Painlord's Pathfinder Introduction to Scotch


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Greetings Mortals-

I don't like you and you don't like me, but that doesn't mean that we can't raise a dram of the sweet, sweet nectar together. I've been scotching for a short while, but doing a lot of 'research' in that time. It's been a fun (as you can imagine) process. After about a year, I don't know much but I know much more than I did when I started.

Lemme point you to two tools have have helped me learn: first, map <MAP>. We Pathfinders know maps and this map is pretty good. See them distilleries from different regions? See that? And, in general, different regions have a different spins and flavors. No, it's not perfect, but you know if you get stuff from a distillery on Islay, you're going to taste a lot of peat. And if you go to Speyside, you're getting a more classic scotch flavor...with a bit of spice.

Secondly, get thee to Distiller.com, aka the ClassGuide of Booze. You can create an account, list your collection, and learn a bit. Heck, you can even find me (user: Painlord) and add me as a friend. You'll see my collection and whatnot. Mostly, you can use Distiller to read and shop for things of interest. I don't do ratings or comments because I don't know what I'm talking about (yet).

Note about Distiller Ratings:
I have mixed feelings about the ratings. The 0-100 score is done by an expert which is subject to all sorts of personal preferences/mood swings/what they just ate, etc. I go by it, but also put a lot of credence into the 0-5 star rating, given by the distiller community. The wisdom of crowds thing. I kind of mesh the two in determining what to try/buy...and sometimes my preferences are affected by price/value. I can tell you that I *love* Johnnie Walker Blue, but at $150+ per bottle, it's not something I'm drinking every day. But I like JW Black, just fine and it's cheap enough for sipping at home while I play Pathfinder, you know?

Also, please don't think that the more $$$ the scotch the better it is. It might be more true, in general, but there are lots of times where I've paid a lot for a bottle but found it wasn't for me or I didn't get it. While the $200 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue is amazeballs, it's also possible that some $$$ scotches are crap. The only way to know for sure is research and trying them out.

Thirdly, I'm just talking about scotch. I appreciate some of you might like a nice bourbon or irish whiskey, but that ain't scotch. For those of you that are confused about the difference, lemme try to explain.

Scotch? Whiskey? Huh?:
Uh, yeah it's confusing. And we can't do Venn diagrams on this site. But maybe this will help.

Category:subcategory
All drinks: milk, water, booze, sodas, etc.
All booze: beer, wine, vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, etc.
All whiskey: whisky, irish whiskey, japanese whiskey, bourbon, american whiskey, scotch, canadian whiskey, etc.
All scotch: just scotch, from Scotland. If it comes from a distillery on the <MAP>., then it's probably scotch.

Scotch is a particular whiskey that only comes from Scotland.

Scotch is actually a lot of variety within a relatively small area. But you can buy a few different scotches from a few areas and use that to develop a taste and understanding of things. Most of the bottles below are relatively cheap and nice introductions. Here are some good, inexpensive scotches that you can use to learn about the range of flavors available to you.

How to Drink Scotch Part 1: Water? Ice? Food?:
I know there are lots of varied feelings about this issue. For me, I'm mostly neat (which means no ice). I will, occasionally, splash some water into a scotch. But mostly, no water unless the scotch seems to want it (like a spicy Abelour or CompassBox). I don't eat while I drink. Period. I don't want the food I'm eating to cloud or distort the scotch. Others feel differently about this, but for me, as I try to learn: I don't eat while drinking. Also, I don't do ice...cold kills/hides too many of the flavors, however I know that's how others like it. My feeling is that if you need ice to make some scotch palatable, then you might have the wrong scotch for you.

How to Drink Scotch Part 2: Meta:
Suppose you run about and buy 3 bottles of scotch. How should you drink them? In what order? Well, good question. I like comparisons. I like take a splash of one and sip it gone, then try a different scotch and take a splash of that. Sometimes I might go with one scotch for the night, trying to get a feel for it. I don't think it's right or wrong to switch between two or three bottles, sipping splashes away. But comparison will allow you to start picking out peaty or floral flavors more easily. You'll see which scotches are more sweet or spicy through comparison and tasting.

How to Drink Scotch Part 3: Glass? Paper cup? Shoe?:
The pros will tell you to sip through a scotch sniffery glass, however, that's for sticking your nose in and trying inhale the scents. I'm happy with just a regular glass. I tend to avoid ceramics, papers, ivory horns, & plastics when drinking scotch.

List of Painlord Recommended Starter Scotches:

Glenlivet 12 (about $30 at Trader Joes) - It took me an entire bottle before I *'got'* this scotch. Yes, it can take a while to learn how to drink or enjoy a particular scotch. This scotch taught me that. I'm happy to drink it now. It's a baseline, cheap scotch that I can use for comparisons. It's not amazing, but cheap and good.

Laphroaig 10 (about $40 at Trader Joes) - This scotch here will teach you about peat. This here is the peaty peat peatiest stuff of your dreams/nightmares. Mrs. Painlord considers it to taste like wet dog; to me, it's magic. It's rough to be sure, but it's also good, very good. Peat is boggy swampy hag magic brewed into a drink. It's great once you get into it.

Old Pulteney 12 - (about $40) OP is OP. That is, Old Pulteney is overpowered for the cost. It's good. A bit sweet and has good flavor. Don't believe me, watch this old Scottish bastard talking about it: informative OP discussion. This guy knows things and he's hilarious. It's a good listen for when you get your own OP. He also talks about adding water to scotch, which is interesting.

Isle of Skye 12 (about $42) Similar to OP, Isle of Skye 12 is cheap and good and just a nice scotch.

Johnnie Walker Black (about $40 at Trader Joes) - Ah yeah, my favorite cheap blend. It's just a solid, slightly-peaty scotch. Don't get JW Red, and if you can't afford Blue (Platinum isn't worth it), then treat-yo-self to some Black. Compare this to the Glenlivet or Laphroaig. You'll begin to taste the differences.

Glenfiddich 14 (about $50) - Nope, not a glamorous bottle, but I love this. Not too expensive and just good.

Aberfeldy 12 (about $55) - This is the first 'expensive' scotch that I ever fell in love with. That was over a year ago and now I know better. It's just good and always makes me happy. Also, it's not that expensive (now that I've seen others) but still a staple of my cabinet.

Lagavulin 16 (about $80 at CostCo) - The mack daddy of the peated scotches, this one blends peat with smoothness to equal happiness. Yes, it's the one Ron Swanson drinks on Parks & Rec...and for good reason. Sipping this while watching your favorite sportsball game is why scotch (and probably all sports) exists.

Benromach Organic (about $90) - I can't tell you how much I love this one. So good. Not even sure it's organic, but it's magic.

So yeah...where should you start?

I started by making a lot of mistakes (and them drinking them away). I tried lots of stuff I liked, and a bunch of stuff I didn't. I explored and created my own maxim: "Always Second Sip".

That means I never, ever trust myself on my first sip to judge a scotch. Try a second, third, or fourth sip. Heck, try a bottle, but be slow to make up your mind. First sips are lies. Dirty rotten lies. First sips are just wrong...unless you hit that one scotch that hits you just right. It's rare...but mostly, like especially when you are trying a peaty or spicy scotch, it may take a few sips for your 'buds to adapt to the flavors.

Buy yeah...how should I start?

Uh...depending on how much you want to learn and explore, you might buy three bottles either immediately or over a period of weeks. You might buy 'Old Pulteney 12 or Isle of Skye 12', and Glenlivet 12, and laphroaig 10. That's about $110 or so...but is many many good nights of drinking scotch. From there, you might have a splash of Glenlivet and then a splash of Laphroaig, then try comparing that to OP.

From there, after you understand those scotches, you might feel free to explore the map, explore Distiller, and find other interesting scotches to drink. I've had a lot of bottles that I drank, but didn't love. At the same time, some random purchases I've made have ended up being pretty good. I'm still learning and don't know much...but I do have a map and I've found some things that I've liked.

-Pain

p.s. My favorite scotch: Oban 14. It's not beloved on Distiller (Distiller is just wrong on that, IMO), but is the best bottle at the price ($80). It's just solid and good.

p.p.s. Yes, Lagavulin 16 is really, really good. That's for special occasions. It may take you a while to get it, but once you do...ah...yeah.

p.p.p.s. If you have any thoughts, opinions, or questions about my Distiller Collection, I'm happy to discuss. I seek to learn.

p.p.p.p.s. For more on other scotch stuff, this thread is full of fun and recommendations.

Sovereign Court

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Oban is fantastic and very drinkable. Nice write up, but I prefer Bourbon. Now accepting your hate applications :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

I am rather fond of Dalmore 18 yr.

While I do enjoy a good whisky, I have found that I do generally prefer bourbon and rye whiskey. That said, I do get into a Scotch mood from time to time.

The Exchange

Scotchery Update:

Brought two bottles of scotch to our Thanksgiving foodfest (my contributions as I have no desire to cook, but like to drink and eat): the aforementioned Glenfiddich 14 and a new one to me: Glenmorangie's Nectar D'or (rec'd to me by rpgblue, aka BoldStrider).

We had a few samplers of each after dinner and pie. Among the newer scotch drinkers, Glenfiddich was preferred (as expected, it's just good) and the Nectar...well...was different. I couldn't get into it...yet. No one sipped the Nectar and loved it after one, two, or many sips.

It happens sometimes when I experience a new scotch, especially one that is somewhat highfalutin/different, like the Nectar. I opened up with Nectar, took a splash...and sipped, and sipped, and sipped...and never found a spot where I said "Yeah, I like this," to myself. I splashed out a bit of the Glenfiddich and within 2 sips, I was reminded how much I like the Glenfiddich. So, I switched back to the Nectar...I found it slightly better, but not good.

So, I'll keep researching the Nectar...I'm not sure what it is yet.

* * *

A certain Icy Bear, like Pan, mentioned that Oban 14 was really good and a favorite. So, yeah, not sure why it's not as beloved on Distiller. It's a mystery to me.

* * *

Pan wrote:
Now accepting your hate applications. :)

I won't hate you for liking other things...in fact, you'll see a good amount of not-scotch in both my collection and my wish list.

And, as for the matter of posting bourbon preferences here, I think it's akin to saying "I prefer the Eldritch Knight" in a class guide thread for the Magus. It's a Paizo board tradition.


How does the Oban 14 compare to the Lagavulin 16 in terms of taste? The Lagavulin was the first peated scotch I tried (after only drinking Connemara before) and it was pretty overwhelming at first.


How to Drink Scotch Part 1: Water? Ice? Food?

You forgot straight out of the bottle.

Collection?

What's this, precious? I thought you had to finish one before getting another.

The Exchange

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Fabius Maximus wrote:
How does the Oban 14 compare to the Lagavulin 16 in terms of taste? The Lagavulin was the first peated scotch I tried (after only drinking Connemara before) and it was pretty overwhelming at first.

I've been noodling over this all night. The answer is I have no idea how to answer it. They are both good...really good, but one is peaty and one is not. One is the pinnacle of peaty/smooth: Lagavulin is a thing for a reason and the more you have it, the more you'll get it. It's flipping magic.

Oban? Oban isn't peaty, nor spicy...it's just freakin' scotch to me. It's easy to sip and sip and sip.

No, I have no answer to this. However, the best thing to do would be to get a bottle of each and drink a splash/dram/finger of one, then the other. You'll either figure out which on you like more OR appreciate them both for what they are AND/OR just end up nice and tipsy that it won't matter: it'll have been a good night.

(You can also do a similar and cheaper comparison with Glenlivet 12 vs. Laphroaig 10.)

* * *

Fellfire wrote:
You forgot straight out of the bottle. I thought you had to finish one before getting another.

Uhm...I think you want the "Introduction to Drunken Debauchery" thread a few posts down. It's right next to the "1000 ways to kill my liver" thread.


If you're standing around a campfire, sharing an half-pint with your friends, it's perfectly acceptable to drink right from the bottle.

I've only got a bottle of Dewar's. 12 year old though, so not the worst.

I had a bottle of that Laphroaig stuff. Finished it off, and went for another... They wanted over a hundred dollars a bottle for the stuff. So I passed. I don't think I paid that much for the first bottle.


I stand by my recommendation of the Nectar D'Or by Glenmorangie. I find that it is especially good for those who are not well-versed in scotch, but are fans of wines (particularly dessert wines).

Also, hard pass on any peated scotches. I'll stick with the Glens to get my scotch fix.


Thanks, Painlord. I was under the impression that Oban was an Islay scotch, hence my question. Obviously, I was mislead.


Waterhammer wrote:

If you're standing around a campfire, sharing an half-pint with your friends, it's perfectly acceptable to drink right from the bottle.

I've only got a bottle of Dewar's. 12 year old though, so not the worst.

I had a bottle of that Laphroaig stuff. Finished it off, and went for another... They wanted over a hundred dollars a bottle for the stuff. So I passed. I don't think I paid that much for the first bottle.

Laphroaig, depending on the bottle, can be very expensive. The 10 year should run about $45 (give or take $5) and is very solid and reliable (though I miss the 12 yr as being a regular offering).


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Fellfire wrote:

How to Drink Scotch Part 1: Water? Ice? Food?

You forgot straight out of the bottle.

Raymond Chandler, in The Big Sleep, wrote:

"How do you take your brandy, sir?"

"In a glass."

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Fabius Maximus wrote:
Thanks, Painlord. I was under the impression that Oban was an Islay scotch, hence my question. Obviously, I was mislead.

Oban is most definitely not Islay. It doesn't taste like you're licking a bonfire.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

And if Painlord really wants some good Scotch, you really need to buy a bottle of Cask Strength. Glenfiddich is probably one of the best of those.


Grolick wrote:
Fabius Maximus wrote:
Thanks, Painlord. I was under the impression that Oban was an Islay scotch, hence my question. Obviously, I was mislead.
Oban is most definitely not Islay. It doesn't taste like you're licking a bonfire.

It's an acquired taste.


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One of my favorite descriptions I've come up with was for Laphroaig Quarter Cask:

It tastes like someone took an old fishing boat and set it on fire; they then took it and buried under a peat bog for 6 months, and now they are currently trying to see how much of the remains of that old boat they can fit in your mouth. If that sounds like a good time, you should the Quarter Cask. I love it.

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Irontruth wrote:

One of my favorite descriptions I've come up with was for Laphroaig Quarter Cask:

It tastes like someone took an old fishing boat and set it on fire; they then took it and buried under a peat bog for 6 months, and now they are currently trying to see how much of the remains of that old boat they can fit in your mouth. If that sounds like a good time, you should the Quarter Cask. I love it.

Totes McGoats.

I have/had 3 bottles of the Laphroaig: the 10 (a cheap and good staple), the Quarter Cask, and the Cask Strength 005.

All three as peaty little bastards and all three different expressions of that. I love them all differently. The Laph 10 is a staple (because of the price), but sometimes I like to explore the 005 (or 006) or the Quarter Cask.

Yeah, peat is an acquired taste, but once you get it, you get it. I strongly suggest taking time to explore at least one bottle of it. At least once...so that you know and get it.

* * *

I keep hoping that someone will post on the recommendations that I have above: especially the Isle of Skye or Old Pulteney 12. Let's get drinking, you lecherous bastards.

* * *

Grolick wrote:
And if Painlord really wants some good Scotch, you really need to buy a bottle of Cask Strength. Glenfiddich is probably one of the best of those.

I expect to share a bottle at the PaizoCon, Trevs. Bring a bottle, won't you? I haven't had nor seen the Glenfiddich Quarter Cask, but I'll look.

Also, because flying monkeys speak to me, yes, yes, you should get into play by post. What are you waiting for?

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Scotchery Update (from last weekend):

Let me confirm again that prices are b&!!++~#...and only somewhat correlated to quality and taste. A few nights ago, I did splashes of comparison between three scotches that have a similar flavor profile (at least to me):

Johnnie Walker Black (about $32 at Safeway)
Johnnie Walker Platinum (about $100 at Safeway)
Aberfeldy 12 (about $55)

I started with the JW Black. I know it. It's cheap. It's good. It has a slight amount of peat. I can sip it happily. I know that it's relatively inexpensive.

Then I went to Black's big brother: JW Platinum. It's better. It is noticeably better. However, is it worth 3x the price? Oh hells no. It's still slightly peaty and is a bit more smooth.

Then the Aberfeldy. Oh man, this is the first scotch I ever loved (after Lagavulin 16, of course). This used to be my bomb (I think I understand things differently now). Now? I think it's better than the JW Black, and equal to the JW Platinum. Is it twice as good as the JW Black? No. But do I still love having it? Yes.

By pure enjoyment (not considering cost): Aberfeldy > Platinum > Black
By pure cost: Black > Aberfeldy > Platinum

I'll probably always have a bottle of JW Black on hand. And if you're in a bar, drinking with other Pathfinders, it's not a bad thing to order neat. It's cheap, it's good sipping, it's omnipresent. I don't know that I'd ever order Platinum at a bar: totally not worth the price.

So yeah, that's a step on my scotch journey.

The Exchange

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It's unlikely I'd be able to bring any of the cask strength anywhere with me. I don't know that it's available in the US anywhere. In fact, the only way we got what we had was to bottle ourselves in the gift store at the distillery. I'm still kind of sad we didn't get to take the Balvenie tour, but I didn't realize how far in advance you need to try to schedule that tour. Oh well.

Also, not sure I'll be at PaizoCon this year, but maybe. A lot depends on if I decided to go to Gencon's 50th birthday party.

Grand Lodge

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Gotta thank Kirth for helping me broaden my experiences, even if it ended up not taking. :) Cheers, Painlord!


Review of the Glenmorangie Nectar D'or:

The sweetness from the barrel-aging is subtle, but it definitely contrast with the idea of a non-sweet whiskey. They nice grape-i-ness permeates the whiskey, but doesn't overpower the true focus. It is a great whiskey that has a bit of complex sweetness.

To summarize, Painlord is wrong. Also, if you can have a Japanese whiskey, do it! Those guys are doing amazing things and wrecking the whiskey world.

(Suntory or Hibiki!)

The Exchange

Painlord wrote:

Among the newer scotch drinkers, Glenfiddich was preferred (as expected, it's just good) and the Nectar...well...was different. I couldn't get into it...yet. No one sipped the Nectar and loved it after one, two, or many sips.

It happens sometimes when I experience a new scotch, especially one that is somewhat highfalutin/different, like the Nectar. I opened up with Nectar, took a splash...and sipped, and sipped, and sipped...and never found a spot where I said "Yeah, I like this," to myself. I splashed out a bit of the Glenfiddich and within 2 sips, I was reminded how much I like the Glenfiddich. So, I switched back to the Nectar...I found it slightly better, but not good.

GM Bold Strider wrote:

Review of the Glenmorangie Nectar D'or:

The sweetness from the barrel-aging is subtle, but it definitely contrast with the idea of a non-sweet whiskey. They nice grape-i-ness permeates the whiskey, but doesn't overpower the true focus. It is a great whiskey that has a bit of complex sweetness.

To summarize, Painlord is wrong.

Nah. Not sure how I can be wrong...or anyone can be wrong about a preference (except for those piddlespotters who prefer to play gnomes...they're wrong).

Now, I don't want to say that I regret following the recommendation of buying/trying the Nectar...I don't regret it at all. I tried it. Others tried it None of us loved it...or even liked it that much. I like that I've had the opportunity to try many scotches and am able to figure out which ones I like and don't. There is no regret there. It's freakin' scotching.

And I'm trying it again right now, both with some water and without. I'm just not moved by it. I don't get it.

Contrast that experience with the stuff I bought on a whim yesterday and tried last night: Dalmore 12. (about $62 at BevMo)

The Dalmore 12 was instantly inviting and good. Easy to drink, nice & smooth going down. Easily 'better' (to me) than the Nectar. It's nice when a quasi-random buy (it did have an 88 score on Distiller) comes out to be a fine drink, worthy of the 88. At the price, it's a nice addition to the cabinet and I'll be enjoying for a time longer. It won't last as long as the Nectar, which is pretty much a good thing.

I'll be offering the Nectar to friends to see if any of them 'get' it more than I do.


GM Bold Strider wrote:

Also, if you can have a Japanese whiskey, do it! Those guys are doing amazing things and wrecking the whiskey world.

(Suntory or Hibiki!)

I was quite impressed with Suntory's Yamazaki. However, the OP was very adamant about this thread being for Scotch ONLY. THIS THREAD is more inclusive.


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Kirth Gersen wrote:
GM Bold Strider wrote:

Also, if you can have a Japanese whiskey, do it! Those guys are doing amazing things and wrecking the whiskey world.

(Suntory or Hibiki!)
I was quite impressed with Suntory's Yamazaki. However, the OP was very adamant about this thread being for Scotch ONLY. THIS THREAD is more inclusive.

Whiskey is dirt cheap here in Japan. Like...750ml of very decent Suntory whiskey for about $5.

Silver Crusade

Like Painlord, my tastes in scotch run toward the peaty-side so take that as you will.

For those who wish to know my go-to scotchs before I give a recommendation - Lagavulin 16 and Laphroig 10 are a constant at the Flynnstone. I quite enjoy the earthy qualities of the aforementioned scotchs however I know that those are not for everyone.

Shieldaig is a new found middle of the road scotch for me. I didn't find it too peaty, oak-y, nor did it overpower everything in sight. In short, I actually think this is quite a good beginner Speyside.

On the more experimental side - for my birthday a friend bought me the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban - aged 10 years in American white oak bourbon casks then extra matured in ruby port casks. It is sweet and buttery without being overly so. For those of you who don't like the peat - give this one a go.

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