It's Time to Choose Your First Scotch Whisky
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR YOUR FIRST BOTTLE of Scotch whisky.
Picking your first bottle is like picking your first love; it can be a sweet experience that you want to know about them or a disaster and never touch again.
So many fishes in the sea, but where do I start catching them?The world's whisky collection is ever increasing; we like many options, and the more, the merrier. However, when we are given the options, we have difficulty choosing. Unsure what is a suitable whisky for you to start the addictive whisky journey.
You might have tried a glass or two, and YOU HATE IT; the taste profile doesn't suit your taste, and you decide not to touch it ever again. As the old saying goes- Hate the player, not the game.
Here, we will focus on a few scotch whisky suitable for your first bottle.
Do bear in mind Scotch is not the ONLY whisky production region; other countries such as Ireland, the USA, Japan, Taiwan, Sweden, India, Canada & Korea also produce whisky.
The whisky experience:
1) Nose before mouth; smell the whisky before putting it into the mouth.
The best situation is to pour the whisky into a nosing glass- but you might not have one, not to worry- nobody will buy a nosing glass if they don't drink, so it is perfectly fine. You can use a regular glass or cup as a substitution.
-If you are using a non-nosing glass, here is the extra step.
- Use your palm to cover up the opening of the glass
- let it rest there for a good 8-10 seconds, then remove your palm
Now tilt the glass 45 degrees to your nose (not too close and not so far), rotate the glass clockwise around your nose, close your eyes and imagine what the smell reminds you of and what you can feel.
2) Take a small sip, don't swallow too quickly- you will only taste alcohol if you do so. Let it roam around your tongue, and let your tongue get used to the structure and feel the whisky.
- Basically, de-structure the whisky, and break it down. Feel what's inside the liquid.
- Don't worry if you didn't get it on the first try.
- Don't let it stay in your mouth for too long; it probably will get SPICIER as the time goes on!
- Take a sip of water if you need to!
Another point before we start:
Single Malt Whisky: Whiskies that are produced in ONE distillery with only malted barley.
Single Grain Whisky:Whiskies that are produced in ONE distillery with grain or a mixture of grain (malted or unmalted).
Blended Whisky: Whiskies that are produced by blending different malt and grain whiskies from TWO OR MORE distilleries.
- Blended whisky can be blended malt (only use malt whisky to blend), blended grain (only use malt whisky to blend) or blended whisky (Blending of both).
Many people's first encounter.
The split personality of Mr Scotch
Scotland's whisky is divided into five official regions*, due to the diversity in taste;
- Further divided into four 'sub' regions; North, South, East & West.
- Fun & full of characters, the big bother vibes.
- Like the first love you had back in your teenage years; Fruity, Vanilla & Spice.
- Everything sounds nice & sweet
- Peated & Smoky, but, there are some boys that don't hang-out with the rest(non-peated).
- Not so in the scene, but you do hear stories about them; salt, smoke, vanilla, cinnamon, spice.
- Generally on the pricy side >:<
- Soft and smooth, grassy, honeysuckle, cream, toffee and cinnamon.
- A gentle and caring lady.
*Island is officially classified Highland for now.
1)HighlandRemember I have mentioned Highland is divided into four regions; it is the biggest scotch whisky-producing region. I will recommend the first bottle for Highland as a whole, instead of by different divisions.
Highland 1-st Whisky Recommend:
Tomatin Legacy, Glenmorangie 10 YO & Arran 10 (Highland/Island)
1) Tomatin Legacy - 43%-99 SGD (Hyperlink attached)
Tasting profile: Medium bodied, Vanilla, Lemon, Pineapple & the finishing touch of Oak's warmth with peppery spice.
Suitable for: Those who don't mind abit of spice and wants a clean and neat drink.
2) Glenmorangie 10 YO The Orignial -40%-88 SGD
Tasting profile: Medium bodied, soft and refreshing, vanilla, honey, malty, fruity. Ending with spicy sweetness.
Suitable for: Those who want a smooth and comfortable, well balanced drink.
3) Arran -126 SGD -46%-(Island/Highland region)
Tasting profile: Rather light bodied, filled with vanilla, cinnamon and citrus fruits. It ends with a notes of fresh spice.
Suitable for: Those who want a light & refreshing sipper.
If you want to try, we have a sample bundle for Arran & Tomatin.
Speyside's signature; Fruity; apple, pear & honey with spice.
They like to have their drinks aged in a sherry cask; if Speyside can change a name, they would call themselves sherry Speyside.
Speyside 1-st Whisky Recommend:
Balvenie 12 Doublewood, Glenfarclas 12 and Glenfiddich 12
1) Balvenie 12 Doublewood- 40%-120 SGD
Tasting profile: A sherry influenced whisky, sweet and fruity, the presence of honey and vanilla will soon be express. One of the top level entry whisky in terms of richness and sweetness. Do note it ends with subtle and gentle spice.
Suits for: People who want to experience a sweet and fruity dram. This entry-level whisky has a lot of layers to be explored.
2) Glenfarclas 12-43%- 105 SGD
Tasting profile: The experts commented this 12 YO is too light for their liking, which I think- It might make a good entry level whisky, in a sense.
This is a very simple drink, not too complex. Sherry influenced, vanilla, toffee, honey and apple. Mild spice and oily.
Suits for: People who want to have a simple drink. And, suitable to most beginners.
3) Glenfiddich 12-40%- 78 SGD
Tasting profile: A whisky that don't need much introduction; can be found anywhere- rotting on the street....
Nevertheless, this 12 Year Old is a fruity, smooth & mellow whisky. Medium bodied, vanilla, apple and cream.
Suits for: People who want a sweet, smooth and very simple, not complex one (So you don't have to continue thinking after a long day).
Due to the nature of Speyside whisky, the taste profile generally suits beginners very well. Other than the three, Macallan 12 Sherry Oak is a quality entry-level whisky for beginners. The flavour profile is filled with sherry influence, vanilla, sweet raisins, toffee and spice. However, the price is more on the price-er side for entry-level (150 SGD), and its accessibility has decreased drastically throughout the years.
They are mostly known for its peaty and smoky whisky.
There are two points that I feel are often misunderstood:
1) There is non-peated whisky in Islay: Bunnahabhain & Bruichladdich.
2) Way too emphasised the peaty and smokiness of Islay whisky; it became too emphasised, making people shy away from trying it.
Other than Octomore, we have to show respect to the big bother; their latest 12 series (12.1-12.3) has a PPM of 130.8, 129.7 & 118.1 ,respectively .
*PPM- a measurement of phenol parts per million, which shows the presence of peat influence in malted barley or whisky (The higher the more 'peated' it is).
Lightly peated – below 15 PPM
Moderately peated – around 20 PPM
Heavily peated – above 30 PPM
Islay 1-st Whisky Recommendation:
Caol Ila 12, Bowmore 12 & Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie
1) Caol Ila 12 YO- 43%- 128 SGDThis gentle peaty whisky is definitely my first choice for beginner Islay whisky.
I did a sharing session of another Caol Ila edition with my friends, who have not drunk any whisky before- along with other whiskies. And they pick Caol Ila as their favourite! Time has changed man; Islay is no longer the rookie nightmare we used to think.
Tasting profile: Smoky, herb, dried fruits, vanilla, light and fresh. Well balanced whisky ending with gentle peat and an ashy touch.
Suits for: People who are interested in trying peaty whisky, and prefer a slightly long finishing taste.
2) Bowmore 12 YO- 40%- 78 SGD
Tasting profile: Vanilla, oak, pineapple, honey, smoky and sea spray. A rather 'medium-peated' Islay entry whisky
Suits for: People who are interested in trying peaty, smoky and fruity whisky. And, interested in the 'coastal experience'.
3) Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie- 50%- 118 SGD
One of the un-peated boys in Islay
Tasting profile: Sea spray, vanilla, sugar cookies, toffee, fruity and floral, creamy and refreshing.
Suits for:People who want to explore the rare side of Islay, that is a more floral and fruity whisky. Also, people who want a refreshing and relaxing Islay drink.
Fun Fact: Bruichladdich is the non-peated version, whereas Port charlotte & Octomore are the peated versions. All three labels are under one company.
Back in the glory days, Campbeltown is the home to 34 distilleries, and now? Only 3 are back in business.
Generally, I wouldn't suggest Campbeltown be your first whisky destination; the increasing demand and limited production are driving the price up.
Campbeltown 1-st Whisky Recommendation
Springbank 10 & Hazelburn 10
1) Springbank 10- 46%- 170 SGD
Tasting profile: Oaky, spice, cinnamon ,nutmeg creamy, hints of smoke.
Suits for: People who want to try a different sort of spice whisky. Suitable for people who want to try smoky whisky.
2) Hazelburn 10- 46%- 160 SGD
Tasting profile: unpeated part of Springbank (under the same company as Springbank), toffee, apple, vanilla and fruity.
Suits for: People who want to have a fruity, more texture and complex bodied whisky.
Glen Scotia is another under-rated or under the radar whisky. The 15 Year Old is filled with vanilla, orange, oak, lemongrass and ginger. A refreshing dram to enjoy. However, due to the inaccessibility of it, it is slightly harder to find.
Cream, grassy, toffee & cinnamon are common expressions. Other than Auchentoshan & Glenkinchie, the rest are less common and harder to access.
Lowland 1-st Whisky Recommendation:
Auchentoshan 12 YO & Glenkinchie 12 YO
1) Auchentoshan 12 YO-40%
Auchentoshan did a very aggressive D-day marketing promotion during its first launch.
Tasting note: Sweet, cream, lime , ginger and hazelnut. Not the richest but is very decent in the sweetness. Ending with a dry oaky finish and barley sweetness.
Suits for: People who want to have a light and sweet whisky experience.
2) Glenkinchie 12 YO-40%
The lowland side of Johnnie Walker, Glenkinchie is owned by Diageo (Caol Ila too).
Tasting note: Fruity, honey, vanilla, malty, fruit cake and grass.
Suits for: People who wants a more balanced whisky as their first bottle, a fruity and grassy whisky.
So, that's some of the whisky that I would like to recommend to be your first bottle. Remember, these are just some of the whiskies for beginners, not all. And, you don't have to like all of them; we all have different preferences and taste.