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Sep 4, 2010 10:03 PM

looking to buy my first GREAT scotch

I was wondering if anyone on here could help me. I'm looking for a REALLY good scotch and, before I go and drop $50-$70 on a bottle, I thought I might get some recommendations from you guys.

For starters, the only single malt that I've tried is the Glenlivet 12. I really liked that one. but I was looking for something a little smokier/peatier, but not so much that it's overpowering. Something that stands out from the more common scotch.....something worthy of a special occasion. I have tried Grants and Dewar's white label and special reserve blended if that helps. I find that the Dewar's is lacking in sufficient depth and complexity for what I'm looking for in a scotch. I have kind of narrowed it down to a couple choices. I was looking at the Caol Ila, Lagavulin, and Talisker 10. based on the info that I have given, do you think that an Islay malt would be too strong? What are your recommendations, in about a 50-70 dollar range?


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  1. Unfortunately, single-malt prices have crept up over the past 2-3 years and $50-$70 does not buy quite what it used to.

    Review the prior threads shown below. I would also search this board for past threads on single-malts. This topic does get discussed several times each year.

    Try the 12-year old Highland Park. It is not as heavily peated as most of the single-malts from Islay.

    1 Reply
    1. Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Talisker are all great whiskies, but they are all quite peaty. The suggestion of Highland Park 12 is spot on. It's earthy, complex, with a bit of peat but nothing overwhelming. There are also some great whiskies without much in the way of peat. One of the best buys in single malt is Old Pulteney, the 12 year goes for about $40 and has great, complex flavor without the peat. Another great buy is Dalmore, the 12, 15 or Gran Reserve are all in your price range. Any of these are going to blow away the 'Livet and Dewar's in terms of complexity.

      2 Replies
      1. re: sku

        I'm usually a peaty whisky drinker. I like Bunnahabhain for a rich but not overpowering dram. Haven't had Highland Park anytime recently as a point of reference.

        I also think of Famous Grouse 18 for a better blend. Honestly, the uptick in pricing has had me drinking mostly bourbon and rye for a couple years now.

        1. re: sku

          I think Highland Park may be the best bang for the buck in Single Malt Scotch. That said, I like a good American Bourbon or Rye more than Scotch.

          Scotch is actually a very dirty spirit that has to be aged many years to allow the heads to evaporate. I can't drink many scotches anymore because I can actually taste the more volatile components now that I have become attuned to them.

        2. IMHO I'd buy a 25 dollar bottle of Teachers or save up for a few weeks and go for the Johnny Walker Blue (150 +/-) Have fun either way!

          1 Reply
          1. re: jbyoga

            Johnnie Walker Blue is really not worth the price. Dont' get me wrong, it's fabulous, but there are many other options at half to two-thirds the price with just as nice of a complex taste. I think the Balvenie is wonderful for around the $50 price point .

          2. I agree with your assessment; Glenlivet 12 is an outstanding scotch. The Islay scotches are indeed the peatiest. If Laphroaig is too intense for you, try the smoother Bowmore.

            But here’s my real recommendation: For a fine single-malt flavor at a lower price, try a peated Irish whiskey. Connemara is an excellent example. It is technically not a scotch, because it is made in Ireland; but Connemara is now one of favorites drams.

            3 Replies
            1. re: carts2

              thanks for all the info everyone!! Guess I'll hold off on some of the Islay varieties. If I can find It I'll go for the Highland Park 12, if not, I'll see what else I can find in town that is similar.

              1. re: Max D.

                I would first offer up the Lagavulin 16 - a fine scotch that you would enjoy. I would also suggest Oban 14 for that price range.

                1. re: Max D.

                  I have to agree with Strange. You want a great scotch, not a bargain scotch (according to your original post). It's not like peat is some mystery flavor that takes years to warm up to. I loved it from the get-go. Lagavulin is wonderful stuff. If you can afford to drink it regularly, why deny yourself the pleasure?

              2. Highland Park 12 was the first single malt I purchased, and I think it was the best place to start - though my taste since then has tended toward peat monsters like Ardbeg and Laphroaig. have yet to try Lagavulin because where I live it is $90 which is a little rich for my taste.

                If you are lucky your area has the HP 12's with the free mini bottle of HP 18.

                12 Replies
                1. re: ncyankee101

                  Finally checked all the liquor stores here in Juneau and couldn't find Highland Park. But I looked on the flavor chart, and Talisker 10 was pretty close. So I took the plunge and got the Talisker...

                  As I type the warm peppery aftertaste is still lingering on my tongue from my previous sip. I do believe that, if price were no object, THIS is all I would ever drink! I actually wish that I hadn't tried this, cuz after this all other budget scotches now taste like Coors in comparison.

                  EDIT: after looking at the flavor chart again, I realized that I misspoke, it was the Talisker 18 that was close. Still, everything I said holds true!

                  1. re: Max D.

                    At some point, you should try some of the other Speyside single-malts (besides Glenlivet), just to see if you like them and how they compare. I would start with Macallan and branch out from there.

                    1. re: DavidT

                      Have also had good experiences with Glenmorangie and Glenfarclas from the Speyside region personally.

                      1. re: DavidT

                        Max- my boorish opinion... you will try tons of Highlands and Speyside scotches.. and enjoy a lot of them... and you'll end up sticking with Islay scotches at some point.

                        The smoke, the iodine, the seaweed, the salt.. there's just no substitute for those flavors and it was an epiphany when I first had one. I'm an Islay bigot and will drink them almost exclusively. However- there's times when a taste of something different is welcome. If I could afford it I would have in my cabinet at all times:

                        * Macallan 12
                        * Macallan 18 (3rd best scotch I've ever tasted)
                        * Talisker 10
                        * Talisker 18 (2nd best scotch I've ever tasted)
                        * Lagavulin 16
                        * Lagavulin Distiller's Edition (best scotch I've ever tasted)
                        * Laphroaig 10 (when maximum peat is needed!)

                        That's a pretty narrow list.. there are plenty of others I've tried and *liked*.. but not many I've truly LOVED. Okay.. Bruchlaiddaich 15.. <smacks lips> gotta have that too.

                        1. re: e_bone

                          Great list e_bone.

                          I do love the Islay taste but am not always in the mood for a peat bomb assault on my palate a la Ardbeg 10 - and I don't always feel like burning through $50 a bottle scotch (which is what the cheapest goes for here in NC).

                          I have found a couple inexpensive Islays (one a blend) that have that flavor but in a lighter form - Bowmore Legend and The Black Grouse (which also adds an interesting sherry flavor to the mix.) Unfortunately neither of these is available in NC yet, I got them on a trip to FL - so when they are gone, for an inexpensive Islay fix I have to settle for McClellands (which is supposed to be 5 yr old Bowmore.) It is not bad, especially for $20 a bottle - though mainly brine and smoke with very little iodine flavor.

                          1. re: ncyankee101

                            An option for those looking for an inexpensive Islay malt is Finlaggan, sold @ Trader Joe's for under $20.

                          2. re: e_bone

                            I also like a lot of the malts on your list, but for me the younger ones are usually more interesting. I prefer the Macallan and Talisker 12 and 10 over the 18 in both of those cases. Lagavulin in all its forms is great stuff--my favorite malt by far--but seems to have shot up in price significantly in the past year or so.

                            1. re: davis_sq_pro

                              thanks for all the continued help. I've also had a little time with the Speyburn 10 and have to say that is a very good budget dram. very nice flavors and not too bad at $28- liquor is expensive in AK.

                              @ e_bone,
                              thanks for the list. most of those are on my " when I got the money I will try it" list. I just wish that I could get Bruchlaiddaich here in Juneau

                              1. re: Max D.


                                I've also had the Speyburn and though it was OK, maybe a little estery in the nose and hot in the finish. I thought Lismore is better and a little cheaper. If you have that one where you are I recommend you try it. It has a very distinct green apple taste I like when I am in the mood for it.

                            2. re: e_bone

                              Lagavulin Distillers is my favorite scotch as well. Recently got a bottle in NY at Astor Wine on sale for $60. Should've bought out the store. On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of Macallan. With the exception of the fine oak, I find them pretty bland.

                              1. re: e_bone

                                You and I have similar preferences in scotch, though I might throw a recommendation for Oban 14 in there as well. I strongly 2nd the Lagavulin Distiller's Edition. That and the Talisker Distiller's Edition are the currently two active bottles in my liquor cabinet. Both are outstanding!

                                I can generally find the Talisker for around $70 locally, but recently paid over $90 for a bottle of the Lagavulin (yikes!).

                              2. re: DavidT

                                I agree with The Speyside idea. Aberlour and Balvanie male some great single malts and I really love the 21 year port cask Balvanie as a treat!