Which shelf is your scotch on?
Top shelf, middle shelf, bottom shelf, the good stuff, what do you like and what do you buy? Most all alcoholic beverages have a variety of levels of quality that one can buy.
Scotch is no exception. As I’m sure most all of you know, the product cannot be called scotch unless it is actually distilled in Scotland. So if they all come from Scotland what is the difference? As a young and usually broke man I wasn’t very picky about what type of scotch I bought at the liquor store. I couldn’t be picky without the money to enable pickiness. So I tried quite a few of the bottom dwellers. Some that come to mind are Old Smuggler, Clan McGregor, Vat 69, Scoresby, J&B, ABC brand, and Cutty.
Now I drank a lot of J&B and Cutty with soda and its good that way. My friend Dave used to drink railroad car loads of Clan McGregor with water (lots of water) and ice and at the time he was drinking it he did seem to enjoy it. So bottom line is bottom shelf is usually drinkable if mixed with water or soda and lots of ice. Now another thought is that bottom self in my community liquor store might be different that the bottom shelf in your home town. J&B, Cutty, and Vat 69 might be middle shelf where you live and that’s ok, I’m not knocking any of them just reporting where they are located on my local store shelves. Vat 69 was featured in the Band of Brothers series as the scotch of choice for one of the officers in that series. When I was 17 I had an orange Vat 69 sweatshirt that I wore everywhere but had not tried it yet. Like most teenagers I never drank until I was 21…………….wink wink, nudge nudge. If any of these are your favorites then that is fine, it’s not about how much they cost it is all about if you like it or not. If you find joy in a 12 dollar bottle of old whatchmacallit, that is great, enjoy. I still enjoy some of the less expensive bourbons such as Early Times, Ten High, and Old Crow. Maybe because my dad and grand dad drank Early Times and my college days were heavily sprinkled with Ten High and Old Crow so they all have a ton of nostalgia for me, but with a splash of water or 7-up and some ice I enjoy them all. I just don’t have much time to drink them these days with all the single malt’s and blends waiting to be tried.
Let us move on to the middle shelf now. Middle shelf will produce Chivas Regal, Ballantines, Glenfiddich, and Glen Grant in my area. Again, these will be top shelf in some places. I have enjoyed all of these and don’t drink them much anymore for the same reason, there are just too many really great ones out there just waiting to be tried. I have bottles of all three at the house but never seem to get around to drinking them while my single malts seem to evaporate way to quickly these days. I guess I would rather have a bottle of something new I haven’t tried hoping to find a new favorite.
The top shelf will feature Macallan, Glenmorangie, Balvenie (single and double woods and a port wood), Laphroaig (very smoky for peat lovers), Talisker (some smoke), Highland Park (some sherry) Aberlour (some sherry), and Glenlivet (good oak). I love them all. I was in Portree in the Isle of Skye in June of 2009 in one of their local pubs very near the Pink Guesthouse where we were staying. There were 5 or 6 locals there and knowing they distill Talisker on Skye I ordered a Talisker. Cheers of “Good man and well done” came from the assembled Scotsmen and I totally enjoyed that moment and even better the scotch was great. It does have smokiness to it and not everyone enjoys that flavor. I’m not a big fan of too much smoke but on that day it was a truly enjoyable dram. I held a scotch tasting night in the late 1990’s and of the assembled scotches (many listed here in this article) Aberlour was chosen by the assemblage as the best of the lot. Now that is 10 peoples opinion, 3 or 4 of which were not regular scotch drinkers but it was the result on that particular date and time. We will offer more articles on most of these as time goes by but for now, please tell us which of these you like or don’t care for or where they are on your shelf space in your home town. I know there are many more outstanding scotches that have not been mentioned yet, but we will get to them all before we are done and you can feel free to tell us about your favorites. I know your liquor store probably has a whole different shelving of product arrangement (top, middle, and bottom) than what I mentioned here and that’s ok. What we did not discuss is “behind the counter.” That is the top shelf items too but usually based on price. My local liquor store keeps Absolute Vodka behind the counter, its good vodka but they keep it there (they told me) because of shoplifters not because of its price. Let us know your observations on this please.
The Whisky Warrior