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Dec 12, 2013 12:42 PM

Beginner Scotch Drinker Wanting to Sample the Regions

I am relatively new to drinking Scotch. I've sampled various brands over the years at bars and from friends without too much interest, but last week I purchased a bottle of Bowmore 12 and was floored. It could be that I have never tasted an Islay before, but now I want to dive in head first. I am looking to purchase a single malt from every region to try and learn the differences. I was hoping I could get some suggestions. Preferably not too expensive, but I live in Oklahoma where booze is cheap so I can probably go a little higher than entry-level (probably around $50-$70 a bottle.) Cheers!

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  1. When sku answers, listen to him. He's the local authority on whisk(e)y.

    In addition to listening to the Scotch expert at your local liquor store, I might consider:

    Lowland: Auchentoshan. The "Three Wood" is luscious. Haven't had others.

    Speyside: Balvenie (the double wood is often on sale), Glenlivet (usually quite affordable), or Macallan (maybe the best known -- and certainly a standard; expensive IMO)

    Highland: Oban is a favorite of mine

    Islay: You have Bowmore. Laphroaig 10 is something that everyone should know what it's like at some point, but it's not my favorite. Maybe order in a bar? Lagavulin (one of my most favorite bottles)

    Extra credit: Talisker: from the Isle of Skye. Similar to Islay, but less intensely smokey. Also a favorite of mine.

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    1. The smokey/peaty single-malts from Islay are certainly distinctive and very different from the Speyside single-malts. Caol Ila is another well regarded whisky from Islay.

      Highland Park, from the Orkney Islands, certainly worth trying. It is sort of in-between the smokey/peaty taste of the Islay malts and the smoother/sweeter taste of the Speyside malts.

      If you go to and search for "Ralfy," you will find a large number of video reviews of a wide variety of whiskies. Many of them are worth watching.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DavidT

        Here is Ralfy reviewing "Three Best Malt Whiskies For Beginners."

      2. The first thing you should know is that the Regions are pretty much meaningless. People use them to provide sort of a lazy shorthand for the styles, but the truth is, every Region makes different styles of whiskey and there isn't much regional consistency anymore, if there ever was. The most consistent Regions is probably Islay which makes mostly peated Scotch, but there is peated Scotch made in other Regions and other styles are made in Islay.

        Instead of regions, I would concentrate on the three major styles of Scotch: Peated, Sherry Cask, Bourbon Cask.

        If Bowmore is what you liked, try other peated whiskies: Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Talisker or Longrow.

        For sherry casks: Glenfarclas, Glendronach, Macallan

        Bourbon cask: Bladnoch (mostly), Old Pulteney

        And then maybe try some combos, like peated malts aged in sherry casks: Lagavulin Distiller's Edition, Highland Park

        And note that the suggestions above include at least one Scotch from every Region.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sku

          Are there really any peaty whiskies from the Spey Valley? If so, which ones are they?

          1. re: DavidT

            Sure. BenRiach, Benromach and Tomintoul (Ballantruan), among others, all make peated whiskies.

        2. You might want to look into the Single Malt Whiskey Society of America- your initial membership gets you a set of really expressive tasters, and access to their insanely delicious single cask selections...

          1. Locox: You may end up like me and just stop searching once you've found islay malts. I will still taste and enjoy other whiskies if you're buying / pouring but if I'm spending my money it's going to be peaty, salty and smell like iodine! If I never have anything but Lagavulin, Bowmore, Talisker or "The Laddie" again I won't be too upset.