* A version of this column was first published in the on-line edition of Friday’s Knoxville News Sentinel.
The drinking world boasts countless aficionados of Scotch whisky and undoubtedly as an offshoot of that, numerous Scotch whisky “purists.” They’ll instruct you as to which Scotch to drink with which cigar, which to drink in the unlikeliest months of a hell-heated summer and clutching firmly to their tartan mythology, whether it’s somewhat unethical or even pedestrian to actually add a cube of frozen water to which, or even any, glass of Scotch whisky. Sometimes the Scotch ambassadors are so wound up about their personal code of properness that they may as well be drinking like an Englishman.
Scotch, like most adult libations, can bring a little levity to the table or party. So don’t be fooled or forced into thinking that all those pre-mature notions have to be applied. Once we get past the old stereotype of Scotch being the preferred beverage of crotchety old men, the sooner we can knock down all those other barriers of coerced thought and what to drink with whatnot.
In the meantime, we are left with our own personal exploration of different Scotch whiskies and the quest to find “those which please us most.” The following acts as just a sampling of some of the myriad of Scotch whiskies that are readily available to begin or continue your pursuit.
East Tennessee’s newest Scotch comes from the Isle of Skye on Scotland’s northwest side. Appropriately dubbed for the wee bit of inclement weather that rolls through the Hebrides, Talisker Storm is a golden, almost amber colored whisky. Its smoky whiffs of burning wood are both alluring and warming, while the dried fruit and honeycomb flavors make for an easy drinking dram. Talisker Storm is a must try for Scotch whisky followers.
Conversely, if you’re looking for a tried and true Scotch, I’m a long time fan of the Oban 14 year from the Western Highlands. About ten years ago, I did a trek through Scotland and my “walking the Earth like Kane” journey led me to a tour of the Oban Distillery. Like most tours they are simply precursors to the free samples at the end. My lips had discovered sheer bliss in a glass, and Oban became and remains one of my three favorites. I credit that fondness to Oban’s unique caramel aroma and the cheerfulness it has brought to many Burn’s Night Suppers.
Finally, the deep northern Highlands malts as well as the Speyside malts, also have much to offer. If you’re looking for a beginner single malt Scotch, you might best be served by sampling a Dalwhinnie 15 year Single Malt from the rugged north of Scotland as it is lighter and leans to the softer side of Scotch. And the Speyside distilleries are always well represented by the Cragganmore 12 year Single Malt with it’s sweeter nuances and friendlier flavor profile.