No matter where you live, Winter is now officially here. And that means that (finally) it is time for Scotch consumption (not that you can't drink Scotch during the summer, but it just isn't quite the same)! A good single-malt Scotch is one of my favorite things, so I look forward to Scotch season every year. There's just nothing quite like curling up in a chair with a book, a fire, and a glass of single-malt. If you've seen Nick Offerman's epic 45-minute ode to Lagavulin, you'll understand exactly what I'm talking about. Watching the video, I can feel the fireplace already!
Ten to Fifteen years ago, there weren't as many Scotch options readily available in the US marketplace. There were a few distillers with 2-4 offerings each, and that was about it. Made shopping easy, albeit a bit boring. A conversation with a spirits salesman at a liquor store would go something like this: "Do want something lighter and floral? What about a medium age expression? Ok, Macallan 15 is your best bet." And that was that. My how things have changed--some for the good, some for the bad.
The bad first: single-malt Scotch has become increasingly popular worldwide--including in the burgeoning Chinese market. Especially well-aged Scotch. Without a time machine, it is somewhat difficult to go back and make extra 18-21 year old single-malt. So that means that what was distilled close to two decades ago has to meet today's explosive demand. Simply put, the situation is ripe for rising prices and less aged whisky to go around.
The good: distillers are getting a bit more creative in their blending and taste profiles. Do you like peaty Scotch? Well, you no longer have to look exclusively to Lagavulin or Laphroig or Talisker to get that salty, briny, smokey fix. There are now lots of different Scotch options available in the US market that cross the traditional geographic / taste profile divide. While a cynic would say that this "new" paradigm is an effort by distillers to "hide" young whiskey behind other tastes, all-in-all at least the consumer now has a substantial number of choices.
But, what to choose when shopping for your next bottle of Scotch? Instead of a couple of dozen choices, you can now find close to 100 (maybe even more) at a decent-sized retailer. That's where Jim Murrray's 2017 Whisky Bible comes in handy. Despite the seriously-weird cover (a mixture of Star Wars, a 1970s-era Bee Gees album cover, and a creepy golden-eyed zombie), this is the industry standard when it comes to Scotch (and other whisky) tasting notes and recommendations.
So, if your'e a bit confused with all of the options out there, or you just want to read a ton of interesting notes on some seriously rare and hard-to-find whiskies (Glenfarclas 1957 Family Casks anyone?), this book is for you. It's a great companion to have in your home bar collection, and makes a great gift.