Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >
Apr 3, 2011 04:04 PM

A good "gateway" single malt scotch?

I love single-malts, and I'm trying to introduce my significant other to it, who is game to trying single malts but wants to take baby steps before getting up and walking.

Can anyone recommend a good "gateway" single malt?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. hi, thats a tough one without a bit more detail. I lived in Scotland for 3 years, and have always been a single malt lover. it depends on the tastes of your SO....if he/she likes complex flavors and has good palate for the subtle...make sure you get AT LEAST a 20 year old single malt. The highlands tend to be light, very delicate, the speysides-sweet, earthy. Island malts tend to have peatiness ( which I adore) but not to everyone's taste.
    it would be idea to go to a single malt tasting in your area, or find a very good Pub that has a selection and make your own tasting.
    If you want a generic single thats not just Glenfidich yet again....and you arent sure of your SO's taste, try a well aged Speyside.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jenni899


      Re: Speysides. One of my favorites, if not the favorite, is the Highland Park 25. My SO liked it, but wanted something perhaps a bit milder, or "gentler" as she said. What do you think of the 12 or 16 year olds?

      1. re: ipsedixit

        Based on that, I'd suggest Old Pulteney, Dalmore or Clynelish, all of which have some common characteristics with Highland Park but are a bit milder.

    2. For me, it was Dalwhinnie Single Malt 15year. I walked into a Scotch tasting party not liking Scotch (probably 40-50 bottles that I could sample), and I came out liking that one. Worked my way up from there.

      4 Replies
        1. re: sku

          Balblair 1997 might be another light, floral option.

          1. re: sku

            I agree...a Danish friend got into whiskey using Dalwhinnie...I'll even have it when not nursing Laphroaig.

          2. re: yarm

            I agree with the Dalwhinnie recommendation. It is a great "starter" single-malt that is usually available at Trader Joe's for a very reasonable price.

          3. If your SO doesn't already like Scotch, bourbon might be an easier toe-in-the-water experience. And a bourbon cocktail would be even easier. Or maybe the toe's already wet....

            5 Replies
            1. re: EvergreenDan

              ... I think the foot is wet (both of them).

              1. re: EvergreenDan

                Laphroaig 10. Push SO in and hold head under water. ;)

                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                    I convinced my wife, who seldom drinks whisky and when she does it is a light Speyside, to try Ardbeg Supernova one evening a couple of weeks ago... for the next couple of hours she was like a dog with peanut butter on its tongue, trying to get rid of the taste!

                    And this week, I told a friend who is a fairly new to whisky, and drinks a lot of the bog common names (Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Macallan) he could have any unopened bottle from my cabinet - I'm moving and can't take it with me. There was a huge range of choices: Balvenie, Dalwhinnie, Longrow, Aberlour, Highland Park, 3 Bruichladdichs, a couple Ardbegs (including another supernova and a coreyveckan), a couple of Laphroaigs. I was sure he would go for the HP or Longrow. He grabbed the Bruichladdich Peat! I am seeing him Saturday, will be curious as to how he is enjoying it.

                1. I'm a long-time single malt drinker with a wife and a lot of friends who dabble a bit. I find that the speysides are probably best entry whiskys: Balvenie makes some great whiskies that are both complex and palatable, with notes of honey and citrus rind. Dalwhinnie would be a good choice also.

                  Outside of Speyside, Highland Park (note to ipsedixit - it isn't a speyside) is always a winner - the 12 yo is a good start, but the 18 is far smoother and absolutely beautiful. 25 is maybe a bit too expensive for someone to try if they don't know if they like whisky.

                  I'm also partial to Bruichladdich, which though it is from Islay isn't peated (well, some are but the standard 15 and 17 year olds aren't) and has a great caramel flavour profile that can be attractive to newcomers.

                  Regarding Jenni899's comment about going for at least a 20 year old - I have to strongly disagree. Extended age doesn't necessarily make whisky better, and most of the distillers see that 10-18 years works best. Too long in a barrel can make the whisky too heavy, and sometimes the complexity of the malt gets overpowered by too much aging. The standard bottlings from most distilleries, at 10, 12, 15 and 18, are probably the best choices - they make those decisions for a reason. Longer aging might be interesting to afficianados (I love to try them, but have seldom had anything past 26 years that I thought was worth the money) but for entry level whiskies, stick to the basics.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Dan G

                    Thanks Dan G.

                    Re: Speyside and Highland Park ... yes, realize that HP is not a Speyside. My comment was just that the HPs share alot of the same qualities as Speyside single malts. Thoughts? Not true?

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Speysides, by reputation, tend to be smooth drinkers with malty characteristics. Highland Park which comes from the Orkney Islands, is much more coastal in characteristic and has more peat than your average Speyside; it is more similar to the traditional northern Highland malt. Of course, the caveat is that there are, in every region, whiskies that don't fit the steretype of whiskies from that region (sometimes it seems there are more exceptions than rule followers).

                  2. I only wish to echo and add that Balvenie Doublewood and Dalwhinnie are both good introductory scotches, in my opinion. Easy on the palette, very smooth finish and leave you wanting more.

                    Scotch bars or local scotch clubs are also very useful for choosing new scotches as well. I find most scotch review websites to be fairly informative, and tasting notes are some of the most specific and explicit (very helpful, they are).

                    Of course, surrounding onself with fellow scotch drinkers allows for excellent suggestions and sampling! ;-)

                    Good luck!