A Nice Beginner Bottle of Scotch… That isn’t Glenlivet

Which is not to say I don’t like Glenlivet. I do! It was the first scotch I ordered. In fact, it was the only scotch on the restaurants’ menu. I remember tasting it and thinking yes, I do like whisky. That was the end for me. It’s light and fruity, fairly smooth, but not too complex. Its mild characteristics can make it forgettable in comparison to the wide selection out there. People call it a good beginner whisky and I agree. You can test the waters with this one. Order it at a bar to see if you even like whisky. But I don’t recommend grabbing a bottle of it.

Admittedly, I do still drink it, as a mixer. Its neutral character makes it a chameleon, blending into any scotch-based drink. If I may, I’d suggest a Blood and Sand. The addition of Glenlivet enhances the fruit gives a hint of vanilla in the background.

But there are other scotches out there, scotches that highlight the varied nature of the single malt. Here are three suggestions, which I typically find in most liquor stores.


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From Speyside, where there are distilleries everywhere. It’s also the same region Glenlivet is from. Speyside whiskies are divided into two camps, the lighter more floral whiskies, i.e. Glenlivet and the richer sweeter whiskies. Cragganmore falls into the latter camp. This is a good medium-bodied whisky, and a better expression of the sweeter side of Speyside. It doesn’t have that thick, syrupy taste some of the sweeter whiskies can have. It’s a great cold weather drink, something to warm the bones.

Highland Park:

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Hailing from the Orkney Islands, they were named “the best spirit in the world” …according to their website. Of course these accolades were for the 21 and 25 year bottling. I don’t suggest blowing two or three-hundred dollars on a bottle of whisky. Not yet, anyway.

The 12-year is a nice dram. It has a grassy sharpness on the nose, initial citrus and a dry finish. Reminds me a little of white wine. It is light bodied with very little smoke and peat. If you’re getting into scotch, that may be a good thing. Islay malts, which are known for the aforementioned characteristics, are a little overpowering as a starter bottle. I say work up to it.

On the other hand, smoke is a defining characteristic of most whisky, so my third suggestion has a healthy dose of it.



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I believe this is the only distillery in the Isle of Skye. So this is an island malt, which means smokier than the other regions. The taste isn’t overpowering, but the initial nosing will trick you. You’ll smell a good amount of smoke but the taste is smooth with some pepper and a hint of sweetness in the background. Some people say it’s pungent, though I never thought so. But my foray into island scotch was Laphroaig, which I like but tastes like some sort of distilled bog monster. This is a full-bodied whisky, with a bigger flavor than Highland Park and Cragganmore. It’s all sea spray and bonfire, if that can even be qualified as a flavor. Give it a try.

Article by Adrienne Bardes


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