If you have someone who is a fan of Scotch (and that’s all you know) this is the guide for you. You want to offer a nice present that is appreciated, and not pushed to the back of the cabinet or mixed with Coke (unless that’s their thing). You want a smile on that day. You have come to the right place.
Buying Scotch can be intimidating because of the multiple styles, regions (which do not always coincide!) and sometimes strong flavor profiles. Scotch drinkers vary from those appreciating a subtle array of delicate aromas and those who like a pugilistic nose like the air in a WW2 battleship’s boiler room.
Note: I am US-based and this guide refers in the main to whiskies you can buy in the US.
When the US 2020 election was approaching and anxiety at its height, I added subscriptions to several publications beyond my existing barrage of news gatherers (Bloomberg, WAPO, the Atlantic, Politico). I was looking for any source of tea leaves to read to know where this election was going, whether or not the US was going to descend into autocracy. As I furiously scanned the internet, I followed various Internet threads into Vanity Fair articles a few times, so when I saw the $15/year offer, I pulled the trigger. I like to support journalism when I use it.
Their online subscription offer includes a paper version of the magazine. Odd, because you can’t opt-out of the paper mag and just go digital. Also odd, as having a magazine is an entirely different experience. A magazine, being a curated set of articles, presents you with information you probably would not choose to pursue as you would by following an internet search. So the mag came, and one Sunday I sat down with my coffee and started reading.
So, you have someone you know is ‘into’ Scotch and you want to buy a nice present. You don’t want to set a foot wrong, and certainly don’t want to see her writing about your present as “the Scotch I save for folks who don’t know Scotch, or drown it in Coke.” Yes, I’ve read that on many a Scotch blog. Rude, I think…but it happens — because A) The styles of Scotch vary wildly in their aroma and taste (why it’s a fascinating obsession, yo!) and B) Scotch drinkers are often quite partisan about their preferred style.
Prep: Single malt vs. blend, and U.S. availability
We’re going to focus mostly on single malt scotches — this refers to a whisky that is made totally from one distillery’s production. They can (and do) mix casks and even years of production for a single malt. But as soon as they mix casks from another distillery and add grain alcohol (mass-produced, typically), then it is a blend. Common blends are well-known, like Johnnie Walker, Chivas, Dewars, Whyte and MacKay. These are the province of the casual drinker, not the Scotch enthusiast. Single malts will have more character, as the peculiarities of water and still are not blended out — hence they appeal to folks looking for adventure. Note: my focus is on brands available in the U.S., as that’s where I live.
There is a bit more to learn, so let’s do this in steps. We’ll gather some intelligence, align that to some facts, and send you shopping with a budget and some suggestions.
I’m not the one to judge, having been doing twitter seriously for just a year, but anyone with powers of observation can see certain patterns in the chaos. If it seems that the list leans towards those either writing, editing, agenting or publishing books, that’s because of MacNaughton’s Laws 1 & 2:
1. Every damn fool thinks he or she can write a book.
2. Every damn fool is on the Internet.
And yes, both the above apply to myself; I appreciate the irony. Note the order below is not arbitrary.
I recently reviewed a book on my future fiction blog (here) which was essentially a celebration of pulp genre – unabashedly raw, rambunctious, and disgusting in parts. A lot of folks liked it, giving 4 & 5 stars on Goodreads. It was a little over the top for me and I wondered if maybe I’m behind the times. I miss things. We don’t have cable — that was a conscious decision before having kids — though we do have internet. (That was not a superfluous decision in the beginning!)
One might be tempted to bemoan the callow ‘modern era’ as being desensitized by video games, violent movies and sex on TV. Take Game of Thrones. I first was introduced to GOT on an airplane, when the gent next to me opened his laptop and started playing the first episode. Look, this was coach, it is hard not to see naked women cavorting in my peripheral vision. He was on the aisle, too, so there were a good 5 rows with a view. I thought he had something from Bob Guccione going over there. I was rather taken aback. Later, I discovered it was Game of Thrones, available to anyone on HBO. Yeah, things had gotten pretty steamy on cable since I had last watched it.