The Art of Manliness Guide to Scotch Whisky

by schaefer on April 5, 2009 · 177 comments

in Food & Drink, Out on the Town, Travel & Leisure


“The proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture, a manifesto of man’s determination to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body and enjoy to the full the senses with which he has been endowed.” -David Daiches

No other spirit has been associated with manhood like Scotch whisky. Whether it’s the hooking punch in the mouth or just the raw and earthy process by which it is brought forth from barley and water, Scotch has held a prominent place in the lives of men from kings to authors to titans of industry. What separates scotch from its alcoholic counterparts is not just its unique background (to be labeled Scotch, a whisky must be distilled and initially matured in Scotland), but the commonalities shared by the men who partake in its liquid mysteries.

The man who drinks Scotch is one who lives life to the hilt, savoring new challenges and discoveries on a daily basis. He doesn’t settle and he doesn’t drink something just because it’s there. Few men drink Scotch to get drunk. First off, it’s too expensive, the cheapest bottles of single malt costing around $40. But secondly, and much more importantly, each bottle of scotch contains so much history, tradition, and attention to detail that the men who drink it are not just downing a beverage, but participating in a celebration of artisanship and the deep pleasures of life.

Becoming a Scotch drinker takes a little work and a bit of tongue maturity. The young man that saddles up for his first bout with the historic elixir is often taken back by its overt potency. But upon returning a second and third time, he slowly begins to get a sense of what makes Scotch so alluring and enjoyable. In developing a taste for Scotch, a man is embarking on a lifelong journey that will take him along the clear waters of the River Spey, the rugged Highlands, the Isle of Jura (which George Orwell described as “an extremely unget-at-able place”), and various other parts of Scotland where distillers like to say, “It’s as good as life used to be.”

Therefore, to truly appreciate a good Scotch, a man must have an understanding of its rich history and the process that transforms ordinary barley into an extraordinary drink.

With this idea in mind the Art of Manliness ventures into the world of scotch, not because we believe you must drink alcohol in order to be a man, but because if you choose to do so, it should be in the tradition of gentlemen, with a clear conscious and a full heart.


Originally known as “aqua vitae” or “water of life” for it’s healing properties, the first recorded reference to the substance is found in the Scottish Exchequer Rolls of 1494. The following, “Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae,” was the equivalent of several hundred bottles of whisky in today’s standards. This distilled beverage was used as a treatment for all kinds of ailments, with many of its users noticing the warm, calming sensation upon “treatment.”

Scotland’s King James IV was recorded as purchasing whisky from the local barber upon a visit to Dundee in 1506. That he purchased it from the barber would not have raised any eyebrows in that time period. “In 1505, the Guild of Surgeon Barbers in Edinburgh was granted a monopoly over the manufacture of aqua vitae – a fact that reflects the spirits perceived medicinal properties as well as the medicinal talents of the barbers.”

Royalty and the clergy were not the only ones to enjoy whisky, however. The farming community discovered new benefits of the distillation process near the end of the 16th century. Both barley and oats were staple crops of Scottish agriculture, but due to their cold, wet climate, the long-term storage of grain was nearly impossible.

“Maximizing the crop returns from this harsh Scottish soil and climate meant that some of the crop that could not be used immediately was turned into ale. Ale could be kept for longer than dry grain but not indefinitely so the farmers soon learned that turning the ale into alcohol was an even better solution.” -Loch Lomond Distillers

The growth of Scotch whisky distillation continued for the next several centuries, surviving taxes, cumbersome government regulation, and smuggling to become a commercial industry in the 1700s. In 1831, the Coffey (or Patent) still was produced, increasing whisky’s smoothness and drinkablity. This, in combination with the destruction of France’s wine and cognac industry at the hand (or claw) of the Phylloxera bug in 1880, helped ensure worldwide growth of the scotch industry.

Since that time, a lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same. Just as in any field, new techniques and practices have created a greater variety of products, but at the end of the day, distillers are still in the business of turning barley and water into a tasty concoction.

How Scotch Whisky is Made


The production process of scotch whisky is surprisingly simple. It involves malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation, and maturation.

1) Malting – the process of turning barley into malt, very similar to the early stages of making beer. Barley is soaked or “steeped” in water, drained, then spread out on the malting floor to germinate. During the germination process (generally 6 or 7 days), enzymes are released, which convert the starches into maltose, a sugar. At this point, the malted barley is dried using the smoke from an underground furnace called a “kiln.” The fire for the furnace is often stoked with peat which is why you’ll hear scotch drinkers refer to a “smoky peat” flavor in many whiskies.

2) Mashing – the dried malt is then ground into a course flour with the consistency of oatmeal, called “grist.” The grist is then mixed with hot water and pumped into a vessel called a “mash tun.” In the mash tun, the water and ground malt is thoroughly mixed and allowed to steep so that the sugars in the malt are released into liquid. This sugary liquid is called “wort.”

3) Fermentation — the wort is then drawn off and pumped into large wooden or steel vessels called “washbacks.” Once there, it is combined with yeast and allowed to ferment. The length of fermentation can be different depending on the environment, but it generally takes about two days. “The living yeast feeds on the sugars, producing alcohol and small quantities of other compounds known as congeners, which contribute to the flavor of the whisky,” according to The resulting liquid is anywhere from 5-8% alcohol by volume and is called “wash.”

4) Distillation — the wash is distilled twice (single malt in a pot still, grain whisky in a Coffey still). The first still is the wash still and is used to separate the water from the alcohol by boiling the wash, collecting the evaporated alcohol which condenses at the top and collecting it in a condenser. The resulting liquid is called “low wine” and is approximately 20% alcohol by volume.

The low wine is then sent through the second still, also called the “spirit still.” This process is slower and the climate must be very closely monitored. “The stillman discards the first part of the distillate, called ‘foreshots’ and the last part known as ‘feints,’ because these contain unpleasant higher alcohols. The center part of the distillation is preserved and this is the whisky we drink. This spirit is colorless and gets its color during maturing in oak barrels,” says expert Michael Moss.

5) Maturation — the unfinished Scotch is then placed in oak barrels, or casks, for the maturation process to begin. Throughout the maturation the whisky becomes much smoother, increases in flavor and begins to retain the golden color of the barrels inside which it rests. Traditionally second-hand sherry barrels were used to age whisky, but today bourbon barrels are also common. Some producers experiment with other varieties including port, beer, cognac, and even wine. Each barrel passes on a distinct flavor to its contents.

In order to be considered “Scotch” is must be aged in Scotland for at least three years. Though each whisky reaches its maturation at different ages, most are now aged anywhere from 8-20 years. Many feel that the longer a scotch is aged the smoother and more flavorful it becomes — old whiskies are also more rare and cost a quite a bit more. For example, a quick internet search brings up a bottle of 25-Year Highland Park Single Malt Scotch for $239.

Geography — The Scotch Regions and Their Distilleries


Just as in the wine world, where names like Napa Valley, Burgundy, or Rioja tell someone not just where a wine is made, but what to expect as far as variety and flavor, Scotch whisky has its own geographic intricacies.

“With the renewed appreciation of the variabilty of single malt brands there is new appreciation of the geographic guidestars that explain (in surprisingly intuitive ways) why a single malt like Talisker has a sharp saltiness in the flavor, why Speyside whiskies like Glenfiddich have a light, sweet characteristic, why a Campbeltown whisky like Springbank is different from a whisky of the peninsula to the north on the serrated coast, and why an open bottle of Islay whisky smells like your carpeting is on fire.” -Chris Cloud

  • Lowland - the whisky of this region is generally considered to be more mild, mellow, and delicate. The three distilleries in operation include: Glenkinchie, Bladnoch, and Auchentoshan.
  • Highland - the largest geographic region for Scotch includes well-known distilleries such as: Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Oban, Talisker, and Dalwhinnie.
  • Islay - known for heavier, more smoky Scotch varieties, it has eight distilleries, each with their own unique character including: Ardbeg, Bowmore, and Laphroaig to name a few.
  • Speyside - adjacent to the River Spey, the area with the largest number of distilleries to include: Glenfiddich, Aberlour, The Glenlivet, and The Macallan.
  • Campbeltown - the smallest of the whisky producing regions, once home to several distilleries, but now only home to three: Glengyle, Glen Scotia, and Springbank

For a nice map displaying all the various distilleries throughout Scotland see

Drinking Scotch Whisky


So, enough about all of the details on the where and the how — they don’t mean a whole lot unless you get to enjoy the final product. The drinking of Scotch whisky should be enjoyable, not intimidating. Everyone has their own opinions on how to drink Scotch, but the following are some general guidelines on the proper way to enjoy this storied spirit.

tulip-glassGlass — While there’s nothing wrong with using a standard tumbler, many scotch experts recommend using a tulip-shaped glass which allows the whisky to be swirled without spilling and, more importantly, concentrates the aromas at the neck of the glass. As I’ve discovered during my own searches, these glasses are sometimes a bit difficult to find. The following are some great options for those not wanting to waste time searching high and low: Here, here, and here.

Water - Some Scotch novices may sneer at the introduction of a small splash of water as not, “manning up,” but they would be both stupid and mistaken. While water is not a must, many Scotchmen will throw a little water in with their scotch to help enhance their ability to taste the individual flavors that can often be masked by the well-known “burn.”

Ice – Many like to add ice, but it is generally considered poor form, simply because it lowers the temperature of the whisky, which in turn can hide or dull the flavors and aroma. If you really want ice, no problem, but definitely try it without sometime — you may be pleasantly surprised.

Your First Bottle of Scotch


For many of us young men, buying our first bottle of Scotch can be a tough decision. The price is a bit higher than other spirits so we worry about choosing poorly. I have no doubt that there are as many opinions regarding a good “starter Scotch” as there are bottles of whisky (please leave your suggestions below), but for those wanting a recommendation, I would point them to my first, a bottle of Glenmorangie 10yr. And apparently the experts concur.

While Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet tend to be the most widely enjoyed, Glenmorangie is said to be the most popular among the Scottish themselves. Established in 1843, the Sixteen Men of Tain perfected this single malt Scotch whisky using their own Tarlogie Springs mineral water. Matured in bourbon oak casks, Glenmorangie is a light, sweet Scotch. Though I am still learning to “taste” Scotch, new flavors seem to come out each time, including — honey, almond, and some various citrusy flavors.

In the end it doesn’t matter so much which bottle you decide to buy, the key is trying all kinds of Scotch and expanding your pallet. Each new bottle should give you its own unique education. Don’t worry if your first try with Scotch isn’t love at first taste. As mentioned above, it’s a taste that must be developed. In my own experience, each subsequent tasting made the whole affair much more enjoyable.

Finally, many men get confused on the issue of whether it should be rendered “whisky” or “whiskey.” Here’s a clever poem from the Bard of Banff, Stanley Bruce, to help you remember how to spell the word and what to look for when shopping for an authentic bottle of Scotch.

Whisky or Whiskey

A Scotsman who spells
Whisky with a n ‘e’,
should be hand cuffed
and thrown head first in the Dee,

In the USA and Ireland,
it’s spelt with an ‘e’
but in Scotland
it’s real ‘Whisky’.

So if you see Whisky
and it has an ‘e’,
only take it,
if you get it for free!

For the name is not the same
and it never will be,
a dram is only a real dram,
from a bottle of ‘Scotch Whisky’.

So what did I miss? Which bottle is your favorite? When it comes to Scotch there are millions of opinions so let’s hear yours!


For info on other varieties of whiskey (that’s with an e) check out Primer’s Guide to Whiskey.

{ 175 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Garret November 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm

I to have started to delve into scotch, and bourbon with friends and family. My family has always loved themselves some whiskey on a cold night, and i have had a late start on trying new things, but while i was in LA some friends got me some bulliet bourbon as a gift and i am enjoying it, a little nip off the bottle here and there. But i decided i wanted to try scotch this weekend but i dont know what brand is good for a person just getting their first bottle of scotch a good friend said Johnny Walker black label i have a budget to keep and i cant go above 35-37

102 Heath November 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I’d suggest going in with a friend and following the advice above with a bottle of Glenmorangie 10yr. I would also suggest Laphroaig, Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet.

103 Tom November 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Glenmorangie 10yr is a great whisky to get started with Scotch. Do add a bit splash of water if it’s too strong, just a little bit will take the burn off and will give you a great way to discover the flavours!

I would stay away from the Islays such as Laphroaig as a start, they are very different in taste and for many an acquired taste..

104 Dan November 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Yes Laphroaig is an excellent whisky,my favourite actually, it may be too much if it is your first scotch. Aberlour or Alberfeldy are good for just starting out in scotch

105 Rick December 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Agree with the statements above regarding Islay whisky and beginners. I love them but it took some getting used to the uniqueness.

If you live in CA, Trader Joes is a great place to buy scotch, especially for beginners not looking to spend too much. Costco is another place with great prices, holidays being better than normal.

106 Andy December 7, 2012 at 5:56 pm

I would definitely recommend Glenmorangie as a first bottle. It was recommended to me, I tried it, I loved it. I have been trying to expand my pallet, but I always keep coming back to Glenmorangie.

107 mr zer December 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm

there are only three kinds of scotch…
kinds i like
kinds i don’t
and kinds i won’t buy again
and to date, i’ve not found one in the latter…

108 Hector December 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I’ve Ben drinking whisky for while, and one of my favorite bands, millencolin made a song about bowmore 12 years, so I decided to give it a try and when I opened the bottle it was a whole different level, I tried it and it was instant love. I can’t get enough of it I drank half the bottle of bowmore and I didn’t wanna finish it because I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough for tomorrow. It’s change my whole perspective on alcohols and what I knew I just can’t wait to get a different bottle of scotch.

109 Hector December 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I just have to add that as soon as I tasted it it felt like I was taking in Jameson and beef jerky at the same time. I can’t get enough this smokey taste

110 Mike December 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm

With the malts I would agree, as stated above, Glenmorangie is a good place to start. Another malt worth considering is Old Pulteney, very smooth for those new to malts. Interestingly it was Laphroaig (one of the peatiest whiskys) that got me into malts. As prices of malt have went up (and my wages have stayed the same) I do drink blends from time to time. A lot of them are not that good. Johnny Walker Black Label is good however, although still a little pricey. I tried a blend (from Glenmorangie) called Baillie Nicol Jarvie and it cost me only £13. One of the nicest blends I have tried, especially for the price.

111 Bruce December 28, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Good advice for the beginner. While I agree with other comments about the scotch of Islay, may I offer a suggestion: try scotch from the Isle of Jura, I am drinking some now and it has a very sweet yet not overpowering smoking taste as does Islay scotch–highly recommended (got it for Xmas!!) and will buy it again for sure!

112 Spencer December 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I got turned on to scotch this past Christmas and my first bottle was the Glenlivet 12. I must say it opened my eyes to a new world. Amazing for a first time. I’m looking forward to a bottle of Glenmorangie next. Also tempted to try The Dalmore 12.

113 scott December 31, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I recently bought a bottle of Jonny walker blue nice flavor but no comparison to my favorites laphroaig and glenfidich also jonny walker makes a double black that is a good starter as well as an everyday drink

114 Chris January 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm

My first Scotch was a bottle of The Glenlivet 12yr., and after the first dram I was hooked! Now as my palate has grown, I find myself drawn to the whisky of Islay, my favorites being Laphroaig 10yr. and of course the Lagavulin 16yr. On an early spring morning, fly fishing here in NH, there is nothing like standing in the river, partaking in a few swigs of Laphroaig from a flask!

115 Joshua January 31, 2013 at 3:44 am

I recently turned 21 over the winter. A good buddy of mine started me out on Johhnie Walker Red. I have since moved on to green and black being my preferred scotch.

116 Ross January 31, 2013 at 10:04 pm

My first bottle was a Glenfiddich 12, and I thought it was ok. I went on to try a glenmorangie, which seemed quite flavorless in comparison, and realized how much I actually liked the Glenfiddich I started with. I love the peaty taste that many Islay scotches offer, but I would definitely start with the Glenfiddich.

117 Jody February 4, 2013 at 10:36 pm

My first bottle of scotch was Glenfiddich 15, my second, Glenfiddich 18, my third Glenlivet 21 Archive edition. And now I have a bottle of Glenfarclas 1974. As you can probably tell, I go for the sweeter whisky, and the ‘Farclas 1974 is the sweetest I’ve tried–and my favorite so far, hands down.

118 Alex February 18, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I was lucky enough to have a grandfather who loved scotch so I was exposed to a lot of different types at a young age. I am a big fan of glenmorangie and agree it’s a good starter. Glennlivet 12 yr is easy to find and pretty tasty, I’m ok with the 15 but its very oaky and most prefer 12 or 18 more than 15. I bought a bottle of the balvenie 14 yr carribean cask and it is very reasonably priced and delicious, one of my favorites, I have tried all the balvenie I have found up to 30 yr and it is all great though the peated cask is a little different than i prefer, I’m not normally a big fan of peaty scotch. Some might hate me though because I like whiskey as well, Jameson is a great whiskey and they make middleton which is pricey but great. Try them both!

119 Kiltmon February 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Don’t be a girly man, march up to the bar, ask for Ardbegh, neat, with just an angel’s tear of (good) water. Don’t snort it. When you are finished enjoying your drink, you may say to yourself “Today, I am a man.” If you screw up, your a pussy. Take off the kilt, put on your little boy pants, and go back to drinking Bud Light. Jackwagon.

120 Chris March 8, 2013 at 4:39 am

I’m Scottish and my first whisky was Talisker. A delightful complex whisky with smokey overtones, lingering honey and a subtle banana aftertaste which evaporates on the tongue. A very calm, pleasurable drink which leaves you savoring and enjoying every drop. Go a long hill walk then sit in front of the fire with a big plate of mince n tatties and a single dram can be enjoyed for over an hour.

To my American cousins, I’d be inclined to avoid Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal. These seem to be whiskies made for abroad and not the real McCoy, nobody drinks them here and you can’t really buy them either.

Use this taste map to find one you’d like

121 Tyler March 8, 2013 at 9:32 am

Whisky stones are a good way to cool a scotch without watering it down. I prefer mine neat at room temp but I know others like it cooled.

122 Ryan March 10, 2013 at 10:38 am

Just started drinking scotch myself. First bottle was glenlivit 12. I prepared for the typical burn of hard alcohol and it never came. A far cry from the fumes I exhale after taking a sip of Knob Creek Bourbon. I liked it so much I bought a bottle of Glenffiditch. The local liquor store has a chart with light versus heavier whisky and it showed Glenffiditch slightly richer than the glenlivit. They both tasted very smooth to me as you can easily drink it straight without water. I know my next bottle will be Glenmorangie, followed by a jump to one of the peaty varieties.

123 Andrew March 12, 2013 at 3:40 am

Excellent beginner (and delicious) single malts IMO are: Old Pulteney 12 (Highlands); Balvenie Doublewood and the light but rich Singleton of Glendullan (both Speysiders); Caol Ila 12 and the more intense Laphroiag 10 (both Islay); and for the Island malts, I’d suggest Highland Park 12 (Orkney – great all-rounder), or for something totally new & fresh, try the new version of Tobermory 10 (Isle of Mull), bottled at 46% – very fresh and unique. Happy tasting!

124 Roger March 24, 2013 at 2:41 am

An interesting article, and I enjoy the comments. About six yeas ago a close friend had me try 16-yo Lagavulin. It was an amazing revelation, making me wonder, “Where I have I been all these years?!” I have now tasted aprrox. 200 single malts (every one mentioned in the comments, I believe), and have found interesting scotch sites on the internet, which are worth the search. It’s become a hobby. I have found only about 2 or 3 scotches that are inferior enough to require ice to get them to go down. However, yes, some good ones can be enhanced with a few drops of water – no ice!

125 Roger March 25, 2013 at 1:03 am

A few years ago a friend offered me a taste of 16-yo Lagavulin. That’s all it took! I thought, “Where have I been all these years?!” The drinking and studying of all the various scotches has been a hobby for me. Incidentally, Lagavulin is the one which grabbed quite a few people that I know of. A trip to Islay last summer was one of the highlights of my life!

126 jeff March 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm

First scotch – for anyone trying their first scotch, I highly recommend the balvenie 12 year. It’s my personal favorite.

127 ryan March 28, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I was wondering if the author, or commentators could do an article on blended scotch. I love single malts, but wouldn’t mind reading up on blends.

128 Rob April 23, 2013 at 3:51 pm

It’s all about the Laphroaig 18 year old. Double casked, once in Oak, then in Cherry. A distinctly fruity (yet still mature and smokey) flavour. Delectable.

129 JD April 26, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I have come to enjoy a wide range of Scotch whisky, but it’s the Balvenie 12 year old double wood that turned me into a single malt man. It’s very difficult to beat it in terms of bang for the buck, as a bottle costs me about 50 bucks. I do often have other Scotch at hand, but I always keep some double wood out and ready.

130 Steve May 30, 2013 at 10:44 am

I’ve been into single malts for a few years now, and I have figured out what I like. I don’t like overly peaty, or smokey scotches. I prefer smoother options. Some of my favorites are Highland Park, Balvenie, Aberlour, and Dalmore. Also, not to be missed are some single malt whiskies from Japan. Yamazaki is a great single malt, as well as Yoichi.

131 Garret June 11, 2013 at 6:36 pm

My first bottle of scotch was a macallan directors edition. I orginally had a hard time drinking it but now that i have delved into bourbons it has a place on my list of drinks.

132 Andy F. June 11, 2013 at 9:38 pm

I had a taster of Caledonia, but my first real bottle was Bruichladdich 10 yr. I am still experimenting, as I am only on my second bottle, which is The Macallan, cask strength. Takes a little water to make that one just right. I will get the Bruichladdich again. Like The Macallan, but at $100+, probably won’t go there again. Looking forward to trying the Balvenie double wood and the Highland Park 18 yr. May try the 16 yr Laguvulin, after having read all this.

133 Chad June 13, 2013 at 2:04 pm

My first single malt was a couple years ago (Macallan 12) and I was hooked. To date I have over 20 bottles in my “collection” and splurge whenever possible. For first timers I would suggest a Highland Park 12 or a Aberlour A’Bunadh…just remember to add a bit of water to this one. Though my favorites are Talisker 10, Lagavulin 16, and Laphroaig 10/cask strength.

134 Scott July 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I have been drinking various whiskies since I came of drinking age. In fact, Chivas Regal 12yo was my very first drink. It is strong and smokey with a bite and remains one of my very favorites when looking to just kick back with a whisky. However, like Johnny Walker, it does not seem to be very popular with the actual Scotch people and is, in fact, a blended whisky. While I enjoy blended as well as single malt, I would not recommend this whisky as a beginner’s drink. The author of this article has good advice, start with Glenmorangie. If you’re looking for a real experience, try to find a sampler set. Glenfiddich sells a great sampler bottle set of 250ml bottles in 12yo, 15yo, and 18yo whiskies. Do not go for cheap as a starter either. Depending on where you live in the US, stick with a bottle in budget, but push toward the top of your budget. I usually look for a bottle between $30 and $50. Most of all, enjoy, don’t think too hard about it, and relax.

135 Rebecca Flegler July 22, 2013 at 11:10 pm

My fiancé and I would like to get a bottle of scotch from the same year as our wedding (2014) and let it age until our 50th anniversary and share it with family and friends. Will do you know if it will even be possible to find one from the same year? Will it age well in the bottle or does it need to age in barrels? Any advice?

136 Paul July 30, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Rebecca…sorry to tell you that bottle aging is not an option. Hopefully on your 50th anniversary you can buy a bottle from 2014 that was aged in barrel. Good luck.

137 Elliott P. July 31, 2013 at 10:43 am

If you don’t want to spring for a whole bottle or want to try multiple whiskys and don’t have a good bar nearby, sells samples and will ship to the U.S.

138 Brent Lee August 11, 2013 at 5:38 pm

As a working man its sometimes hard to get my hands on a bottle of GOOD single malt, but I’ve found Johnnie Walker Black Label to be the best substitute. Smooth, strong, with just the slightest hint of sweet…

139 Dimitris Skipis September 10, 2013 at 8:04 am

Hopefully, we will see a post on whisky flasks some day…

140 kat September 10, 2013 at 10:25 am

I am definitely not a man, but I find the website fascinating. I just bought my first whisky yesterday, Glenmorangie 10-yr, and drank it neat (a first). Wonderful! Amazing aroma, beautiful taste. Look forward to trying more.

141 Chris September 19, 2013 at 6:38 am

I have been a cognac drinker for just shy of 2 years now, and have been looking to delve into the world of Scotch. This was a great little introduction, and I can’t wait to go get my first bottle. For the record, any scotch drinker looking for a merge over to cognac, I would suggest Remy Martin 1732. Nice smokey flavor, and said to give off scotch notes.

142 Sean October 1, 2013 at 10:04 am

I was spoiled on my first bottle of whisky – Oban 12yr. I have since tried several others and am always interested in trying a new bottle but I am always sure to keep a bottle of Oban on hand.

143 Alex October 1, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I see in the initial comment that a friend suggested JW Black Label. I don’t know about anyone else but Jonnie Walker is actually one of my favorites. Black Label being my second. If it’s an issue with price you can always try Jonnie Walker Red Label which is usually priced around $30. But remember, JW is a blended Scotch Whisky not a single malt.

144 Ethan October 7, 2013 at 1:08 am

My first taste of scotch was a bit unfortunate; I had a glass of the Macallan 25 neat and it was one of the tastiest alcohols I have ever had the problem being the price tag on a glass let alone a bottle. For my first bottle purchase I decided to change gears and I bought the Balvenie 17 peated cask and was delightfully surprised. The smoky undertones were phenomenal and I think I will be purchasing more peatty scotch in the future.

145 jez October 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I’ve been drinking whiskey for 18 years, and running bars/clubs for 14 years. I consider myself a scotch man and my advise to anyone new: try as many as possible and make up your own mind….

146 david smith November 1, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Laphroig 10, glenfidditch 21, lochnar 42, the balvenie 17 double cask are some of my favorite. Good starter is ardbeg 10.

147 Quinn Read November 11, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Just stumbled upon this post. I’m traveling to Scotland and Ireland next summer where I plan to visit some of the great distilleries. I’m making it my mission to learn about and sample a wide variety of Scotch whiskies. My first foray into whisky drinking was somewhat inauspicious. But I’m quickly gaining an appreciation for it. I’ve spent several lovely evenings at a local pub sipping a dram, accompanied by Michael Jackson’s Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch.

148 Lexo November 16, 2013 at 5:03 pm

If you are beginner, don’t break your wallet. It takes some time to learn to differentiate good from bad. When I started drinking scotch, I thought Dewar’s was delicious. Now I can’t even look at the stuff. I have developed a good taste for scotch and love going to a good whiskey bar (The Blind Donkey in Pasadena is a perfect spot to explore all whiskeys), but it has taken time.

If you are starting out, buy the cheap stuff. Grant’s Family Reserve, Teacher’s High;and Cream, The Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, and White Horse are all budget blend’s that showcase different regional flavor profiles and help you learn to taste the wonderful range of tastes in the world of scotch. From there move up to the reasonably priced single malts and enjoy your ability to taste the difference between these and the cheap stuff you’ve been drinking. Work your way up from there. The worst thing you could do would be to blow 40 dollars on something you don’t yet know how to appreciate. After you develop your taste you will still find that every once in a while you like to gulp down some of the lower tier scotch, if for anything, to remind how splended something like Bowmore 15, or JW Green Label truly is.

149 Eric November 25, 2013 at 12:53 am

I have been drinking Scotch for almost 12-13 years now and somehow prefer the Single Malts over the Blended ones. Not that the Blended one’s arent great. Have tried Blue Label which was awesome. my personal favourites are Macallan & Laphroig though. Macallan is a pricey bottle and may not be the best to start with and one would need to develop taste of Scotch to appreciate Laphroig. So I guess anything from the Glens in Single malts and Black Label or Chivas Regal is good to start with.

150 Marilyn December 10, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Is there a Hennessey Scotch?

151 thomas December 18, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Suggestion for a “first” single malt scotch:
Dalwhinnie. It’s not inexpensive, but it is, indeed, easier on the palate than those Islay peats.

152 Gene December 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

As a life-long Scotch drinker (Glenfiddich filed pacifier was my father’s teething remedy), I introduce people to the wonderful world of single malts through Macallan and Oban (both at 12 year). My current go to is Caol Ila and the always tasty Laphroaig.

153 Matt December 27, 2013 at 5:23 pm

I have to agree with many of the above that starting with Glenmorangie 10yr is the very best place to start, this can be explained by “Things can only get better after trying Glenmorangie” . I have been a scotch drinking for many years now (about 18). If you want a good place to start try Glenfiddich, a very light and palatable scotch. If you don’t want to pay single malt prices try J&B, almost as good.
My latest accusation is a bottle of Monkey Shoulder, a very nice and smooth bottle…….

154 Mark Rowley Taverner Kregel January 25, 2014 at 3:09 pm

If you love the peat, as I do, go out and get any bottle of Laphroaig. The stuff has more peat than a decaying Brontosaurus!

155 Thomas January 29, 2014 at 9:27 am

IN years past I had only tried the cheare of the cheap scotches and the taste just wanst for me. This pasy Christmas I got a bottle of Glenlivet 12yo for a present. My journey to drinking scotch had finally started in ernest! I have since tried the Gelnlivet 15 and 18 year old and the Glenfiddich 12yo and enjoyed all in their differances and flavors. I am continuining my ‘education’ into scoth and expanding my palate as time and coin permits.

156 Jordan January 29, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Personally, I drink The Glenlivet. That being said, there are several that I drink when at a bar. But for the money, Glenlivet is my favorite to keep on hand.

157 Rob January 31, 2014 at 9:47 am

The first sign of a novice with Scotch, and the first clear fault with this website, is when THEY try to tell YOU how YOU should enjoy YOUR Scotch…if you like ice, then add ice, if you like it neat, then drink it neat, if you like water, then add water…but never let someone else tell you how you should do it.

158 Lisa February 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Having given my manli-man Glenmorangie (10 yr) a few years ago (we were very pleased), I’m looking to up the quality. Is Glenmorangie (18) really worth it? Really? We just like to drink it neat in winter, so times running out.

159 sadiq February 19, 2014 at 3:32 am

very good selection with glenmorangie as a first choice. tasty and light. lagavulin 16 is what got me hooked, but i enjoy heavy flavors in general.

160 nikpond March 6, 2014 at 7:16 am

Thanx for the site . Got much informations.
Me I startded with Aberlour and went on to Glenmorangie 10 years. I tasted them both at the same time as they are recommended as the ones for the beginners. I also felt, that Aberlour is more the honey tasting and a bit more characteristic compared to Glenmorangie. It s rounder in the aftertaste. That made me switching back to Aberlour. Both cost more or less the same. Also the coulour of Aberlour is more golden which gives me the first choice of those two. Now I opened a bottle of Ardbeg ( My fingers still smell peay and sulky.
That s a real enjoying one .
For me these whiskies have to be enjoyed with care. Those are the real ones , but not suiting for an easy weekender. So thus I switch back to Aberlour and honey tastyco still better than blended whiskies, which I can enjoy among other drinks while enjoying my weekend.
Complex whiskies don t belong to a nite out drinking. They are too valuable.

161 ryan March 7, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Any suggestion for someone who loves most Canadian rye but is not a big fan of Jack as I would love to get into the scotch. As I am getting to the end of the Canadian rye list? Thanks.

162 Wayne April 5, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Drink it however you like. I tend to prefer mine neat unless it has a big alcohol burn to it, then a dash of water. The MacAllan is one of my favorites, along with Highland Park.

163 Craig April 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm

I tried Laphroaig at a ‘Dinner with the Friars’ event at the church I attend. I had never had as much as a drop of Scotch.
I was schooled on Scotch that night by our Friars. Laphroaig is strangely alluring. The reviews on it are quite funny, “it smells like a hospital, it tastes like you’d think one would, totally irresistible.” I tried a few others that night like Lagavulin, but nothing is quite as memorable as the peat smoke and medicinal shock of the Islay’s finest. Check out the site too, I’m in love. I’ll be walking to my kitchen to get some in mere moments.

164 Steven April 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Since this article was originally written, the Scotch Whisky Regulation Act of 2009 was passed by the House Of Parliament of the UK and the new regulations have changed the make up of the Speyside region and The Macallan is now considered to be a Highland whisky and has to be labeled as such. The law is a major change to the Scotch whisky industry as the new law controls more aspects of the industry, as the law it superseded only dealt with the way it was produced.

165 Jesse Alcorta April 5, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I agree if you like a bit of muscle in your whisky, go with a Talisker. If you want to skip the heavy peats, try a Balblair. Oban is a nice choice as well.
Skip Laphroaig…unless your dislike your taste buds.

166 Julien April 5, 2014 at 10:56 pm

My first sip was a Talisker 10. Boy was it strong and «harsh» at first. And even though I didn’t like it at that time. I could realize and recognize the depth into the drink. Years have past, and today I always have a bottle of Talisker 10 at home, always. Since I felt in love with the smokiness and peaty side of scotch, I always recommend that kind of scotch for a first. Lagavulin 12 or 16 are the all time great.

167 David April 5, 2014 at 11:44 pm

My preferred “Gentleman’s Drink” has been Gentleman’s Jack, Jack Daniels (of course). I have tried Scotch only a couple times, years ago, and swore the stuff off. My pallet has matured a great deal -I smoke fine dark cigars, drink strong red wine, and enjoy the stout and porter beers (anybody see a trend here?). My question is -when I try to savor Scotch again, is it basically the same drink as a Tennessee whiskey? Is the only real difference between the two simply geographical? I get that there are different tastes as to region and bottler, but is that really all there is to it? I may have psyched myself out back in the day with a more maturely palatable Scotch than I was ready for, or by a bottle from a personally undesirable region. I don’t want to ruin yet another experience and will follow your recommendations here, but I need to settle this mind battle first.

168 Josh Minton April 6, 2014 at 1:43 am

I first tried Glenfiddich 12 year (?) and Glenlivet 8 (?) while I was deployed in the Middle East in 2011. Each shot (that is all we were allowed to have) was 12 dollars a pop! Although it was good, it was a bit to sweet tasting for me. I prefer Jamison and as a Tennessee man I do like my Jack Daniel’s. Not that I don’t enjoy Scotch, I just prefer other whisky/whiskeys. My favorite though was the single pot still Midleton whiskey I bought in Ireland that was their brewmaster Barry Crockett’s last batch that cost me around 350 dollars at the time. Most expensive and the best tasting whiskey I’ve ever had.

169 theGabbro April 6, 2014 at 2:36 am

A helpful article and a good introduction to those who haven’t yet been captured by the magic of single malt whiskys. A particular favourite of mine is Talisker (incidentally and Island scotch, not Highland – it’s from the only distillery on the Isle of Skye) and the double-matrued is even better. Talisker has a number of the peaty / fiery characteristics of the Islay Malts (e.i. Caol Islay or Laphroaig) but in a more rounded palate, much recommended.

170 Mike April 6, 2014 at 1:09 pm

I am a sucker for The Glenlivet 15. I actually would have a first timer try a blended scotch like JW Black. This way they can appreciate the craftsmanship of a Single Malt.

171 Jim Dillman April 7, 2014 at 4:19 am

Somewhere around the time this article was first posted Ralf “Ralfy” Mitchell started posting Scotch whisky reviews on YouTube. Yesterday he posted review #445. Ralfy is unquestionably the foremost expert on Scotch on the internet. He knows a thing or two about other spirits as well. If you want to learn everything from how Scotch is made to the proper way to drink it to how to buy it, visit his website or go subscribe to his YouTube channel. Be sure to look for his master class on Scotch.

Ralfy is (or was, at least) a Scottish undertaker who now resides on the Isle of Man. He has no ties to the whisky industry and doesn’t accept money or sponsorship from them, so you can rely on his judgment. Not only that, he is quite the character and you’ll enjoy watching his whisky reviews even if you’re not a Scotch drinker.

172 Steve L April 7, 2014 at 1:33 pm

I haven’t read all the comments yet, so I’m not sure if anyone has beaten me to the punch; but here is an indispensable link, a guide to the correct pronunciation of the various Scotches:

173 Chris April 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Glenlivet 12 year is my “standard” drinking scotch, with an 18 year reserved for professional milestones and a 21 year reserved for major personal milestones.

I also buy the occasional bottle of Glenfiddich, and I’m looking forward to opening a bottle of 30-year at the end of this month to celebrate taking a vacation with a friend I’ve known for almost 30 years, as well as both of us turning 30.

174 phil April 17, 2014 at 3:02 am

So far my favorite is the Glenlivet 18, absolutely wonderful.

175 Jaime April 18, 2014 at 3:38 am

My first Scotch whisky was Balvenie 21. Love at first sip.

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