|Senior Features Editor, Cigar Aficionado|
Hello all, I'm currently ensconced in writing about single-malt Scotch for Cigar Aficionado, and I'm fascinated with those aha! moments that made you a true believer. (Read my blog about the subject here: http://bit.ly/aog9DN)
Tell me about it--share your story here. Do you remember that singular moment that made you a true believer in single-malt Scotch? (Or did something in the experience impair your memory?)This message has been edited. Last edited by: Jack Bettridge,
My "aha" moment happened by accident, or I guess you could call it the guiding of fate. I was visiting a bar in Durham, NC that is simple named "Whiskey" and decided to try a dram of Scotch versus my usual choice of rye. In the past I had casually enjoyed a bottle of Aberlour 10 year and decided to be mildly adventurous and try the 12 year. However, the bartender misunderstood my request (or just up-sold me and I fell for it). Needless to say, from the first sip I knew it was too good to be the 12 year I thought I had ordered, and after a brief conversation with the bartender, she confirmed that I had indeed received the 16 year Aberlour. That was the point I realized just how great a single-malt Scotch could be, and I have been hooked ever since. While I still enjoy a sweet rye every now and then, I often reach for Scotch over anything else now.
My "Aha!" scotch moment came when I was new to tasting scotch. I had tried many of the better-known brands. Then, a friend introduced me to Laphroaig. I had never before tasted anything remotely similar. The peat overwhelmed me initially, but I have grown to love those single malts with that peaty edge, especially Lagavulin. The peat of these two scotches, paired with a Padron 40th is unmatched, in my opinion.
I was 17-years-old visiting friends in Northern Ireland (this was 1964) As they did not enough room in their house for me and my folks, they set me and a younger son up in a near-by hotel for the night.
After dinner there was not much to do so we stepped into the lounge where the young man promptly ordered 2 Scotches.
I had never tasted Scotch before that evening so he advised me to sip slowly.
When our drinks came he poured a little still water into each drink to "Open up the hidden flavors" of the Scotch.
The first few sips were not quite to my liking, but he insisted that I give it another try. He ordered an Islay Single Malt (I remember the flavor but not the brand) and I was quite taken aback by the nose and smokiness of the drink.
At 17, I was still a neophyte when it came to alcohol so I stopped at two lest I embaress myself.
I have enjoyed Single Malt Scotch since that time and I do prefer the Islays for their peaty smokiness, although I have been known to drink Highland, Lowland and other malts as well.
Doc ***** Tobacco is a filthy weed, I like it...
SNOB Member 1033 1/3
I had partnered my software company with an ad agency back in the mid 90's and both agency owners were drinkers, one was a Royal Crown guy, the other was a wine aficionado.
We were having some partnership issues in the 3rd year and I decided to bury the hatchet by sharing a great drink with them. I was not a single malt drinker but somehow the guy in the Ontario liquor store (LCBO) convinced me to buy a 25 year old cask strength (53.5% ABV) Highland Park single malt. My partners hated the drink, but liked the gesture and we temporarily resolved a few issues, and I absolutely loved the over proof single malt, the numbing sweetness and musty peaty flavour, and complex finish. To this day cask strength single malts are my favourite spirit drink.
I left the bottle of Highland Park in the agency board room, and after a year I noticed no one was drinking it, so I took it home and found out that this amazing single malt was a perfect match with my box of Cohiba Siglo V's.
So I discovered two things:
1) My love for cask strength single malts
2) How well cask strength single malts pare with Cuban cigars
Cor: Steve, you have proven yourself to be a tremendous whack job.
My "A-Ha" moment came while taking a tour of the Jameson factory while honeymooning in Ireland. I know it's Irish Whisky but it piqued my interestWe were given a private tasting and from there I was bitten. Until then, I always thought Johnny Walker Red was quality. From there I started researching Scotch and ended up getting a bottle of Dalmore 12y.o. from a friend of mine that owns a liquor store. A few months later we had to do an exercise about preparing a presentation and were required to do a 15 minute presentation on any topic of our choice. I chose scotch. While doing my research on how scotch is made, I got realy involved in learning the different regions it comes from and how each scotch producing region has it's own distinct characteristics. My presentation ended up going 8 minutes over. I'm still realatively new to scotch, but I've got the bug.
BOOSA Member #41.
Oh go on, smoke it. You know sometimes I hang out at cigar shops and rifle through the cigar ashtrays. You never know what you will find. Sometimes they even leave the bands . . --Steve Cohen
"Yeah, well they have those at the shop nearby and I have had them-they have been pretty good (not as good as my Ghurkas though)! " -- Sancigar
Being in ny may mean you are close enough for a round of golf and a great cigar. Not sure about sharing the miracle cgr's though. -- SMOKEMNY
"The Savona/Mott Blogs on Cuba are pretty funny to me. I've been travelling to Cuba for the past 15 years, not being a tourist to Cuba, so it's incredulous to me how 2 guys could be so much a tourist. Well, I guess if you've never been before...." -- Bucero
My brother in law told me he got a bottle of Glenlivet 18 from his brother when he graduated college, his brother told him "every man should have a bottle of scotch".
After hearing that I decided to give scotch a try, started with blends and decided to go with single malts shortly after(the speysiders and sweeter ones)
I had heard good things about Highland Park, and bought a bottle of 15yr old to try. I poured 1 glass and the smoke hit my mouth like chewing fire wood. I had never tasted anything like it, not in bourbon, or any other liquor including the speysiders I had tasted already.
Needless to say 1 day I ran out of liquor and the bottle of Highland Park was all I had left. So I started drinking it, and after a few glasses the woody note subsided a lot. Afterwards when I tried to go back down to sweeter whiskys they were just too sweet. And it was then I think I became a true scotch drinker, as oppose to "trying to like it" or "trying to find one I like".
It seems my tolerance for smokiness keeps building though, as if its a drug and have to keep moving higher and higher. I still love HP but have also fallen in love now with Talisker, and Caol Ila. After awhile I could drink peat monster Islay malts with out flinching, and even enjoy them, but as of today those are still for special circumstances, i.e. cold days/rain. HP Talisker and Caol Ila are still my favorites. I have a hard time drinking the super sweet whiskys now, it takes a couple glasses for me to start drinking them with ease.
I'm still waiting for the Ah-Ha moment. In general, I'm just a garden variety low budget scotch drinker. Glenfiddich 15 being my usual and something like Edradour 10 being my idea of "fancy". Far as it goes, I've nothing against a blended Johnny Walker.
So, maybe I've never had the Ah-Ha moment. But, recently, I DID have a "Holy Freaking Crap!!!" moment.
To make a short story even shorter... A co-worker got a bottle of Macallan 25 as a 60th birthday gift from our boss. The two of us drank about two thirds of the bottle in one sitting while smoking the every day smokes we happened to have on hand - Punch Champion Rare Corojos and Hoyo Excaliburs.
The whole sensory experience was sublime!
It's unlikely I'll ever be able to afford drinking scotch like that on my own dime. But, wow! It was G-R-E-A-T! I fully understand the appeal of high end spirits, for those that can afford them. It was that much better than any other scotch I've ever had...
- Dave A.
I am still waiting for that moment. I will never forget my first experience with scotch though. We were at a board of Directors meeting in Boston and I went out after dinner that last night with a fella (Terry L.) from Texas who introduced me to scotch (and earlier, cuban cigars). At this time my wife was about 8 months pregnant and we were in the midst of building our home, a stressful summer it was. As our group went from bar to bar that night Terry kept ordering me scotch, and I was having one helluva good time! The next morning I woke up in my hotel bed and saw that the clock read 12:20pm. Checkout time had been 11am. I managed to get up and drove an hour home, head throbbing, and immediately went back to bed. Sadly, to this day, I get a hangover most everytime I drink scotch, no matter how little.
Jack: You wrote "Every night I mix a Manhattan, light a cigar and drink a toast to the demise of the nanny state." What are some of your favorite smokes?
"Even on a bad night a Steely Dan show puts more musicality and skill on display than pretty much any band."
My dad having served in the Royal Navy, I grew up around "Navy-style" rum’s, "Woods 100 proof" being his favourite. I always preferred the taste of Scotch however, making my Scottish grandmother proud! :-)
I think my “Aha” moment came some years ago one Christmas on my first sip of Ardbeg Uigeadail… I’ll never forget the sensation in my mouth of the 55 % cask strength malt, the dryness and then the explosive yet lingering aftertaste… and this was after submitting my palate to a traditional English Christmas meal! :-)
Since then I still enjoy good blends on the rocks early in the evening (J.Walker Black being my favourite) but fine single malt is always served straight and at room temperature...
… So there may be hope for this Sassenach after all! ,-)
Laphroaig Quarter Cask Cask Strength..I bought my first bottle on impulse and have never looked back. My cigars taste like they are steroids when paired with this SM.
Proud Member of Habanos Brothers
After years of drinking blended Scotch, my aha moment came with one of my best friends, who knew what I usually drank and told me he had some Scotch that was so good and smooth, it would make me cry. Mind you, we were in our early 20's. He broke out a bottle of Glen Fiddich and I haven't looked back since, almost 30 years ago. What a difference between that and the blended I was drinking. I owe him one for that taste.
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
My first single-malt experience occurred in November of 1999. We were hosting a house-warming party at our ca. 1850 farm house, which we'd just closed on. My best friend, Dr. Steve, who I've known for nearly 40 years, brought a bottle of The Oban as one of his family's housewarming gifts. As it was an unusually warm Fall day, all the guys were outside on the front lawn, watching the kids try to play croquet, and smoking our celebratory Hoyo de Monterey Excalibur 1's [my gift to everyone]. We opened the Oban and passed it around, admittedly in plastic cups. Talk about an "Aha!" moment: great smokes, great friends, great house and one of the greatest drinks I'd ever enjoyed. It doesn't get much better than that.
My dad has always been a scotch drinker. Blended scotches to be more specific and Dewar's White Label to be exact. As a teen, I would sneak snips from his glass and would gasp at the bitter harshness. But slowly, I actually acquired a taste for it. In college, I would come home and share a glass with him and we bonded. I grew to really like it. My friends thought I was crazy for liking an 'old man' drink. It wasn't my Aha moment - but I did want to learn about single malts. Once I graduated, and had a steady salary, I wanted to treat myself with a single malt [this was a big step for me]. After some research and asking around, I bought a bottle of Balvenie 12 DoubleWood for my birthday, blindly without ever trying it.
Wow, I was amazed at the complexity the second it touched my tongue. I had never experienced a spirit so different. I could still taste the first sip after several minutes. My sinuses we filled with honey, vanilla and spice. I have continued my malt journey ever since
I will be 30 in a few months and plan on treating myself to a bottle of 30 year old Balvenie to celebrate the occasion and mark the anniversary of my first single malt scotch.
Bought a bottle of Crown Royal when I was 17 and brought it to a friend's appt. We didnt know any better and we figured, like vodka, all alcohol would be better ice cold. So...we stuck it in the freezer.
A week later, I went back to his place and me and another guy polished off the cold bottle of CR in about 2 hours. Needless to say, we were throwing up for the better part of the next 12 hours...LOL.
Didn't touch anything stronger than beer (rarely) for the next few years. I started to get back into the drinking when a large group of my friends got married within 2 years of one another. Every wedding I had a little more scotch (usually JW red, glenfiddich, JB or CR). One day, the guy who actually introduced me to cigars (damn him!) invited me and the GF over for supper. We ate, watched some hockey on TV, played some Rock Band on ps3 and settled in for a smoke. He handed me a BBF and a glass of whisky. I smoked and drank greedily, not really paying attention to what I was drinking cuz it was so smooth and gentle and warm. We finished half a bottle of JW Blue that night a BBF and a Cohiba Seleccion Pyramides each before calling it a night. Even though all my GF and I brought to dinner was a salad, a cake for dessert and 2 bottles of wine, it turned into the most expensive night of my life!
Buying bottles of whisky and boxes of smokes ever since!
So there I was in Varadero Cuba at one of their Cigar stores. Upstairs there is a variety of souvenirs, booze and trinkets. I noticed in this one case in the middle display, were several bottles of alcohol. The case was locked for some reason and I asked to take a look in side. As I looked, I noticed 2 bottles of scotch in the back. The first was a "Scott's Selection 1974 single highland Malt and the second was a 1971 same make. I was surprised that they had this and surprised that no one picked it up. Now i enjoy a scotch just as the next man but may not be as familiar as the next as to value. I realize there are many smaller family distilleries in Scotland and many I have never heard of. But the label on the bottom read 50 dollars. So i grabbed both. By a Robert Scott, 56.9%, distilled 1974 bottled 1996. Or did I find a treasure??? Note: It came with it's own little stand up case and on the back of the case reads Scott's, Glenglassaugh 1974.
In any event I was thrilled to have found such a great collection of Scotch in such a weird place to have scotch. So now I await that moment with a cigar and enjoy the first sip. It may be admirable to enjoy a cigar with the same year as the scotch... Wait and see.
Next time see how long it takes you to get angry, then when you do...realize you just wasted all the time before just that moment.