Whisky Recommendations for a New Whisky Drinker

There has been a great discussion taking place over the past couple days on John Hansell’s blog, WhatDoesJohnKnow. In light of his upcoming trip to Chicago to host WhiskyFest, publisher and editor of Malt Advocate magazine, Hansell, asked his community to share some thoughts and recommendations on whiskies that would be most appropriate for the new whisky drinker.

Balvenie 15 Single Malt WhiskyThe conversation has been lively and there have been a lot of great recommendations put forth. Some of the recommended whiskies that resonated most with my own list included: Balvenie 15 – the whisky that one me over, Highland Park 15 – the whisky that took the love to another level, GlenDronach 15 – the whisky that made me realize Scotch makes a killer dessert, Oban 14 – the whisky that I’ve seen win more people over than any other, and Glenfarclas 12/17 – a great value pick.

On the Glenfarclas note, I’d add that they also provide a great entry into 21 year+ whiskies. Not only do they make a terrific product, but their prices are very reasonable (25 year for under $150, that’s a deal).

Not surprisingly, the topic of peat has been the most debated subject throughout the conversation. Peated whiskies can be over the top for new whisky drinkers, but it’s not always the case. And in those cases where peat is welcomed, my first recommendation – and one that seemed to resonate throughout the discussion – is Lagavulin 16.  To me, Lagavulin is one of the absolute classic, mainstream peated Islay whiskies, and it was the one that got me into the smokey peat flavors.

Lagavulin 16 Islay Single Malt Whisky

Other whiskies mentioned in the comment chain included Macallan 12, Glenmorangie 10, Cragganmore 12 and Old Pulteney 12.

I think the key takeaway here is this: there are plenty of terrific, lower-cost ($40 – $75) whiskies on the market that can stand up to the challenge of introducing a new whisky drinker to this spirit and the vast options that are available. If you don’t mind dropping a few bucks on an experiment, pick up a bottle or two of any of the above and start drinking. There are numerous regions throughout Scotland, each producing different styles of whisky. Pick up a Highland or a Speyside and see what you think. Maybe throw a peaty Islay into the mix and compare the differences. It may take you a little while to come around, but I have a feeling you will.

Want some additional whisky recommendations? Take a look at these posts:
2011 Holiday Gift Guide: 10 Scotch Whisky Recommendations
5 Can’t-Go-Wrong Scotch Whisky Recommendations for Father’s Day