Scotch whisky is produced in over 130 distilleries and comes in a wide variety of flavours, types and price points. It can be overwhelming to be surrounded by similar-looking bottles, only to find that they are very different from each other, particularly in how they taste. The flavour will be dependent on a variety of factors such as whether the scotch is peated or non-peated; the type of barrel used during the distilling process, whether that be a plain oak cask, sherry cask, bourbon cask, etc.; or whether the Scotch is a malt, blend or single grain.
I have congregated my list of suggestions and recommendations based on my own research acquired from visiting a number of Islay, Highland and Speyside distilleries, as well as from trying a variety of assorted whiskies.
I recommend starting with a less expensive malt or blend but at the same time not the cheapest one on the liquor store shelf. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Also, I suggest starting with a non-peated Scotch, as the flavour will be less intense and less smoky.
Not all varieties are available all the time. Some whiskies, especially those from smaller distilleries or special batches, are only available outside of Scotland in limited quantities a few times each year. Therefore, to avoid disappointment when starting off, it may be best to try those whiskies that are more consistently available.
Based on all these criteria, here are my suggestions of whiskies to try when first exploring the world of Scotch:
- The Glenlivet 14 Year Old Single Malt ($80 CDN)
- Bruichladdich (pronounced “Brook law dee”) The Classic Laddie Scottish Barley ($86 CDN)
- Glenmorangie Original Highland Single Malt ($73 CDN)
- The Glenlivet 12 Year Old Single Malt ($70 CDN)
- Tomatin 12 Year Old Single Malt ($70 CDN)
- Glenfiddich (pronounced Glen fiddick) 12 Year Old Single Malt ($70 CDN)
- Chivas Regal 12 Year Old blend ($83 CDN)
- Johnny Walker Black Label blend ($70 CDN)
As with wine, to enjoy the optimum tasting experience, the whisky should be served in the correct glass. If drinking your whisky neat or with a splash of water, a tulip-shaped whisky glass is ideal. If you elect to enjoy your whisky with ice, then a rocks glass is optimal.
Have fun exploring the whiskies of Scotland!