Whether it’s straight-up, on the rocks or mixed with a bit of water, a good glass of scotch is great any time of year. But to many, the idea of hard liquor sans mixer can be a bit unapproachable. So we asked Casey Warolin, assistant manager and scotch/bourbon buyer at Plymouth Liquor, for his recommendations on a variety of scotches at a palatable palette of price points.
One of the biggest myths revolving around scotch, Warolin says, is people assume that just because it’s a whisky, it will be either Canadian, Irish or bourbon—nothing could be further from the truth. “There’s such a variance in spice, peaty flavor and smokiness—scotch has more of these flavors,” he says.
Tastings can be a wonderful way to get into scotch, “to find something that you’re comfortable with,” Warolin says. “You want to think, ‘how much smoke do you want?’ Some are almost like a bonfire in your mouth, and some are more medium-bodied, light and oaky. Comparing two scotches can be A to Z—you’ve got to play around with them a little.”
Speyside scotches, like Glen Moray
$20/750 ml bottle
Great for beginners, Speyside scotches produce a relatively young and light scotch (in both color and body) that are not too terribly smoky. One of the most popular single-malt distilleries is Glen Moray, aged on the banks of the River Lossie in Elgin, the historic capital of Speyside, Scotland.
Deanston’s Virgin Oak Whisky
$35.99/750 ml bottle
Deanston scotches are certified organic, un-chill-filtered and bottled at more than 46 percent. The distillery (located in the highlands) produces its own clean energy, and packaging and labels are made from recycled materials. In this case, its name is literal—this scotch is young, light and a cleaner kind of scotch with oaky flavor, as the oak barrels it’s aged in are of the uncharred, never-before-used variety.
Aged 12 years
$47.99/750 ml bottle
Organic and un-chill-filtered like its virgin brother, the difference is that Deanston’s 12 is aged 12 years, creating a more prevalent oaky flavor from more time spent in the oak barrel.
Aged 10 years
$49.99/750 ml bottle
$59.99 Quarter Cask
This scotch is a very smoky, medium- to upper medium-bodied-style scotch. It exudes an earthy aroma of blue peat smoke, as well as the surprising sweet nuttiness of the barley. The Quarter Cask exudes double the flavor thanks to a process in which still-maturing scotch is moved from the full American oak barrels to a smaller half-cask.
Aged 10 years
$49.99/750 ml bottle
Ledaig 10 is a single-malt scotch from the Tobermory Distillery on the isle of Mull. It holds a medium-body smoke and white pepper finish, “a numbing tip at the end, which is unique and really nice,” says Warolin.
Single malt, single grain or a blended variance of either simply refers to the number of distilleries the scotch is processed through (one or more than one), Warolin says. A single malt is also made purely of malt barley and water in a single distillery whereas other scotches, including single-grain varieties, are made from a variety of malted grains.
“Single malts are generally preferred by most people once they really get into their scotches,” he says. “The blends are a little cheaper, but a Dewars, for example, is a really nice blend, and then you’re paying $23.99 for a liter instead of $40 to $50.”
Plymouth Liquor is just about 40 years old. Formerly a gas station, Wally Kates bought it from the city and tore it down, rebuilding it into its current state. Jim Christensen ran the place for Kates for years before buying it from the family when Kates passed away in November 2014.