the $50-$75 range include:

                  Aberlour A'Bunadh
                  Balvenie 12 year
                  Clynelish 14 year
                  Dalwhinnie 15 year
                  Oban 14 year
                  Talisker 18 year

                  Unfortunately, SMS prices in the U.S. have bumped up 15%-30% over the past year or two. Many of these whiskies used to sell under $50.

                  1. re: DavidT

                    Talisker is pretty peaty.

                    If the giftee is getting into Irish, too, I've heard a lot of good things about Red Breast at your price point.

                  2. re: SeaSide Tomato

                    If a bit of peat is okay, I think someone already mentioned Highland Park. It's got a bit of smoke, but also sweet honey notes. As a rule, the older you go with a peated whisky, the less you'll taste the peat because you get more influence from the barrel with time. The HP 15 or 18 might be up your friend's alley.

                    The Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban is also nice for something a little different: it's finished in port casks and takes on some of the raisiny sweetness from the wine. A good sweet Scotch.

                  3. Thanks again folks!

                    I ended up with a 15 yo Glenmorangie Lasanta, with some help from all of you and the scotch guy at wollaston wines and liquors.

                    Appreciate all the input!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                      Nice choice. Let us know how your SMS-lover likes it.

                    2. Hey Tomato,

                      You can go with an Indy label but the good ones are costly. something readily available, of good quality, and, though not as unusual as it was 5 years ago, is still interesting is Old Pultney.