As a younger man I read the thrilling novels by W.E.B. Griffin and loved the historical fiction he wrote about the US Marines. The heroes were men with square jaws, ruggedly handsome looks, quick wits - and a penchant for fine scotch. Unfortunately, to W.E.B. - that meant Famous Grouse! I promptly went out and bought a bottle only to discover it wasn't fit to scrub your M1 Garand rifle with. You would have to be a tough, mean SOB stuck in a fox hole to appreciate it! I gave up on Scotch at that point and stuck to my home brewed beer.
This scotch is for the birds...or possibly a Marine that you want to kill...
One day about 10 years later I saw a big placard up in the liquor store about The Six Classic Malts Of Scotland and bought a bottle of Craggonmore on impulse - and I was lost. The rest of the Classic Malts are listed here and make an excellent starting point for the beginning scotch acolyte. All are classics in every sense of the word, and all are indeed worthy of a heroic US Marine, from the brass hat generals right down to the lowliest private!
Classic does not, however, mean superior. Oban is fine. Talisker is described as an explosive single malt and I know BW likes it as do any number of experts, and Dalwhinnie...I was indifferent to. My interpretations are in no way reflective of the worthiness of the makes - you should try them all and form your own opinions. Any number of men of wealth and taste will disagree with me and chances are you will too. It's all good. But for me...personally...the best Scotch in the world is Highland Park:
It doesn't get better than this. The perfect compliment to a fine cigar and a campfire.
Winston Churchill agrees with me on this, and it is my conviction (and that of W.E.B. Griffin) that the measure of a man's intellect is by how much he agrees with you!
Right behind Highland Park, so close that it is almost a tie...is The Dalemore. I remember paying $36.00 a bottle at Stupid Store for it, and could have had a case for $150.00. To this day I still kick myself for not stocking up. It taught me a valuable lesson about scotch: Price is no indicator of taste. Of course, now that everyone knows the quality of the product...they've jacked the price up. Sigh.
It used to be the best bang for the buck in the single malt market...
One year while out hunting down by Provost I ducked into a small mom & pop liquor store to supplement my camping provisions...and they had nothing for scotch. And by that, I mean they had Famous Grouse (gun solvent), Bell's (commonly known as weasel piss) and Teachers (lighter fluid). But somehow, Mom & Pop had slipped up and some Cardhu had made its way into their store.
Fall sunshine in a bottle
Later that morning I made the best shot of my hunting career. A small doe broke cover across the field, spooked by something in the bush. She ran right across the field at a full run - and I put her down with one deft shot from my elegant single shot rifle - a Ruger No.1 with a bull barrel in 25-06.
My hunting partner and mentor, Bob The Knob (it must be a rule - if you are a prick, your name just has to be "Bob", HAR HAR HAR!) - snidely commented that I hadn't shot a doe, I had just potted a Chi Hua Hua and should be reported to Fish & Wildlife. Rotten Rob agreed but noted that field dressing would only take minutes, and that if they were careful with their knives there might be enough meat to make three sammiches!
Bastards. Bastards all!!! The morning was pretty much shot, so we field dressed my deer and skinned it out - and poured some healthful doses of Cardhu all around. It was a funny year in that it was November, and we were still in our shirt sleeves. The afternoon was idyllic and I will always remember that day, in that field, with those bums - as one of the best days of my life. If you are going to have the best day of your life, in the company of good men - it makes sense to keep a bottle of Cardhu handy.
In any event, those are my top three picks. If you want to get serious about scotch I recommend that you buy a book on the subject from Michael Jackson - not the sexually disturbed pedo/song writer - the whisky expert:
Proficiency with scotch doesn't just happen. I used to think the guys using all the goofy metaphors and adjectives and pronouns were putting on airs of snobbery and sophistication - but all that claptrap is actually legit! A book like this helps you pick out the flavours and notes that will allow you to make your single malt experience all the more enjoyable. Now...Off to the liquor store and the book store with you!!! There will be a test on this next week!