Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Whiskey Wednesday: Trader Joe's Scotch

Getting Started: Visit Trader Joe's

If you live in California, there is no better place to start sampling single malts than your local Trader Joe's. TJ's carries some excellent malts at excellent prices from a variety of Scottish regions (we'll talk about the regions at some later date). Here are some you can start with. (For you out of towners, TJ's is a popular discount gourmet store.)

Glenfiddich, 12 year old, Speyside Region

Glenfiddich is the world's most popular single malt. If you've never had a single malt before, you should try it. And even though I feel I have outgrown it, I have a soft spot for the first single malt I tried and the one that served me dutifully for years before I got more adventurous. Glenfiddich sold me on its smoothness...it has no harshness; it's light and pleasant. It is a malt stripped down to its maltiness and a good example of the smooth, mellow style of the popular Speyside region. TJ's price: $23.99

Dalwhinnie 15 year old, Highlands

Like Glenfiddich but more so, Dalwhinnie is super smooth but with a richer taste. You start to see the complexity that scotch can have. I think it smells sort of grassy, maybe that's what they call floral. I get some vanilla in there too, wait there's more: honey, heather, treacle...Noooo. Hey, you were supposed to stop me. Anyway, you get the drift. TJ's price: $41.99

Dalmore, 12 year old, Northern Highlands

Now we get to the good stuff. I think of all the malts on this list, I like Dalmore the best. I generally like Northern Highlander malts. They are rugged, pungent and complex. Dalmore doesn't smell like flowers; it smells like the earth and tastes like the sea. The oak of the barrel comes through and right at you - screaming WOOD. It is complex and thick and if you hold it in your mouth it actually gets a bit sweet. This is rugged whiskey for rugged people living on rugged terrain. And at $22.99 at TJ's, it's about the best deal you will ever find for a malt of its quality.

Laphroaig, 10 year old, Islay

Here it is in all its smoke and glory: Laphroaig 10 year old. The most affordable of the smokers. This is your typical south Islay, with all its peat smoke, medicinal flavors and oily textures. I'm an Islay fan and a smoke fan and if you've never had a scotch with powerful smoke, Laphroaig is a good place to start: TJ's price: $29.99

There you have it. A fabulous one-stop intro to scotch for about $120 (an amount a scotch nut could easily spend on a single bottle). And remember, unlike say, wine, which you have to drink within days of popping the cork, an open bottle of scotch can last for years (though mine never seem to). So, you get more for your money.

TJ's also has its own line of private label independent bottlings; I've seen them from Aberlour, Glenlivet, Macallan and Bowmore, but haven't tasted any yet...maybe that will be a future tasting.

Next Whisky Wednesday: Lagavulins Young and Old

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