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.
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).
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
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.
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
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)
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.