Monday, 7 November 2011

5 Recommend Single Malts for Beginners

The world of Single Malt Scotch can be a bit of an intimidating one.  With hundreds of single malts flooding most markets of the world, it is not an easy task for a novice to decide which Scotch will be his/her first purchase.  Not only can the sheer selection of single malts be intimidating, but the flavor profile of these whiskies can also be quite over powering.  What I am about to suggest would have many whisky aficionados gripping their crystal glass in fear, scotch cocktails.  The majority of scotches are not suited for everyone's palate.  It is rare to serve a glass of scotch to someone that has little experience with the spirit and expect them to appreciate its qualities.  Below I've listed 5 scotch cocktails.  All of which are various different styles of cocktails and ascend from lightest in spirit intensity to heaviest (using my grading of Level 1-5 as explained in a previous post).

Mamie Taylor 
- 2 oz Blended Scotch
- 0.25 oz Lime Juice
- Ginger Beer

- Add scotch and lime juice into a collins glass
- Fill collins glass with cracked ice
- Top with ginger beer
- Garnish with lime wheel, mint and straw

Mamie Taylor

Smoked Sour
- 2 oz Black Grouse
- 0.75 oz Lemon Juice
- 0.5 oz Simple Syrup
- 1 Egg White
- 1 Dash angostura bitters

- Add egg white to mixing tin
- Add all additional ingredients to mixing glass
- Dry shake
- Add ice and shake
- Double strain into chilled cocktail glass

Smoked Sour

Bird Is The Word
- 0.75 oz Black Grouse Scotch
- 0.75 oz Yellow Chartreuse
- 0.75 oz St. Germain
- 0.75 oz Lemon Juice

- Add all ingredients to shaker
- Add ice and shake
- Double Strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with lemon twist

Bird is The Word

Orkney Julep
- 2 oz Highland Park 12 Year Old
- 0.25 - 0.5oz Simple Syrup (To preferred taste)
- 10 - 14 mint leaves

- Add simple syrup and 1 oz of Highland Park to julep cup along with mint
- Gently muddle mint to extract oils
- Fill julep cup half full with crushed ice and churn mixture
- Add remaining ounce of Highland Park and top with crushed ice
- Garnish with a massive mint sprig

Orkney Julep

Rob Roy
- 1.5 oz Scotch
- 0.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

- Add all ingredients to mixing glass
- Add ice and stir
- Strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with lemon or orange zest (Depending on your choice of whisky)

I prefer my Rob Roy with Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Camparo Antica, bitters and a zest of lemon.  Try experimenting with different scotch vermouth, bitters and citrus.

Once your palate has become accustom to the taste of these cocktails, then sipping scotch neat will not be such an intimidating task.  Below I have listed my 5 recommend single malt scotches for beginners.  The list is arranged in from lightest to heaviest in intensity and complexity.

First, here is a few tips on tasting your whisky.  First off, drink it how ever the hell you please.  It's your money and your whisky.  If you like it on ice in a tumbler, then go for it.  However, many experts will tell you neat is the best way to appreciate your fine single malts, and that is true.  Think of garlic.  Out of the fridge, nearly no odor.  Room temperature, fresh cut garlic has a distinctive scent.  Now frying garlic,  the smell is enough to engulf an entire room in its intoxicating aroma.  Same goes for whisky.  On ice, you will not get the complexity from the nose that you would from if you were to drink it neat.  Warming the glass with the heat from your hand will help bring out those intoxicating aromas.

The glass you drink out of can also have a major impact on how you preserve smell.  A classic tumbler (or "rocks" glass,) with its wide opening, allows for little concentration of the odor of a whisky.  A narrow mouth wine glass or Glen Cairn is best for appreciating the nose of a whisky.

You maybe wondering, why all the fuss about how a whisky's smell?  Well with 70% of what we taste coming from what we actually smell, the perfume of a whisky can either make or break your over all experience with that particular malt.

Without any further delays, here are my 5 recommend single malts for beginners.

1. Glenfiddich 12 Year Old / Glenlivet 12 Year Old
Most people's first single malt experience is with either of the following malts: Glenlivet or Glenfiddich 12 year old.  Usually, introduced to them because of its excitability.  Both in availability and flavor profile.  Both whiskies fallow similar flavor profiles of green apple, pears oak, cinnamon, as well as a young "grassy" characteristic.  I would consider both on level ground in terms of quality as well.  Neither of the whiskies are outstanding, but rather a middle of the road malt.  Now you maybe asking, "Why is it on the list then?"  Well, to appreciate the spectacular spirits of Scotland, you much first experience the mediocre.  By this I mean, you can not serve any new comer to the scotch world a glass of Laphroaig 30 year old and expect them to appreciate its complexity and flavor.

Glenlivet 12 Year Old

2. Glenmorangie 10 Year Old
The Genmorangie 10 Year Old is a staple in any scotch lover's liquor cabinet.  If you don't own a bottle, I hope it's because you just finished your last one.

The nose is full of orange and lemon oils.  A definite presence of honeycomb and autumn fruits can be detected in this sweet and fruit forward single malt.

The taste of the Glenmorangie 10 Year Old is a mirror image of the nose.  In addition to the citrus oils and fruit, Christmas spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and allspice can be detected.

A distinct apple sauce taste lingers in this whisky's medium length finish.  Notes of rye bread, almond, and again that citrus oils last well to the very end of this superb dram.

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old

3. AnCnoc 12 Year Old
If there is one whisky that emanates fall, it is the AnCnoc 12 year old

On the nose is a harmony on green apple, pears, allspice, oak, ginger, lemon.  Rounding off these autumn notes is a subtle floral scent, reminiscent of lavender and chamomile.

The taste is again filled with fall flavors.  Apple, vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, allspice.  As well, black pepper and a hint of tropical fruit (pineapple?) complete this wonderfully balanced whisky.

The finish is medium length with a mild intensity.  The tastes, just like mother's apple crisp.  Apples. cinnamon, oats, pumpkin and in the distant finish, tobacco.

AnCnoc 12 Year Old

4. Highland Park 12 Year Old
Highland Park will be your first introduction to a peated whisky.

Peated to only 2ppm( 2 parts per million is very low when compared to Laphroiag at 35ppm) Highland park is know as the malt containing a little bit of very thing.

On the nose are layers of honey, citrus, ginger, autumn fruits (apple and apricots), banana peel, toffee, espresso and of course, a touch of peat smoke.

While the taste resembles some characteristics of the nose, leather, anises, basil, oak, raisin, cinnamon and nutmeg is also present.

The finish is medium length with a sweet, honey/citrus and smokey notes.

A staple for all whisky advocates!

Highland Park 12 Year Old

5. Glen Garioch 12 Year Old
Glen Garioch is not a single malt that gets a lot of attention outside the circle of malt fanatics.  With such a wonderful richness and complexity, this is a malt that will never leave my liquor collection.

On the nose is a bouquet of floral notes followed by a variety of baked fruits (apple, pear, apricot).  A wonderful sweet aroma, reminiscent of brown sugar, honey and dark chocolate rounds off this amazing nose.

The taste is what really blows me away with this whisky.  Your initial sip is very similar to notes found in the nose, baked fruits, sugar and slightly floral.  Upon swallowing a blast of  herbal notes, somewhere in between basil and rosemary, coats your taste buds.

My only complaint with this malt is the finish.  Far too brief for such a great dram.  The herbal note endures with a sweet note of toffee in the distant finish.

Glen Garioch
'The month of November is full of Scotch related posts.  So if you enjoyed this one, please return for various talks including malts from Islay, Campletown, and everywhere in between.

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