Beginner’s scotch

Scotch drinkers: What’s a decent, inexpensive and readily available single malt or good blend for a brand-new scotch drinker whose current dram of choice is a good dark sipping rum?

I don’t want something pretending to be bourbon, but I don’t want to overwhelm with iodine and peat either. Probably some sort of Speyside or Lowland, I guess. My own tastes head toward the spicy and peaty and I sometimes have a hard time telling the difference between a good mellow scotch and a boring one.

The intended recipient tried the Glenlivet after he’d had a lot of other things and was surprised by the strength but otherwise seemed to enjoy it and was interested in trying other Scotches. I could just get another bottle of Glenlivet, but it’s a bit ordinary and generally-available, and besides, he’s already tried that.

Also, any suggestions on how to safely mail/ship a bottle of Scotch are welcome too.

(I also asked metafilter, if you want to see some other feedback on this one.)

5 responses to “Beginner’s scotch”

  1. One malt that I’ve always found very nice and usually not terribly expensive is Scapa. It’s from the Orkneys and not as well known as a lot of others, so it might make for a good, but more offbeat choice.

    I’d avoid blends, but I’m a snob. :-)

    From what I’m seeing on metafilter, I’d say the Macallan, the Dalmore and the Bowmore are pretty good choices. I myself started with the Macallan.

    I would not advise Lagavulin or Laphroaig as a starting whisky. excellent, but too surprising, I think, for the beginner.

    Another odd choice would be Suntory. Apparently the japanese are now making quite decent whiskys. My friend to whom I go for this sort of info (and to whom I’ll pass this on) had us try a few on my birthday recently, and of the three, I’d say one was ok, and the other two were quite nice.

    In the final analysis, if it were me… probably the Macallan or the Scapa.

  2. I looooove me some Laphroiag. Oban is a good one in the same kind of peaty vein, though it might actually be more expensive most places. Very good, but it’s not quite as “surprising,” as you put it.

    I don’t know how the more knowledgeable people consider Glenmorangie, but it seems to me like a decent basic scotch, and I often see it for what I would consider to be very low prices for a passable single malt.

  3. Ok, simon’s responses…

    1) Scapa is a good bet, but I don’t know about not trying Laphroaig or Lagavulin. I think if I were introducing someone to whisky, I would suggest small tastings of Macallan/Dalmore (or a good Glenrothes), Scapa (or Highland Park), and Laphroaig or Caol Ila. These three really show the tremendous variety that whisky can have, and then the taster can decide which style he or she prefers.


    2) Sorry, I didn’t see the top. If they don’t like phenolic whisky, but still want peat, Caol Ila would still be good. If someone likes dark rum, I think your Dalmore suggestion, or Highland Park would be good. I still think the best idea is to find a decent bar and taste a few different ones.

  4. Tasty. Not too expensive. Goes down very very smoothly. Not too expensive (40$ in 2000, at the LCBO). This was how I got my wife, who never liked *any* alcoholic beverages, to like scotch.