On Sat, Jun 7, 2008 at 7:03 PM, Bob Hazen wrote:
Ok, ok, you asked for it :)
I started out with highland malts and loved the honey and citrus notes
of say, a dalwhinnie which is almost delicate in nature. Eventually I
started drinking heavier malts like the Macallan (18YO Mac is
currently my "house scotch", at least until this bottle is emptied).
I never really could get into the Islay or Speyside malts, finding
them way too heavy handed.
That slowly started changing, though, and my tastes slowly started
leaning towards the heavier, smokier, saltier malts as I got older. I
picked up a vertical taster (10/15/25 YO) of glenrothes, which is one
of the lighter speyside malts and that, coupled with my studying to
become a certified beer judge allowed me to pick out a lot of the
complexities underneath that I used to miss. That, of course, is a
slippery slope and that lead me to sampling Laphraoig (which I
originally hated but now adore), cask strength Laphraoig (even better)
and my current favorite Lagavulin.
These share the heavy smoky peat, leather and iodine and seaweed
flavor that makes islay malts so intensely delicious. I also like the
other Islay malts, such as Bowmore and Bunnahabhain, but they're quite
a bit lighter.
My non-Islay malts that are my favorites tend towards the opposite end
of the spectrum, such as the Macallan (I find the 12 year old a bit
too brash still and prefer the deeper caramel tones of the 18) and the
really light malts such as dalwhinnie which almost dances across your
tongue, leaving little honey and floral footprints on the way. I go
back occasionally and try the glenrothes again which was a gateway
malt for me and honestly I find it too cloying now. It's got the
sweetness of a dalwhinnie with the body of a Macallan and it's just
not a good mix. I find it about as delicate and restrained as my
dalmatian on a sugar rush and not nearly as entertaining.
So, for those keeping score, my absolute favorite malt is Lagavulin.
My normal every day drinking is the 18 Macallan, but I have been known
to toss back the occasional Ardbeg, dalwhinnie, Highland Park,
Bunnahabhain, etc and find something about each and every one to pull
out and enjoy. I truly love Laphraoig as well, but I find that I
prefer the complexities of the Lagavulin a little more... they are
both very much "in your face" mugger sort of malts, but at least the
Lagavulin says "please" and "thank you" during the process :)
Funny story... was out at a high end restaurant with my wife and after
dinner stepped over to the bar to pick out a malt for dessert. The
lady behind the bar was a singlemalt lover and offered to pour me
samplers of everything they had, so her and I (well, she poured and I
drank) a finger of most of the malts she had on the shelf up and down
the isles. Afterwards, I settled down and ordered a stiff pour of
lagavulin and wended my way back to my table where my wife was waiting
(after choosing a port for her own dessert). The first words out of
my wife's mouth were "Ewww... you smell like leather and tobacco and
seaweed, you've been drinking scotch haven't you?". I just smiled as
the waiter appeared with my lagavulin in hand.
I've also got extremely strong opinion of how malt should be consumed.
One small drop or two of water opens up the nose incredibly. I used
to be a "water is meant for bathing and whisky is meant for drinking"
sort of man until friends who were far more patient then me finally
got it through my thick head with the simple expedient of a side by
side taste test with a blindfold on. Drinking it neat is good, but
adding just a tiny bit of water (less than a teaspoon) chemically
opens up the whisky and releases an incredible amount of aroma and
flavors that would normally be packed too densely to pick out. I am
now a big fan of a drop or two of water (no more) in my whisky.
I'll beat anyone I see putting anything else in a good singlemalt
though, except maybe a single small ice cube which I've been known to
let slide. Soda or any mixer of any sort should ONLY be used on a
blended scotch whisky, adulterating a singlemalt should be a hanging
offense. I do like the occasionaly perfect Rob Roy but, of course, I
only use blends in those and honestly, the only time I'll ever drink a
blend anymore is when I'm using it as a mixed drink of some sort. If
I'm going to be just sipping, it's singelmalts every time. I don't
drink frequently or to excess, but when I do I make sure I go for
maximum flavor and enjoyment.
-- Gary F.
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