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Best first single malt for a beginner?

30

@Wodha
Wodha started a discussion

What do you usually suggest or give to a single-malt beginner as their first full bottle to own?

6 years ago

30 replies

@Alanjp
Alanjp replied

I don't know about anybody else, but i would suggest one of the general, widely available single malts such as the 12yr Glenfiddich or Glenlivet that you find in your everyday superstore. They may not be fancy single malts, but it's a good way to start. I feel that they are all-rounders that you can learn from and make judgements as to future endeavors from.

6 years ago

@cclward
cclward replied

@Wodha I think a Balvenie doublewood is a great malt to start , its delicious and not intimidating

6 years ago

@KHvonLoman
KHvonLoman replied

Glenmorangie is good bottle to start with. Easily available, not too prizey and it is good enough to tell if you want another bottle... I'm sure you do:)

6 years ago

@markjedi1
markjedi1 replied

If buying for someone who's never had a single malt before (and thus has a somewhat uneducated palate), I'd go for an 'easy dram', such as Glenfiddich, Glenlivet or Auchentoshan. It was the wonderful Toshan 12 that got me hooked!

6 years ago

@WhiskyNotes
WhiskyNotes replied

Why go for the easy stuff? Personally I have been largely impressed by a Lagavulin 16. It was so different that I became interested in whisky. I had already tried Glenfiddich and a couple of blends before that, but none of these left an impression.

6 years ago

@lucadanna1985

@WhiskyNotes I was also hooked by Lagavulin 16 and IMHO it's simply impossible you don't like that dram, but a lot of times people get scared when you let them taste Islay malts...it's a shame I know!

6 years ago

DramWhisky replied

I know some people say there is no distinct style for each of the "regions." But that being said I often find Speyside whiskeys to be some of the most approachable, and when buying some of the Standard bottles especially those that are NAS or a younger offering they tend to be bottled closer to 40% ABV. I feel the lower ABV is important as a lot of people dismiss whisky at first taste due to the alcohol burn mixed with stronger flavors (than say vodka).

But I maintain that with a 40% ABV whisky if its good enough and approachable if you can get the person to sip a glass slowly they will start to see what it is really like by the end of the glass.

5 years ago

@two_bitcowboy

Find a single malt tasting or a whisky bar close to you and give several whiskys a try before you spend your money on a bottle. If you can't find something close, consider Strathisla 12, BenRiach 12, Cragganmore 12 (3 Speysiders), or Balblair 1997 (a Highlander that betters its neighbor Glenmorangie 10).

5 years ago

@AboutChoice
AboutChoice replied

I agree with many of these excellent comments and recommendations, and would add, that since Scotch is so diverse, and that people are even more diverse, there really is no single ideal first malt. Some beginners will take to lightness and sweetness, some to sherry and some even to smoke.

But my personal opinion is that most beginners will not like big smoky malts, but rather would prefer sherry or honey. I feel that all the Glenmorangies would be good for most beginners, and also Glenrothes, Bunnahabhain 12, Macallan 12 and Auchentoshan 3-Wood. For an introduction to mild smokiness and good flavors, I would recommend Bruichladdich Rocks, Ardmore Traditional Cask, Springbank 10 and Jura Superstition. And, of course, a tasting, if you can find one, always makes the best sense. And finally, do not rule out some of the tasty and engaging blends, such as Teachers, Famous Grouse and JW Green Label. Please let us know how the beginners are enjoying their beginning malts :)

5 years ago

@OCeallaigh
OCeallaigh replied

@Wodha I think it depends on whether you already have a taste for whisky. If you like whiskies already, then the options are very different than if you didn't. I think Balvenie Doublewood may be a good one, but sometimes it has a funny malt to it. Glenfarclas might have some good options. I think Macallan is an excellent easy drinker, I suggest the Macallan 13 y.o. by the independant bottler Battle Hill if you can find it. Also Highland Park 12 is a great way to get interested. If you want to be adventurous and branch out to something that may really get your Scotch tastes spinning, try the explosive Talisker 10 y.o. That was one of my first single malt scotches and I love it.

If you DON'T have a taste for whisky already, I might actually suggest Irish whiskies. Maybe Tyrconnell, Red Breast, Knappogue... Powers (not a single malt, but delicious and easy to drink). Or American's to hook you could be Woodford Reserve or (ri)1 Rye Whiskey. Anyway, all good options.

5 years ago

@scribe
scribe replied

Depends on the person, and when/how they're going to be drinking it. You can often get a feel for what kind of whisky a person will like by their character, their other favourite tastes, etc.

Then I find it depends on if you'll be introducing them to it slowly, or just giving them a bottle to try on their own - some people are happy exploring new flavours by themselves (especially if they're into other drinks or flavours), but most people get a lot more out of any bottle of whisky if they're encouraged to really taste it properly, rather than just see it as "whisky" (which most people seem to genericise like some kind of fast food burger).

With that in mind, anything "pleasant but interesting" goes for me, and getting rid of any pretentiousness is also a must - add water, add ice, add fireplaces, anything to make the experience fun and palatable. I'd avoid a complex whisky too - if there are one or two obvious flavours for people to focus on, great. And if the flavours aren't what you might 'expect', but are familiar ones (e.g. berries, orange, lemon, marzipan, spices, etc) then newcomers often start to see the attraction pretty quickly...

5 years ago

@timstasting
timstasting replied

I suggest the beginner to search for his/her taste. I think they can do this by trying some different scottish malts, selected by region. My tasting for totally whisky-strangers: - Lowland: Auchentoshan 10y or Littlemill 12y - Speyside: Balvenie 12y double wood - Highland: Dalwhinnie 15y - Island: Scapa 16y - Islay: Laphroaig 10y or Bowmore Darkest 15y

5 years ago

@CJames
CJames replied

I would suggest Highland Park 12 - Affordable, much better than glenfiddich / glenlivet 12's and it's surprisingly complex. It's been named the "best all-rounder" scotch whisky in the world so you get a little of everything.

5 years ago

@Abunadhman
Abunadhman replied

@CJames I would agree with the Highland Park suggestion but suggest that the 18 yo. would be more accessible for a newcomer: The highlights are more in harmony and while in perfect balance are easily discernible especially if the tyro is being coached! i.e. - The shallow cut peat gives that wonderful herbaceous peaty character etc. And some thought given to water (pure rain seems best for my special drops) and, please, a sensible glass.

5 years ago

@Victor
Victor replied

For a first malt whisky, I would suggest the one which was my first malt and which I still love: Balvenie 10 yr old Founder's Reserve. Yes, it is getting scarce now that it is officially discontinued, but I managed to find a bottle of it just a few months ago. It is subtle, complex, and lovely, without being demanding. Dalwhinnie 15 yo is another very good choice.

5 years ago

@Carl
Carl replied

My first post, and a beginner as well. After the five single malts I have tasted in the past month, my suggestion would be the Higland Park 12 Year Old. It is the least expensive in my small cabinet, also my favourite. I started with the Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Cask myself, and have not really taken too well to it. My second bottle was bold for a beginner: Laphroiag Quarter Cask. I was so intriqued by the various descriptions I read and heard, that I simply had to have it! It is a favourite already, although it is so intense that I am not always just in the right mood for it. That is where the Highland Park 12 Year Old takes over. That one I am always in the mood for. I treated myself to the 18 Year Old today, although I will likely not open the bottle until the weekend. I was so overwhelmingly impressed with the 12 Year Old, I really wonder how much better this can be? One of the things I have learned by reading the comments on these forums, is that price and age to not dictate the quality of the Single Malt. Happy tasting from a fellow beginner! Cheers, Carl

5 years ago

@CJames
CJames replied

@ A'bunadhman, Where I come from the HP 18 is 3 times more expensive than the 12, making it $157. Depending on where you come from, this is a very expensive bottle of scotch and I'm definately sure when I saw them both for the first time in the bottleshop, I went for the 12 based on the price. If you find you really enjoy the 12 though, do not hesitate to spring for an 18 because it's magnificent.

5 years ago

@Carl
Carl replied

@CJames Glad to hear about the 18 yr HP! It is more than twice the amount of the 12 year here in Vancouver also, at $150CAD. I got a bottle of the Aberlour a'bunadh last week, and was actuallys surprised at how reasonable it was at about $90, I absolutely love that, it's a Batch No.28. Sometimes I really like a sweetish malt, and this one is just perfect, with the syrup nose and flavour! Looking forward to the weekend, and getting into the HP 18 year.

5 years ago

@Abunadhman
Abunadhman replied

@CJames I have a little Cask Strength (100 proof) 18yo. ex Distillery left, in a large Decanter & I don't want it to ever end: The balance, the crackling smoke, the herbaceous shallow cut peat, the depth of bushfire mahogany and molasses and the resounding finish of all the above in a delicious and sweetish echo make this (for me) the most memorable of drams. I will probably never see another bottle of this expression but I have enjoyed it enormously and shared it, I think generously, albeit in rather small quantities with family and friends and all have drooled. This Whisky responds very well to the ultimate test of an extreme quality drop i.e. the empty glass test, where the empty glass is covered and next morning nosed to reveal its' true backbone; in this instance, Heather, honey, hay stacks and smoky herbs in a glorious perfume that almost defies description!

5 years ago

@WPT
WPT replied

Ten years ago when I first tasted a single malt scotch whisky it was a Glenmorangie 10yr old single barrel on the advice of a friend. My response was, as inexperiennced as now, I liked the rich flavour with all the tastes and the fact it didn't have a bite. Had I had my likes like I have now back then I'd still choose the one I started with. Hopefully this makes a little sense. Anyway that was my starter and I recommend it to anyone .

5 years ago

@CJames
CJames replied

@ A'bunadhman, that sounds amazing! I would really love the HP 18yr to be at least 46%ABV, but then again there's a lot of whiskys that could benefit from a higher bottling strength. I do love that mellow emergence of peat through all the other flavours in its current form though.

5 years ago

@kywildcatfan
kywildcatfan replied

Aberlour 12 year, Glenmorangie 10yr, or Highland Park 12 year

5 years ago

@mohler
mohler replied

It's interesting to hear all the different sides to this discussion.

More and more I know what I like & what I like is experimenting & trying new things.

I would have to figure out what the person I was recommending the malt to was into. If they like spicy food, good coffee, a nice robust red wine & strong flavours then yes I might head down the peated route with one of the introduction malts. If they were a little more mellow then I might go with the other suggestions i.e. Glenfiddich 12 & if they were a little less adventurous I might head to lowlands, Japan or Ireland for a malt to recommend.

I spent quite a few years working in the coffee industry and the amount of people who told me that they didn't like coffee nearly always turned out to be the ones who's only experience of coffee was cheap, nasty instant coffee that had been sat in their Gran's cupboard for at least 5 years & then with a half a cow full of milk & enough sugar to make it slightly passable. There is a world of difference between the pallete exposed only to bland banal flavours & one that experiences the world wide assortment of sensory delights that we can try on a daily basis.

Likewise with whisky, if their only experience was gettin drunk on a £10 blend when they were a teenager or too many JDs & cokes on a bender then you may need to tread very carefully.

I keep giving samples to my friends to open their eyes & from that it's much easier to figure out what to buy them when I the need arises.

5 years ago 4

@WPT
WPT replied

@mohler - Here! Here!, excellent remarks. You have hit the proverbial nail on the head. You're right comparing the tastes for specific scotch whisky, or such, to something as simple to the tastes for a specific coffee. Simply brilliant on your part. I'm currently in a discussion with a couple of friends trying to assist them in a 1st try of single malt scotch whiskys and their tastes are at JackD, JimB & coke an such. They approached me about this noticing the difference of our drink. So, thank for your help/assistance in this matter.

Slainte! WPT

5 years ago

@mohler
mohler replied

@WPT Thank you for your kind remarks, I appreciate it.

I did spend about 4 years in a brand ambassador type role for a large coffee company & in that time I met my fair share of naysayers so it was always useful to be able to discover a common ground & to help kick start their journey to discovering more in the realms of nose, palette & mouth feel.

It's useful to know what are good starter whiskys but I think more useful to make the recommendation fit the person.

5 years ago

WhiskyDan replied

Why not try a 10 year old Jura like I did for my first bottle. A really excellent whisky that urned me on to the joys of a single malt.

5 years ago

@xav
xav replied

While I'm personnally a big fan of heavily peated malts, I wouldn't go for a Lagavulin as a first bottle for a beginner. If you plan on getting him hooked up for life, you might do exactly the same as I did for my father, being offering/suggest him a Nikka Yoichi 10yo. It's not peated, with notes of dried fruits that should not leave such a strong impression as an Islay, but would not intimidate him either. And there's always the surprise on learnign that "OMG, Japanese can do whisky too ?".

But then again, personal choice , it worked on every person I tried ;)

5 years ago

@seanelliott
seanelliott replied

My first dram's were of the GlenLivet, Glenfiddich variety...but I didn't become obsessed until I tried Oban. I think it was the hint of smoke that would lead later ( by the nose ) to try those Islay wonders.

5 years ago

I've had many successes sucking first-timers in to the world of single malt, my favorite "gateway drugs" are Strathisla 12, Aberfeldy 12, Cardhu 12 and HP 12. All about the same price and really great.

5 years ago