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Whisky Whisky Everywhere

I am by no means an expert on single malt whisky*. I have never claimed to be an aficionado of scotch. However, over the past several years, I have become a huge fan.

What started from a tentative fancy has blossomed into a full appreciation of different single malt scotches based on the location of the distillery and the barrels in which it matures. Islay, Highland, Campbelton, Speyside, Lowland and Island whiskys all have their own distinct characteristics, from honey-sweetened to peat-smoke laden and all flavors in between. Some have fruity hints while others leech out the tannins from the wine that had been casked in the barrel prior to being sold to the distillery for whisky maturation.

People often ask me, “How can you drink that stuff?” As in all things, one should sample a wide variety. I can almost guarantee that you will find a distillery or region of scotch that suits your palate! The trick is to start slow and work with someone with at least a modicum of whisky knowledge who can point you down the path of your preferences.

Still my favorite!

I started on my journey with a scotch-tasting and a friend’s house. Along with a mutual third-party, we had purchased a sampler box of single malt and made an afternoon of it. We had some literature (since none of use had that requisite modicum of whisky knowledge) which gave us some ideas of what to expect with each sample. We tried them, one at a time, made our own notes of observation and then shared those with each other. It was quite interesting to see the differences in opinions! To this day, one of my friends is still a big fan of Islay (pronounced EYE-lah) scotches, which are usually are stronger in peat than I prefer.

Drinking quality single malt scotch is an acquired taste. It is also an expensive hobby. I often tell folks that I don’t have many vices, but the few that I do have aren’t cheap. Single malt scotch is one of those vices. I have a profile over at connosr.com which lists my current shelf of whisky, those expressions I’ve tried as well as a wish list. Not all of the ones I’ve sampled have been purchases — the advantage of having a friend who enjoys sharing a dram or two from his own shelf!

So what really brought me to write this post? Well, it’s this: after these past few years of sampling and enjoying many different single malt scotch whiskys, I still have much to learn. Like I said, I am no aficionado.

The lesson learned last night was not to follow a dram of Compass Box’s The Spice Tree with a cask strength Aberlour A’bundah (batch 38). When sampling multiple distillers, it is a good idea to cleanse your palate between them. I should have known better, but I was too excited to dive into a newly purchased bottle. The stark contrast between the ginger spice in the Compass Box expression and the stinging bite of the 60.3% A’bundah made my eyes water! Don’t get me wrong: both expressions are terrific, just not one right behind the other.

It has been a fun ride thus far, as I have virtually traveled all over Scotland by way of the various distilleries I have sampled. My favorite is still the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban (a Highland whisky), although I am finding some interesting scotches in the Speyside region. I will sometimes enjoy an Islay, but usually when I’m really in the mood for that peaty (smoky) flavor like having a dram around a campfire at night in the summer while looking at the stars and enjoying the pleasant company of friends.

I hope that someday, dear reader, that you can enjoy a dram or two with me as well.

*To be called a “whisky” (without an ‘e’), the scotch must be distilled in Scotland. If it is made anywhere else in the world, then it is not a whisky, but a whiskey.

© 2012, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.

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