Question about Scotch
I am new to this board. I am going to London and Edinburgh this week. I'd like to bring a bottle of Scotch back for a good friend. Any suggestions ...something I can't buy in the US. I don't know anything about Scotch so your suggestions are appreciated! M
I would start by asking your friend what kind of whisky and what brands of whisky he (or she) likes. You could bring home a really unique bottle of whisky, but if your friend does not care for it, you have wasted your money.
The whiskies from the western isles of Scotland (brands such as Laphroig, Lagavulain, Caol Ila, Ardbeg, etc.) tend to have a very smokey, peaty taste. Some people really like those whiskies and other do not like them at all.
The whiskies from the Spey Valley of Scotland (brands such a Macallan, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich. etc.) tend to have a much smoother taste.
Highland Park, a whisky from the Orkney Islands, tends to be a cross between the two styles.
"World of Whiskies" has shops in Terminals #1, #3, #4 & #5 at Heathrow. They usually have a pretty good selection, including some hard to find items.
Just to add that the shops at airports (definitely at EDI) have options not available on the high street. I recently purchased a Dalmore 1995 that was simply lovely (not smoky, smooth, and almost vanilla notes but with a depth and complexity that gave character) but as a gift, so now I regret not having arranged to buy one and pick it up on my return. The Dalmore Gran Reserva tastes like having a brandy and cigar by the fire...
But many shops will have limited runs by known distilleries that are hard to find and definitely appreciated by the whisky lover. But as DavidT says, ask your friend what s/he likes.
Just remember you will have to pack the whisky in your suitcase as you cannot take alcohol through security as carry-on luggage anymore. I learned this once the hard way back in the early days of post 9-11.
Is your friend a whisky specialist? How much does he genuinely enjoy drinking whisky? I ask because whisky will almost always be cheaper in the US than in the UK, even for identical products. Many of the premier Scottish whisky is also available in the US. There's no point in buying a Macallan 15 in the UK when you can buy it in the US, and Macallan is a perfectly good whisky. The specialist whisky brands as mentioned in the other posts will cost a good deal more due to their limited supply. If your friend genuinely loves whisky and knows his way around whisky and above all, can genuinely appreciate drinking a hard-to-obtain whisky from a defunct distillery or a boutique distillery, it may be worth the effort and expense, but if he's a run of mill whisky drinker, the expense may not be worth it.
A nice alternative is to buy a selection of mini-whisky bottles. The Royal Mile Whiskery had a very good range of small bottles and I once bought six different whiskies as a gift for someone.
plenty of Whiskey purveyors in Edinburgh - Royal Mile Whiskies have a good selection, as does the Bon Vivant's Companion on Thistle Street - the staff there will go the extra mile to pick something out for you. if you want to try some for yourself, go to Raconteur bar in Stockbridge - excellent scotch selection including some old and expensive bottles, they will even mix you up a cocktail or two.
I would throw my hat in the ring for Royal Mile Whiskies....great selection - and staff that have regular tastings are well placed to help you pick out something special.
Having a budget in mind will help if going into a specialist store. Like others have said, an indication of the kind of thing he likes may also help....but providing he is not staunchly against anything (such as heavily peated malts) he will likely love the opportunity to try any whisky curio.
My suggestion would be to go to a whisky store and buy a bottle from a distillery which now ceases to exist or a bottle from an independent whisky bottler like Blackadder or Douglas Laing.
These independent bottlers buy individual rare casks from distilleries and bottle them at either (a) full cask strength (which a distillery would almost never sell at), or (b) make custom blends using rare single malts.
My favorite stores in London are:
Vintage House on Old Compton St in Soho,
Milroy's on Greek Street in Soho
Cadenheads Whisky Shop on Chiltern St. in Marylebone
Whisky Exchange at Vinopolis in Borough/Southbank (Borough Market is a great market worth visiting so can kill 2 birds w 1 stone)
No matter where you live in US I guarantee each of these stores' stock will be about 90% things you could never dream of acquiring in America.