A bit of reflection on my Scotch journey

After reading a humorous blog post about stereotypes and taste by Gentlemangrimm, I thought a bit about tastes and preferences for whisky.  More to the point, I thought about how my tastes for Scotch whisky have evolved over time.

Reflecting on my particular interest in single malt Scotch, I can still recall my initial introduction, at the bar in the Capital Hotel, in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1999.   I was on a work trip, having a quiet meal at the bar, and asked the bartender for something different than the usual bourbon.

A current photo of the bar, pretty much as I recall it, right where I was sitting.

capital-hotel-bar

That first taste, of a Glenmorangie, was enough to make me curious to discover more.  As I read about single malt Scotch, I was curious about the variety, and the highly variable opinions about what was good, or not.  My journey started with some early explorations of Glenmorangie casking variations.  Then I started branching out a bit, to others, as best I reacall initially to Glenfarclas, Highland Park and Macallan.

Relatively early in this journey, I had read somewhere that Islay single malts were particularly good.  I was in New Orleans for a conference, and found my way to a bar that had a decent selection of single malt Scotches.  I asked the bartender for a recommendation for a good Islay single malt.   I ended up with a Laphroaig.  It was quite a surprise, as I had not done much reading to fully anticipate the taste profile, and my initial reaction was that I would stay away from Islay single malts.

Over the years, I started to branch out from the Highland and Speyside distilleries.  I recall my first exposure to Talisker, and how I enjoyed the discovery of more smoke on my Scotch.  I recall that around that time I also learned about Campbeltown single malts, particularly a very nice Springbank.

Eventually, I am not exactly sure when, I once again wondered into the world of Islay single malts.  But, by this time, my tastes had evolved.  I now count various Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich single malts as some of my favorites.

Just as my initial response to Laphroaig is very divergent from my current perception, I am also enjoying going back and re-discovering some early favorites.   The experiences of my 17 year journey have helped shape my appreciation of nuances in these whiskies.  I find that my early favorites, for example Glenfarclas 17, are still one’s that I really like.  However, if I had written earlier tasting notes, I suspect that they would vary in meaningful ways from what I would write now.   My perceptions have been conditioned by the path I have walked.

I am not exactly sure where I am going with all of this, other than perhaps reflecting on part of what intrigues me about single malt Scotch.   Within the criteria that define what can be labeled as ‘Scotch’, there is an amazing diversity of styles that produce a wide range of tastes.   Moreover, they keep evolving in ways that I anticipate will keep me returning to find out what lies around the next bend.

One thought on “A bit of reflection on my Scotch journey

  1. Interesting how you talk about tasting notes and how your perceptions have changed. I find looking back now at my first tasting notes that my knowledge and skills at tasting whisky have vastly improved (I still have a long way to go though!). I’m planning on re-visiting some of my earlier drams at some point to see how my notes will differ now.

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