Some Thoughts on Scotch

I started drinking Scotch for my health – really.  I used to drink beer in the evening, but I became diabetic. Scotch has fewer carbs = better for a diabetic. I have Scottish ancestry (Abernethy) though that is largely meaningless since my ancestors came to North America in the 1600s. Still, I retain two important characteristics of the Scotch: I like Scotch and I’m frugal.

Fortunately, I find Scotch blends often are better tasting than single malts. “Scotch Snobs” (and probably those with better palates than I) know that single malts are better than blends. But I like blends and I’m drinking because I want to, not because I have to (I’m retired – I don’t have to drink). Blends are much less expensive than single malts which warms my heart.

What I like and dislike in Scotch
Scotch should not taste sweet. If you want a sweeter taste, drink bourbon.
Scotch should have a smoky or peaty taste to it. When I want something which is not sweet without a peaty taste I drink Irish Whiskey like Jamison’s.
Scotch should not taste like you are sucking on a piece of burnt wood.
Scotch should go down smooth.

Sometimes I want a smokier/more peaty taste. Sometimes I don’t.
Because I sometimes want smoky, I need at least two brands of Scotch in the house.

If you disagree with the above criteria – then take the subsequent recommendations as an “anti-buy” list rather than a recommendation list.

I went on Scotch Quest for about two years. Lynn picked up mini-bottles and I tried many brands on cruises. I’m omitting the brands I drank in Scotland on a brief visit. They were wonderful, I can’t get them in the USA, and thinking about their absence makes me sad.

In sum, these are my taste preferences based on serious, methodical research. I have a Ph.D., so this is “science.” Seriously, this is what I like and dislike. What you like to drink is a matter of personal taste.


My Rejected Brands



Advantages:  Less expensive than Dewars; Not sweet; Smoky, but not too smoky

Disadvantage: Not smooth, not smooth at all.

I tried a Fifth of Scorsby and it was not smooth. It was barely drinkable. I finished the bottle instead of giving it to a relative who believes that any free liquor is better than any liquor he purchases with his own money. But I did think about gifting it – hard.



Advantages: Inexpensive; The name is pretty neat; Not sweet; Nice smoky taste

Disadvantages: Too Harsh

This was a Total Wine Manager recommendation in the blended Scotch area. I drank all of this and did not consider giving it to a relative – but it was harsher than I like. If you can tolerate something less smooth than Dewars, or if, God help you, you like a harsher taste – then try Shieldaig.

Highland Park

Highland Park

Advantages: Smooth

Disadvantage: No peaty taste at all.  It was a very smooth, tasteless whiskey.  If I want something like this I’ll drink Irish Whiskey like Jamison.



Advantages: Cheaper than Dewar’s; Not sweet; Plastic bottle (less likely to break).

Disadvantage: Not smooth enough

I will happily drink JW when it is offered to me. It is a little to harsh for home.  But I’ll happily drink your JW, thank you for it, and have a second while thanking you for being a fine fellow.

Johnny Walker Red


Advantages: As smoky a taste as I ever care for; Smooth; Not Sweet

Expensive compared to some other smoky scotches I prefer.

I kept a fifth of Johnny Walker Red in the liquor cabinet for a decade. Eventually I discovered I did not care for it as much as two other smoky Scotches with a similar price point. I like Johnny Walker Red, will happily drink it (especially if someone else is buying), but no longer buy for home consumption.


What I Like & Keep in the Liquor Cabinet

Dewars White Label


Advantages: Smooth; Lightly smokey/peaty taste; Not sweet
Disadvantages: None. Not expensive, smooth and good.

My everyday, go-to scotch. You can find it everywhere. It is not terribly expensive (you can get a handle for less than $40 including tax in Georgia).


caryle scotch

Advantages: Less expensive than Dewars; Not Sweet; Smooth

Disadvantages: Can be difficult to find in some States.  A little harsher than Dewars.

This was a manager’s recommendation at Total Wine in South Carolina.  It is very inexpensive, very good for the price, and I appreciate the recommendation.

Glenlivet 12 year old Single Malt

glenlivit 12

Advantages: Very smooth, very good. Some peaty taste, but not overwhelming. Disadvantage: More expensive than Dewar’s and Carlyle (my two main drinks). Very nice to have occasionally.

This was a present at my retirement party by Ed Lowenstein.  Thanks Ed!  It is wonderful!  If was a little less expensive I would drink it instead of Carlyle.  I always have this in the cabinet.

Grangestone 12 year single malt.

Grangestone 12 year

Advantage: Smooth; Distinct peaty taste.  Better value than Johnny Walker Red.

Disadvantage: Too peaty for my everyday scotch.  I I keep a bottle of this in the cabinet when I want a peaty scotch.

Battlehill Laphroaig – 10 year

Battlehill Laphroaig 10 year

Advantage: Smooth; Very peaty.

Disadvantage: This is as peaty as I care to drink.

This one is very peaty. This is as peaty as I can stand. It is good, but not something I drink every week or even every month. I keep a bottle in the liquor cabinet – but one lasts me about a year.

Be careful about the Battlehill label. Battlehill is a brand that is common to a number of exporting distillers in Scotland. The second word in the brand name is critical to understanding what you are buying. I did not care for some of the other Battlehill brands – but I do like Laphroaig.

Macallan 12 Year Double-Cask (blue box)

macallan 12 year double cask

Advantage: Extremely Smooth; Very Mild; Very little peaty flavor.

Disadvantage: Expensive; Not peaty enough for my taste.  The only Scotch Lynn drinks.

This scotch is distilled in two different casks – one a traditional oak and the other one that was used to age sherry. This has a different, but very smooth taste than most Scotch. This is a special occasion scotch that individuals who dislike the peaty taste will find to be an excellent drink.  One bottle will last us more than a year since Scotch is not Lynn’s preference.



My everyday Scotch is Dewar’s or Carlyle.

If I want something with more of a peaty taste – then it is Grangestone 12 year or if I want something really peaty – Battlehill Laphroaig.

My “special occasion” scotch is Glenlivet 12 year. I keep Macallan 12 year because Lynn likes it.

I buy Dewar’s and Carlyle by the handle. I buy the others by the bottle. I keep all six in my liquor cabinet.

I’m not going to make everyone cry (including me) about the Scotches I had in Scotland last Fall. You cannot get what I drank there imported into the USA. I want to take a Scotch trip (my wife can navigate) sometime before I die. She wants an Irish Whiskey trip – so we can probably trade off on who gets to drink the most.

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