To Dram or Not to Dram? That Is the Question.

As many of you know, I have not been real keen on Whisky (without the “e”) or Scotch Whisky as we call it here in the States.  This has to do with an incident I had in College which has made the strong peaty flavor of whisky off putting for me.  But through this blog, and through the relationships I have made, I decided to do a little bit of exploration into the world of Scotch Whisky.  Finally I found a Whisky that I, in fact, liked very much.  I wrote about my experience with “The Glenlivet” Whisky as the first Whisky I have been able to drink since college, and that its fruity flavor with just a light touch of peatiness was not only palatable to me, but thoroughly enjoyable.

So as it happened I also had a couple of other Whisky offerings in my bunker that I had not drank since they were given to me about a year ago.  These were just 50 ml sample bottles, but enough to get a taste and formulate an opinion.  Monday, as it was a holiday for me, I decided was the day.  I had a 50 ml sample of “The Macallan” 12 year old, and a 50 ml sample of Chivas Regal 12 year old scotch whisky.  I started with the Chivas Regal…

First thing you notice when looking at this photo are the nice legs hanging on the edge of the glass.  This reflected a very nice and oily mouthfeel that was prevalent in this whisky and coated the palate nicely.  This whisky like the Glenlivet was not a peat monster, but had a very fruity character to it.  It was easy drinking and quite enjoyable.  Not too many challenging flavors here, and probabaly why it is such an iconic scotch whisky.

I sipped this while having a cigar on my front porch and I can see why that is such a saught after pairing.  The fruitiness, combined with that touch of peat was the perfect match, flavor wise with the rich dark Maduro I was smoking.

Finally I had a 50 ml sample of “the Macallan” 12 year old scotch whisky.  This scotch was aged in sherry casks which gave it a nice light body with a lot of dark fruit on the nose and palate.  The first thing I noticed however was the package.  Both these samples came in glass bottles, which is becoming a rarity, as many manufactures have opted for the more convenient plastic bottles for their sample sizes.  Not only was “the Macallan’s” bottle glass, but it actually had the tiniest cork stopper I have ever seen.  I took a picture of it for this photo because I thought it was so unusual.

The next thing I noticed was that this particular scotch was several shades darker than the Chivas Regal.  Not sure what to attribute that to, as they were both aged for 12 years, but there it is.  The Macallan was a touch more challenging than the Chivas Regal for the amount of peatiness that was present in the flavor.  I’m not sure if I’m simply acclimating to the flavor, or if my palate was deadened by the smoke and the previous dram, but this was not only palatable, but it actually began to be a flavor I looked forward to in each sip.

So there you have it.  Three Scotch Whiskys that I truly like.  I thought it would never happen, but I just had to find the right flavor profile and set of circumstances to enjoy this whisky brother from the Scottish Isles.  I have.  So to answer the question I posed in the title, to Dram or not to Dram…I say go ahead.  Dram away.  There are lots of unique and tasty flavors to explore.


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Categories: Lifestyle, review, Scotch Whisky

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13 Comments on “To Dram or Not to Dram? That Is the Question.”

  1. September 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    At this rate, you’ll be freebasing moss in six months, Don!

    • Don
      September 7, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

      I’ve got some great Alaskan Peat from the Garden Supply store! Probably not quite, but it does begin to open up an entirely new realm of flavors and experiences to have again. 🙂

  2. September 7, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Dram! This weekend, I had the pleasure of sampling some Glenlivet 15. Wow. Like you describe about these whiskys, the 15 is not a peat monster. Very smooth. Not up on the tasting notes like you, Don, but damn it was a great tasting Scotch. You may just like a 4th. Take a wee dram, and see for yourself. BTW… I took it neat.

    • Don
      September 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

      I think you are right Tex. I really liked the Glenlivet 12, and from what I’ve been told the 15 and the 18 are even better. Smoother and bigger flavored. It is a whole new world for me, so I’m sure I will be sampling for a long long time!

  3. CG
    September 8, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    Think Macallan is darker the the Chivas because it is a single malt vs a blend. Want so much peat that your toes will curl? Give Lagavulin a try!

    • September 8, 2010 at 10:33 am #

      I’m afraid Lagavlin will set him back 20 years, Charles! He needs to baby step his way to total peat domination!

    • Don
      September 9, 2010 at 11:14 am #

      I really don’t care for the peatiness, so no thank you. But at least I know what to avoid.

  4. September 9, 2010 at 7:59 am #

    Don, that Macallan you tried was, as you said, the “Sherry Cask” version as opposed to the new-fangled “Fine Oak” range which is matured primarily in ex bourbon casks.

    Just look at the colour of good dark sherries and you’ll see where the whisky colour comes from. You also get the rich-tasting elements of dark fruits too.

    Sadly, the Macallan sherried versions are getting rarer as their caks policy seems to change more towards bourbon casks.

    If you get chance try a Macallan 18y ‘sherry cask!


    • Don
      September 9, 2010 at 11:21 am #

      I’ll look for the 18 Keith. Thanks

  5. September 9, 2010 at 8:04 am #

    Just to answer a couple of points raised previously:

    The colour of any whisky comes 100% from the cask it is matured in, or perhaps more accurately from the cask and what was in there beforehand. Hence whisky matured in sherry casks will have a much darker colour than that matured in bourbon casks.

    Was The Glenlivet of which you speak the 15y French Oak?
    This is ‘wine finished’ and yes, a jolly good whisky, but a little more winey than fruity.
    The Glenlivet 16y Nadurra (especially the cask strength version) is magnificent, as is the 18y.

    Don, don’t even think of Lagavulin!
    Unless of course you fancy chewing some liquid peat.


  6. September 14, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    To Dram or Not to Dram? What a question… The answer is obvious, but I guess I am a bit biased because it’s the name of my website 😉

    But let me add a little point about your whisky experiences. Both the Glenlivet and the Macallan are NOT peated at all. Only the Chivas – being a blend – will have a small fraction of peated whisky included. What you might taste as “peaty” in then Glen and the Mac could be the effects of re-charred barrels that these whiskies have matured in. Try Laphroaig or Ardbeg, if you want to taste true peat.

    It is kind of a misconception especially many Americans seem to have that all Scotch is supposed to be smoky or peaty. But just about a dozen of the hundered distilleries in Scorland use peat at all.

    • Don
      September 14, 2010 at 11:06 am #

      Good information to know Oliver. I definitely prefer the less peaty stuff, as I think it was the flavor of the peat that stuck with me after my college “indiscretion.”

    • September 14, 2010 at 11:17 am #

      If you really liked the Macallan, you might want to try some of the other sherry cask single malts like Aberlour, Dalmore or Glendronach. And if you don’t mind just a little whiff of peat smoke, I can recommend the Benromach 10 which I found to be a very good quality whisky at a very reasonable price.

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