As a budding whisky enthusiast, or, perhaps as an experienced veteran, at some point you’ll want to own some whisky, whether it’s one bottle or a whole room full. Most of us settle for something in between. Interestingly, I’ve found that the number of bottles of whisky that we have doesn’t reflect how much we drink, but rather, what our level of interest is.
Most of us have a bottle or two, maybe a blend and a single malt, tucked away in our liquor cupboard with the rum, the vodka and the gin. Waiting for an evening when we have friends over. We dutifully set out two or three choices, along with the wine and the beer, to ensure that our guests are well looked after. As we develop a taste, and an interest in whisky, we may take an opportunity to bring out our single malt and proudly offer to share it. This, of course, is a poorly veiled ploy to give us an excuse to talk about how great it is and how much we are enjoying our latest passion.
So, what kinds of whisky arrows should we have in our proverbial quiver? That’s best answered by first figuring out how many we want to own. If the answer is one, and our budget is modest, then a moderately priced, middle of the road selection is recommended. Like Aberfeldy 12, or Glenmorangie Original, or perhaps Old Pulteney. All excellent choices, priced at about twice the cost of a bottle of Barcardi Rum or Smirnov Vodka. And a bit off the beaten track from the standard fair of Glenfiddich or Glenlivet, so as to create some interesting discussion with your guests.
But what if you want to expand a bit and have your own little cupboard just for whisky? You know, to get it away from those pesky, low brow rums and gins. Introduce a bit of exclusivity. You can then say to your guests “Hey, let’s take a look at my whisky collection.”, while you open a different cupboard door to reveal two or three, or maybe five bottles in your ‘private’ collection. In this case, you need to expand your range to include whisky that offers something different. Something unique. For me, I’d include an Irish Whiskey, such as Green Spot, or Redbreast, or maybe an interesting Bushmill’s. These will cost a bit more, up to three times the cost of a Bacardi. But the great taste and the conversation value is worth it. You may also want to consider something with a bit of a kick. Something peaty. Something that let’s people know that you are a real whisky fan. Perhaps a nice Highland Park 12, or something from Islay, the heart and soul of peatdom. I’d recommend an Arbeg or a Bowmore. Or if you’re jumping into the deep end, a Laphroaig or a Lagavulin. Campfire licking smoke that tells people that you can walk the talk. These, however, will get you into the 4X Barcardi range per bottle. Worth every penny. After all, it’s to be sipped slowly and savored.
Of course, once you get into a collection of three or four bottles, then why not take over that old bookcase or that antique glass wall unit that your Aunt Milly used to keep her tea cup collection in? Now you have room for ten or twelve bottles. When you get to this stage (and you eventually will), then you’ll want to buy “that special bottle’. The 15 year or 18 year that you tasted last year at the whisky festival and fell in love with. The one that you’ve been trying to justify the cost of a week worth of groceries for. The one that will sit front and center in your whisky display unopened for weeks, because you don’t want it to lose its value. Add a Bourbon, a Canadian Rye Whisky, and a nice blend, and you have a bona fide whisky collection.
Here are a few recommendations that will optimize any collection and will add to your drinking and discussing enjoyment;
– any Morlach single malt. Truly one of the great scotch distilleries. I haven’t had a bad one yet. Not cheap and generally hard to find, but worth the effort.
– Balvenie, either the Doublewood 12 or the 14 Carribean Cask. Exquisite flavour – sweet, unpeated.
– a nice blend such as Chivas 12 or 18, or Dewer’s 15. Moderately priced, as most blends are.
– a good Bourbon, such as Basil Hayden’s or Michter’s, or Blandon’s (with the little race horse on the cap). Someone in your social circle is a bourbon lover, so you need to have at least one in your collection.
– a good Canadian whisky. Gooderham and Warts, or 40 Creek, or perhaps a 20 year Canadian Club.
The bottom line is this – as you try different whiskies, you will figure what you like and what you want in your collection. Just make sure to have it varied enough that you are expanding your taste and providing variety to your guests. That’s what it’s all about.
Next time we’ll look at how and where to buy the whisky that you have been searching for.