Special Trash Talk Rubbish Row: Scotch

I realize some of you who, like me, are sitting right across the pond from Soldier Field might imagine this is just a special NFC North Edition of Monday Night Football Trash Talk.

But this is different.

I need your help.

You see, on Wednesday I leave for a little trip to Scotland with my mom. The highlight of the trip will be a train trip through the West Highlands.

Now, I’m telling you this now not just so you can plan the party you’re going to throw once bmaz takes over Wednesday night or Thursday morning (if we’re all lucky Mary may do a post or two, too). And to warn you all, in case bmaz continues the Sharktopus kick he’s been on.

But also because I’m going to drink some Scotch.

I don’t actually drink Scotch–haven’t drank it since college, when one of the rich kids bought a case of Dewars. But I’m going to do so this week because–well, I’d be stupid to pass up this opportunity. And since a few of you often delve into trash talking argy bargy over Scotch in normal trash talk threads, I thought I’d put this one up so you can all offer your best advice about what I should try. And what I need to know about proper Scotch drinking (because this is the sort of train where one drinks Scotch properly, I think).

Oh, and as for football? When it concerns any NFC North game, I only care about rooting against the old Geezer! Even if he’s not playing. May Urlacher and Woodson have superb games.

(Image credit: Chris huh under Creative Commons)

  1. emptywheel says:

    Now, I think BoxTurtle will shoot me for this, but I actually think I like the smoky peaty Scotches (and aren’t they from the west of Scotland, anyway)? So why shouldn’t I?

  2. annagranfors says:

    LAGAVULIN. It costs way too much, but is the finest Scotch I’ve ever had. You’ll find a wide variety of opinion, though, since the region a Scotch comes from changes the character vastly. Lagavulin (and the Laphroaig in your picture) are both “Islay” (pronouced EEL-uh, don’t ask me why”, and the region usually produces Scotch with an intense peaty flavor. (And should you like that type of thing but want a lower cost version, try Finlaggin (available at many Trader Joe’s for $19 or so, as opposed to Lagavulin at around $80). It’s widely suspected to be a “young” (5 years aged) version of Lagavulin, from the same distillery. In financially troubled times, it suits me just fine. *Hic*.

    • skdadl says:

      Although I’m mainly a wino, I agree with anna about the Islay malts (although not with her pronunciation — it’s EYE-lah). Lagavulin and Laphroaig are special, but all the single malts are interesting — the other special centre for single malts is the Spey valley, southeast of Inverness. If you go to Skye (there’s a bridge now), you must try Talisker — the distillery is a fascinating ancient place, gorgeous piece of history, if a long drive north on the island.

      Why won’t you take me with you? Wah.

      Go to Dunkeld and see the cathedral lawn. Think of Thorfinn/Macbeth, and say hi to them for me.

      Sorry I haven’t been around much. We have some local scandals, some national scandals, and then I seem to have suddenly developed teh twitterdiction (twidiction?). I can’t seem to detach. It’s beginning to scare me. I meet people. Things happen.

      • emptywheel says:

        Here’s the thing.

        First, I suspect that, as a wino like you and like Anna, I’m a peat girl. The peat seems to appeal to the same taste buds trained as a wino.

        Second, I don’t think we GO to Skye–just by it. I can only go where the train goes (honest, we’re doing the train bc it’s more comfy for my mom, not bc I hate driving on the wrong side of the road).

        Lastly, I would ask mom if you could join us, but she’s already headed out.

            • skdadl says:

              For the longest time, y’know, I did not get it. I was on, but I couldn’t figure out what we were supposed to be doing. But then when you start chasing one story, you suddenly discover what can happen. Suddenly you see how to do dozens of stories. That only just happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Now I’m a goner. It’s awful. I need help.

              • emptywheel says:

                Mark Sanford made me lose my Twitter virginity.

                I didn’t watch his “I’m sorry, I’m an utter fucking hypocrite” presser. Rather, I followed it on Twitter. I’ve been stuck ever since.

  3. bamage says:

    Dalwhinnie (sp?) is sort of a “girlie” scotch. But it’s really pretty tasty nonetheless.

    As for flavor – add water to taste.


    • emptywheel says:

      Right. That’s really where I need to start. Water, not ice, right? ANd what do I say to get that? And the logic behind it is … it releases the flavors of the scotch w/o making it too cold to taste?

      The rich kid w/the case of Dewars always added soda.

      And what do you mean by “girlie”?

      • Petrocelli says:

        If you have it on the Rocks, you get to enjoy the Scotch at different potency … in the beginning, it’s full bodied, then as the Ice melts, the flavor changes.

        I think it is a travesty to add Soda, but the Girlie Men seem to like it …

        *Ducks and runs*

          • Petrocelli says:

            One of my verrry special friends got some Johnny Walker Pink Label [75 years old] a while back … then added Soda to it.

            I almost disowned him …

            On a separate but parallel note, one of my fave neighbors was a Scottish Mum and my heavens, her food was incredible !

        • emptywheel says:

          So is it OKAY to order it w/ice? Cause that sounds okay to me, different potencies. Plus, given that I’m a Newb (and that the Scotch may start flowing earlier than my usual Beer Thirty on the train), the extra water isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

          • Petrocelli says:

            I always do … order a Single on the Rocks and let the Ice melt until you’re happy with the dilution/flavor.

            Then again, I nevvuh drink warm Beer, much to the chagrin of my Brit friends …

            If you’re a fan of Milk, defi try Scotch or Drambuie with cold Milk …

      • ekhornbeck says:

        “Water not ice”

        Umm… no.

        You order it straight up with ice on the side (chipped). You smell it and sip it once so you get a sense of its raw character and then you add ice, chip by chip, to liberate its aroma and flavor.

        Wait until each chip has dissovled before you add the next, the goal here is not coolness, but the proper dilution.

        And then you sip, letting the aroma rise from your tongue to your nose.

        I like Clynelish, 14 years old. Never waste your money on a blend.

        And if you decide you enjoy aged liquor you might want to try some bourbon using the same method. I like Baker’s 107. Jack Daniel’s is good with Coke (which is to say, not at all). Save your money and buy Ten High which tastes exactly the same at half the price.

        • Petrocelli says:

          Marcy, your blog will be viewed as elitist after this thread. *g*

          The World is going to sh*t and we’re fighting between ice and no ice in Scotch.

          • emptywheel says:

            Yes, well. I blame it on my mom, who doesn’t travel well at this point in her life w/o some comfort (and more importantly, the ability to get up and walk around while gaping at the scenery).

            So I’m forced to learn some new things. What can I do?

            • Petrocelli says:

              I think Europe is best seen from the large Windows of a Train.

              All the Glens are good – 18 years and older.

            • MadDog says:

              Two years ago my youngest sister took a couple of weeks off from work (financial advisor at one of the corporate financial biggies) and headed over to the UK.

              She and her companion took the train from London up to Edinburgh (as well as lot’s of other fine Scottish locales) and just enjoyed themselves tremendously.

              For all the reasons you mention, they insist that going by train is the way to go.

              • Petrocelli says:

                Ireland would also be breathtaking by Rail. The scenery in Switzerland and Italy is incredible by Rail …

                • MadDog says:

                  Ireland would also be breathtaking by Rail…

                  Having driven and been driven there, I do not recommend Irish driving. Not at all!

                • emptywheel says:

                  I prefer to travel Ireland from the back seat of whatever car my father in law is driving. It’s VERY fast, particularly for those roads. But it’s much easier to do it from the back seat, bc, well, it’s VERY fast for those routes.

                  • Petrocelli says:

                    My first trip driving through the Swiss Switchbacks, I had an Audi 5000 Quattro, driving Gloves [yeah, I guess I’m a girlie man !] and a map to St. Moritz.

                    Half an hour later, I saw a patch of guard rail had been … um … removed quite hastily. Someone with a sick sense of humor had run reflective string where the missing guard rail was ‘posed to be.

                    Needless to say, I slowed down quite a bit after that …

          • phred says:

            The World is going to sh*t and we’re fighting between ice and no ice in Scotch.

            LOL : ) Petro you and I both know we are not a happy crowd unless we are chewing over something around here ; )

            And for the record, I might just leave again. The Pack was playing better before I showed up. I hope somebody gives Tauscher a piece of my mind right about now…

          • ekhornbeck says:

            Sweet, almost honey-like, with a little peat. Very smooth. You can sip it straight up, but like all Scotch a drop or two of water (or a chip of ice, I’m standing my ground on that) makes it bloom in your mouth. Much more rounded and sophisticated than some single malts (which I find have a tendency to be aggressively peaty and harsh, at least the ones you can usually find here in the US). I like Dalwoodie too, but the Clynelish is superior even though it isn’t aged quite as long.

            Try some Baker’s Bourbon. It’s big and bold but it doesn’t disappoint.

  4. bmaz says:

    What??? I don’t care about the poaching of Trash Talk, but the low down attack of the Poor Old Geezer? Why, I just don’t know what to say.

    Attention Dear Readers: Starting Thursday morning, this blog will be known as “SharktopusWheel”!

  5. MadDog says:

    Regardless of the brand, to uphold the region’s tradition you must ensure you drink your Scotch with milk.


    Yes, mixed with milk. 2% will do in a pinch, but whole milk is best. And better still, from a native Scottish cow you’ve milked yourself (note that under Scottish law, cows must travel in 2nd Class, so don’t bother spending the big bucks for it on 1st).

    How do I know this? I have it on good authority that it was the original purpose for this Scottish Oath or at the very least, this Scottish Oath.

  6. Petrocelli says:

    Highland Park Distillery is the Northernmost Distillery in the World.

    I like their Single Malts because they are just sooo darn smooooth … but there’s no such thing as bad Single Malt.

    *Rubs hands with glee at the thought of bmaz’s animal house redux*

  7. emptywheel says:

    And not to distract from Scotch or anything, but though I love Woodsen and Urlacher, this game will probably come down to Peppers v. Matthews. I only hope this time Peppers doesn’t take a QB out for much of the season. Ahem.

  8. pdaly says:

    reply @7.

    That’s interesting, because I was going to suggest what I learned about drinking Laphroaig from a European: small glass with an icecube. Then again, he is Swiss (French Swiss) so maybe not an authority on scotch.

    Harold Magee, food science writer, probably would agree with adding water to enhance flavor.


    (for some reason, I cannot see any photos or the buttons on this site. Just a string of ? marks.)

    • emptywheel says:

      Ah, see, that’s precisely the kind of stuff I need to know–and my copy of On Food and Cooking is at my OTHER house. Mr. EW (who is not joining me on this trip) has told me only that I can order Scotch with water and nothing else. I might order some ice, though, depending on the weather (as if W Highlands of Scotland are going to be warm enough for ice).

      • Petrocelli says:

        I’m making dinner while having a very nice Shiraz and watching Phred’s Cheeseheads …

        I agree that Scotch tastes best with a bit of Water, but having it with Ice should not cause anyone to glare at you and you’ll know just how much dilution you like the Scotch at. [Senator McMurnin will get that joke]

        In fact, I’d bet they’d be happy that you’re not adding Coke™ to it …

  9. pdaly says:

    Speaking of Sharktopus, I was going to mention that his tentacles kind of resemble a kilt when he’s jibbing and jabbing through the water. Kilt wearing shark–is he Scottish?

  10. bmaz says:

    Ruh roh, 3-0 KC Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss in the hospital for undisclosed condition. Doubt he is there for an elective tummy tuck in the middle of the season though.

  11. pdaly says:

    Since you’re on a train (and presumably not driving) I suggest a taste test: one with ice and the other water.

    The only problem with agreeing with Magee is that applying the principle to watered down coffee. How can that be better tasting?!

  12. Andersonblogs says:

    If you put milk in single-malt Scotch, I personally will fly to Scotland just to knock the glass from your hand. And then shoot the cow that gave the milk.

    No ice. Ice is for blended Scotches, unless you are paying too much for the blended Scotch (anything above Johnnie Black). A dash of spring water, if your first taste of the straight stuff is unpleasant. (Hint: the more you practice, the less you will need any dilution.)

    On the Sexist Scotch Continuum, the girlie Scotches are on the left, with flowerly, delicate palates. Macallan is the exemplar here. The 12-yr is good, but if the price is right, try some of the 18: magically smooth and warm.

    The macho Scotches are the peaty ones. Lagavulin is the best, as described above, very accurately described as the lapsang souchong of Scotches. Laphraoig is also a good, peaty Scotch.

    In the middle are the agreeable, in-between Scotches, exemplified by Highland Park, always a friendly, happy Scotch.

    Final advice: don’t drink anything with “Glen-” in its name unless it’s at least 15 years old. Tho I am partial to the Glenmorangies aged in the funny barrels (port, sherry & so on).

    • Petrocelli says:

      Completely agree with everything, except that Ice is made from H2O and brings the temp. of the Scotch just a bit, so that the flavor can be enjoyed on a different plain Train.

      I’m not for freezing Scotch, like some yuppies are doing …

    • skdadl says:

      If you put milk in single-malt Scotch, I personally will fly to Scotland just to knock the glass from your hand. And then shoot the cow that gave the milk.

      That’s pretty much what my husband (Edinburgh, vintage 1929) would have said. He would have said it about the ice and the water too. He taught me to drink single malts as if they were cognac, which of course they are, only better.

      I only have a wee dram three times a year — on St Andrew’s, Hogmanay, and Burn’s Night. I see why people love the stuff, but you can’t slurp it the way you can sauvignon blanc, eh?

    • MadDog says:

      If you put milk in single-malt Scotch, I personally will fly to Scotland just to knock the glass from your hand. And then shoot the cow that gave the milk…

      There are those who would challenge you to a duel (bagpipes at 15 paces) for your disbelief. *g*

    • mysterydub says:

      Mr. Andersonblogs, sir:
      and I will pay your way there and load your gun, too.

      yours in lactose (just say nay, laddie) intolerance,

    • emptywheel says:

      This is really helpful, too. Thanks.

      Okay, so we wino girls are actually macho Scotch drinkers (well, they are, I’ll let you know when I return). But I suspect I am too–I love Lapsong Suchong.

      And if I WERE to drink something with “Glen” in its name from a funky barrel, what should I look for? That sounds intriguing?

  13. pdaly says:

    (oops. I can’t fix that nonsentence above of mine at 31, because I cannot tell which edit button is which until my computer starts replacing the ?marks on the screen)

      • mysterydub says:

        OK, here’s a good rule of thumb:
        if the scotch is younger than beiber, don’t bother with it

        P.S. are you reading this, L.T.? are you?

      • cregan says:

        It seems amazing to me how quickly this “scotch” thread grew.

        Good luck on your trip. Not being a scotch drinker, I don’t have any great suggestions, but I did have some Macallan 21 year old fine oak that seemed pretty grand once.

        I do know you will like Scotland.

    • emptywheel says:

      Ut oh. My old Bush era juju is back. I go off the grid and what happens? The worst of the Admin resign.

      I’m gonna dedicate one of those girlie Scotches to Rahm’s departure, that’s for sure.

    • phred says:

      BREAKING — Rahm Emanuel Likely to Leave White House This Week

      Holy crow, things really were going better when I wasn’t paying attention!

      Gee, if we can get more departures like this, I’ll disappear for a couple of months ; )

      • Petrocelli says:

        Don’t go anywhere … the Packer’s Defence is underrated and Cutler is overrated.

        It’s going to be fun, seeing who has a breakout night.

  14. bmaz says:

    Hey, whatta ya know. Turns out that when they aren’t feasting on NFL bottom feeders like the Cowboys and Lions, the Bears are not quite the SuperBowl contenders some people were making them out to be.

  15. Peterr says:

    EW, think of the scotches like beer.

    If you like stouts and porters, go for the peaty, smokey scotches. If you’re more into pilsners and lagers, go for the Dalwhinnie and other lighter brands.

    Me, I *love* Lagavulin, and Talisker is great too. Another that hasn’t been mentioned yet is Oban.

    A nice little website for you to check out is The Whisky Guide. Here’s their intro page on Scottish distilleries by region. Lots of good descriptions of the variations on the local craft.

      • Peterr says:

        Talisker or Craggenmore would probably be a nice fit. Not as smoky as Lagavulin and its kin, and definitely more body than the lighter whiskys.

        But most of all, think of it like wine tasting. Describe to the server what you like/don’t like, and get their suggestions.

        And if you wanted to bring anything back (hint, hint), I’m sure there will be space in the EW liquor cabinet by the time you return.

        • Mauimom says:

          And if you wanted to bring anything back (hint, hint

          Are there problems bringing “bottles of liquid” onto planes, particularly within the US [like after you’ve cleared customs]?

          It would be a REAL shame to have to leave your “goods” with the TSA.

  16. phred says:

    I thought I’d put this one up so you can all offer your best advice

    Don’t. do. it. Put down the Scotch and back away before it is too late ; )

    I got in a major altercation with Jack Daniels 30 years ago and he won it hands down. Kinda lost my taste for Jack and all of his relatives, even the snooty distant ones that everyone tells me are sooo much better. Blech ; )

    Ok, off to read the thread and find out how pathetic my palette is…

  17. Becca says:

    It’s Islays for me, all the way. I especially love Laphroaig.

    But if you’re touring the Highlands, Emptywheel, the thing to try is something you truly cannot get so easily or cheaply here in America: Single Cask drams.

    In my closet, I have a case of what is probably from the Macallan distillery, from a cask numbered only “M11” (bottled by the Society of Single-Malt Scotch Connoisseurs). The label in an understated fashion says it is “fierce on the nose, but smooth.” No, Laddies and Lassies — it curls the nose hairs and makes your eyes cross and is the finest damned scotch I’ve ever had the pleasure to drink.

    What was a case of six bottles is now four, more ten years after I first purchased it, with one bottle each opened upon a significant celebratory event in my life.

    As for how to drink it? Straight up, or with a small splash of chilled spring water. If you’re adding ice, it might as well be Dewars or some blended crap.

    • emptywheel says:

      Ah! An expert. And in this day of ginned (ahem) up TATP threats, any idea who someone traveling with a hanging bag brings home Scotch? After all, I’m certain the likker cabinet will be empty when I get back.

      • Becca says:

        International shipping, my friend. Buy it in Scotland, mail it home. Or, if you’re going to be away a while, send it to a friend.

        A friend you can trust, that is. ;-)

        Failing that, whenever I’ve come home through Heathrow, I’ve always paid a visit to the duty-free stores and occasionally come away with real bargains.

        In any event, what I meant about single-cask dram sampling is if you’re visiting the actual distilleries, you can often get a chance to taste stuff there that they aren’t even bottling for retail sale.

  18. Peterr says:

    Putting milk in a single malt scotch is clearly a sin.

    There may be a place for milk and scotch to meet, but not if the scotch is a single malt.

  19. PJEvans says:

    Laphroaig was worth meeting – I’d consider buying a bottle, even at the local prices.
    And I have half an airline bottle of Glen Moray.

    (No, I don’t use ice. First sip is straight, then I’ll add water.)

  20. Peterr says:

    From the US Customs and Border Protection’s “Know Before You Go” [pdf] publication (see pdf pp 24-25):

    Alcoholic Beverages

    One liter (33.8 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages may be included in your exemption if:
    • You are 21 years old.
    • It is for your own use or as a gift.
    • It does not violate the laws of the state in which you arrive.

    Federal regulations allow you to bring back more than one liter of alcoholic beverage for personal use, but, as with extra tobacco, you will have to pay duty and Internal Revenue Service tax.

    While federal regulations do not specify a limit on the amount of alcohol you may bring back for personal use, unusual quantities are liable to raise suspicions that you are importing the alcohol for other purposes, such as for resale. CBP officers are authorized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to make on-the-spot determinations that an importation is for commercial purposes, and may require you to obtain a permit to import the alcohol before releasing it to you. If you intend to bring back a substantial quantity of alcohol for your personal use, you should contact the port through which you will be re-entering the country, and make prior arrangements for entering the alcohol into the United States.

    Also, you should be aware that state laws might limit the amount of alcohol you can bring in without a license. If you arrive in a state that has limitations on the amount of alcohol you may bring in without a license, that state law will be enforced by CBP, even though it may be more restrictive than federal regulations. We recommend that you check with the state government before you go abroad about their limitations on quantities allowed for personal importation and additional state taxes that might apply.

    Emphasis added so you see that it’s legal to bring it back FOR YOUR FRIENDS.

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, it’s not the volume I’m worried about. It’s that I’m traveling w/a hanging bag (if you have to pack for “dressing for dinner” but are on a train, you don’t have much choice), and you can no longer bring liquid–not even top quality scotch–on the plane.

      (And to make things worse, we fly from Edinburgh to LHR, w/a day layover, and then from Heathrow to the US.)

      • Becca says:

        In that case, shipping is probably your best bet. Don’t mail it to yourself, but someone you know and trust, and label it as a gift. If you send through DHL or some company like that, they’ll know the proper rules and regs, and what duties if any you need to pay.

      • rosalind says:

        have you been through the Edinburgh train station before? hopefully you get there first thing in the morning…quite the dramatic walk up to the street with the Castle on the hill. *sigh*

        too bad you’re missing Skye, one of my favorite places on earth. i’ve criss-crossed about every inch of England and Scotland on train (on the cheese sandwich and can of beer plan), and am very envious. can’t wait to hear details.

      • Peterr says:

        The lefty political folksinger John McCutcheon tells a story about being in a security line at (IIRC) Denver International, and he discovered that he was standing next to Michael Moore. The two struck up a conversation, and when they got to the front of the queue, John gestured to the security walkway and said “After you.” Moore laughed, and said “John, you REALLY don’t want to be in line behind ME at an airport security check.”

      • phred says:

        I hate those authoritarian tyrants. I hope she sues them to kingdom come.

        Edited to add: I hate those authoritarian tyrants and sex offenders. etc. There I feel better.

    • mysterydub says:

      Excuse me, i have to correct that last remark:
      punt returned for 6, closest thing to tackle made by punter.
      Welcome to Bears/Packers football.

      • Peterr says:

        When I was in seminary, the Bears and the Packers met on Monday night. In the neighboring building, two of my classmates had the two apartments on the top floor, with the stairwell and landing in between. One was from Wisconsin, and the other from Chicago. They threw a combined party, with cheers going up in one apartment at the same time boos and groans would emanate from the other. It was like walking between Lambeau Field and Soldier Field without having to put on your parka and boots.

        If you’re going to watch the Bears and Packers, you need a rowdy group or two of friends to watch with, so that you get the full experience.

        • phred says:

          Yep : ) Mom grew up in Chicago and worked at St. Luke’s Hospital (which had a bird’s eye view of Soldier Field), but settled in WI leading to a fracture in the family that remains to this day ; ) More fun than you can shake a stick at : ) Go Pack!

  21. skdadl says:

    Och, Oban. I’m not thinking the whisky; I’m thinking the town. I’ve never been there. I’ve been very close, just north, but never there. It may be that your train will take you there. If so, I want a good report.

    Do you know whether the train is going over the famous Glenfinnan viaduct (you’d be on your way to Mallaig, heading west from Fort William)? If so, I want a good report — I’ve seen the viaduct and Glenfinnan (utterly gorgeous), but I wasn’t on the train.

    It is the biggest little country in the world, and I love it so much. So much of it is empty now that used to be full of people, all gone to the diaspora, your country and mine and the antipodes.

  22. Minnesotachuck says:

    I drinksip my Scotch (usually single malt) “neat” (i.e. straight) and order water with no ice on the side. Here in the States the agua usually comes chilled which I like. If I, or whoever, is buying can write it off on an expense account (doesn’t happen much anymore) and it’s a really good brand of whiskey, I’ll order Evian instead of justtap water. Never been to Scotland so I don’t know how they drink it there.

    My favorite brand is Balvenie, but I have a mental block about the name. (It usually comes out Balvoline, like the motor oil. Sad, I know.) Other brands I like are Laphroag, McCallams and Glenfiddich. (Spellings may be problematic.) Finally, there’s Bowmore which comes from Islay and I’m told is quite reasonably priced. I was introduced to it by my nephew a couple of months ago as we gathered by my late brother’s bedside in his final hours.

    • Peterr says:

      So . . . how’s Thanksgiving dinner going to be, after a game like this?

      Or maybe I should ask about New Years, when the Bears visit Lambeau.

  23. orionATL says:

    skedadl @27

    has it right.

    enjoy the places; enjoy the spaces – scotland, apart from the cities, is all about space- sometimes desolate space.

    skye and talisker distillary are something to see;

    which brand to drink is a device; they all taste like water stored, then poured, out of a boot.

    any western coast anywhere will yield a sense of just how much fun living by the atlantic can be.

    the prehistoric compounds scattered about the kingdom have much to offer in the way of reflection,

    including real estate values.

  24. milton62 says:

    I like west coast highland single malts the best. Oban is pretty good but you can get that here in the US. My favorite is Ben Nevis but I have not found it in the US.

    We ordered the 25 year old single malt Ben Nevis in a restaurant in Pitlockry and the cook refused to serve it to us because we were not Scottish. The waiter was embarrassed and went home and got us some from his own private stock. It was fantastic.


  25. maxsdad says:

    Your threads do wander. As to what to drink and drop in on in Scotland, I assume that Edinburgh is the first stop. It is worth a stop at Cadenhead’s or Royal Mile stores to see the range of whisky and ask for the best places to visit. My recollection is that the Highlands are quite parochial, so while for us Islay or the Orkneys may be associated with the west highlands, there they are islands, not Highlands. So Talisker (from Skye), all the Islays (such as Laphroig) and Highland Park (Orkneys) are not local and may not be readily available and certainly can’t be seen without a ferry trip. So, the prime Highland regions are Speyside (where there are many distilleries such as Balvenie and Macallans) and others scattered around the Highlands. Of the others I would recommend Glenmorangie. It offers a great many whiskies that are finished in barrels in which others alcohol was distilled, such as port or sherry. This makes the whisky more accessible to someone just drinking whisky again. Enjoy.

  26. lefty665 says:

    If you can get to Islay (and EYE LA it is), I’d suggest you do it. We had a wonderful time there. The island and people delightful. The Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg distilleries, 150+ year old whitewashed brick, are lined up about a mile apart right on the shore. Laphroaig was the only one doing their own malting when we were there several years ago. The distilleries have limited runs that don’t often get beyond their shops. A double cask port finished Lagavulin distillers special run may be the best whisky I’ve ever had. Bruichladdich had casks in the shop so you could draw your own bottle. They also had the distinction of being pestered by our security folks after 911, and sold T-shirts labeled “WMD – Weapons of Mass Distillation”. If you take the “wee ferry” a couple of hundred yards across to Jura, it’s also worthwhile. Not much on the island but a one lane road, deer, the distillery and a hotel. Remote and wonderful. It’s where Orwell wrote 1984. A bottle of their “1984” comes out to mourn state secrets, execution without due process, FISA, and CHANGE=SAME. Winston would understand. Get the phenols up around 50-80ppm and the peat will set you free! Hints of macadam, overtones of creosote. Enjoy!

  27. klynn says:


    Have a great trip. You are taking your Mom on a trip I have been wanting to take my Mom on for years. Have fun! My Mom is second generation, hailed from Scotland.

    McKenzie, Todd, Rae…and a few other clans are in the family… If you make it through or near Forfar, wave, “Hello!”

    Have a great trip.

  28. Akatabi says:

    FYI, The Macallan has two lines of malts- Sherry Oak (aged in sherry casks) ans Fine Oak (aged in sherry and bourbon casks, hence a bit drier and less fruity). My preference is the Sherry Oak neat with a best bitter or pale ale on the side for alternate sips.

  29. eblair says:

    Lagavulin is my favorite.

    Dalwhinnie is a nice feminine scotch and maybe the best for a newbie.

    Anything blended is TOTALMADISONAVENUESHIT. Indeed, the scotch imposters in your pic above have put me in a bad mood!

    The older the scotch the smoother, the younger the scotch the more flavor. All serious scotches are between 10 and 25 years. Forget any wine aging analogy.

    Almost any single malt is pretty damned good. Laphroaig is the only one I would steer clear of in the beginning.

    Almost all scotches are similar in price. Very roughly between $50 and $85. Forget any wine pricing analogy.

    Birds of a Feather in Baltimore has more single malts than anywhere else on the East Coast. http://www.abs.net/~scotchjh/

  30. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Macallan is a very good light whisky; Islay for a smokey one. Make mine a double, no ice, drop of water. Ta.

  31. Mary says:

    As a Vodka girl, I’m not sure why anyone would want to put something that tastes like peat in their mouth.

    A coulple of decades plus back, when I had to do cocktail parties in heels, I always got a Scotch. I could nurse that sucker through 3 hours and still only be partway done with it. blech. I always thought it was invented for people like me who needed something that wouldn’t tempt them (like Vodka and wine) to chug back and kick off the shoes and … lose your job. ;) OTOH, my mom’s side of the family who are mostly teetotalers make exceptions for KY bourbon and Scotch, so I just missed out on getting the right genes I guess.

    Sample and enjoy and find a your scotchy blisspoint. If you end up shoeless, let us know.

    • eblair says:

      Bourbon isn’t scotch. It is made from corn. It is what the Scotch in N. America made when they didn’t have hops. Way way inferior. Just ask someone who has never had either to try both and rank them. They always chose scotch over bourbon.

    • lefty665 says:

      Give a single malt with a port or sherry finish a try, it’s not got much in common with most cocktail party scotch. Just a splash of water to open up the nose, let it sit for a bit, then small sips and savor. It may pleasantly surprise you. For me, the first nip is sometimes,”Why do I drink this?”, the second, “That’s not bad”, and the third “Oh my!”. Chugging is never an option, but shoes are;)

      The complexity is comparable to, and as varied as, with wines. The smoky, peaty Islays wind those tastes and aromas around all the others. Scotch aged on the shoreline picks up saltiness and shore tastes because the casks breathe over the years. Funny, each time I cross the Chesapeake Bay bridge to the Eastern Shore, the first whiff of salt marshes makes me think of Laphroaig and Lagavulin. Captivated my spouse with a bottle of Laphroaig on the Appalachian Trail. Did I mention overtones of sweat socks in addition to creosote?

      10 year Laphroaig is pretty aggressive, 15/18 much more civilized, and the 20+/- dangerously matured. Everything is still there, but amazingly integrated with no sharp edges. Many seem to roughly follow that time line.

      All the Lagavulins are delightful, and one of their wine finishes (port or sherry) would be a wonderful, but a little pricey, place to start. Hope you decide to give scotch another chance. There is life after highballs.

      • Mary says:

        You mean, when you say you were hiking the Appalachian trail, you actually were … hiking the Appalachian trail? And with a spouse to boot?

        How can I not follow your advice after that?

        [eblair – I meant that they will drink Scotch and they will drink bourbon but only if the bourbon is KY bourbon, sorry that didn’t come out right]

        Have fun EW. If you can resolve the Scotch wars, there’s hope for the Palestinian Peace Process after all.

        • lefty665 says:

          It was a day trip. I’m too out of shape to be earnest about it. But yes it was the AT, and she became my spouse about a year after the trailside Lagavulin. She’s a longtime runner so it may have been the overtones of sweat socks that sealed the deal. FWIW, she also was a long ago cocktail party scotch drinker for the same reasons you were;), and about as enthusiastic. Single malts turned her head.

          EW, Happy trails. Thanks for prompting my memory. You’ve made me want to go back to the ends of the world on Islay. Virginia now has a scotch distillery. Might be fun to make a trip here after you see the real deal in Scotland.

  32. brendanx says:

    I can’t believe I missed this thread.

    All those fancy-schmancy single malts are good — some lighter (like Macallan), some heavier and smokier. I think Lagavulin is the most memorable of the latter type — very smoky and almost oily in texture. Talisker was a good one kind of in between.

    There’s only one sure way to screw up with good scotch — never put ice in it! If you want to cut it, give it a splash of water.

    • eblair says:

      I don’t know about the ice. I drink it neat, but a lot of people like the fact that as the ice melts the flavor changes. Indeed, the most knowledgeable scotch drinker I have ever met likes it that way.

  33. Andersonblogs says:

    Re: EW at 48, Glenmorangie is available aged in port or sherry casks, an easy and sweet Scotch suitable for casual use. And I see above that a sherry-aged Macallan exists, though I fear it’s not for sale in my state.

    Re: 155, I generally prefer Scotch, but bourbon’s bite hits the spot some days. One can’t be a fundamentalist, except when someone is emptying a cow’s udder into one’s Lagavulin.

  34. emptywheel says:

    Checking in before I take off tomorrow. Thanks for all the great advice–this is precisely what I was hoping I’d get.

    I hope to make all you Scotch diehards proud!