A friend of mine recently asked me to write a blog about how to build a good whisky cabinet for the home. I thought this was a fantastic idea and have been giving it a ton of thought. The perfect whisky cabinet should appeal to you and your guests while pushing you to expand tastes and dispel stereotypes. I also took this as a challenge – this isn’t meant to be my top ten list, or my wish list, or to appeal to my eccentric love of, erm, different whiskies.
Obviously, this is meant to be a guideline only. Your collection will grow (and some of it will magically disappear). But following these simple steps will give you the foundations of a collection to be proud of:
- Your favorite – Whatever scotch that is, it needs to be a constant in your collection. This is what you’ll use to compare other whiskies. (warning: follow these steps and your favorite may just change.
- The Applebees Whisky – You need a scotch for what everyone thinks scotch is, a good solid whisky with mass appeal. You’ll almost always seem Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and/or The Macallan on the top shelf of your local chain restaurant. Instead of one of these three, I recommend going with Glenmorangie. Wildly popular worldwide, it still holds a little bit of mystery in the US. And, there’s the fact that this is an extremely good example of a highland whisky.
- Lowland – Lowland whiskies are typically milder than other regions. One of them may be a good introductory whisky for your friends. There are only three Lowland whiskies currently on the market: Bladnoch, Glenkinchie, and Auchentoshen. Go with Auchentoshen, it’s a LOT easier to find than the other two and it is a really nice dram.
- Island – An island whisky is perfect for a cold night, a long slow drink in front of the fire. And with the whiskies available, it’s hard to go wrong: Arran, Highland Park, Jura, Scapa, Talisker among them. Which one to pick? If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know the answer is Highland Park 12. There are so many reasons. An excellent whisky, very reasonably priced, and very easy to progress – 15 and 18 year olds are readily available if you become more of a fan.
- Islay – look, you need an Islay whisky in your collection, OK? End of discussion. If you’re building a collection, with time, you’ll learn to appreciate a well balanced, rich peaty Islay scotch. Laphroaig is probably the pick here, and it doesn’t taste like someone poured on the peat with a soup ladle (that’s Ardbeg – make that your second Islay whisky).
- Blends – a good blend is a great addition to every collection. Sometimes, your friends will be adamant that that’s what they want. You can have it over rocks as well. Rather than go with a Johnnie Walker product (it takes a few color labels to get to a good one, in my opinion), I recommend going with Famous Grouse. Very tasty, while being very budget friendly.
- Bourbon – Sometimes, you just want a bourbon. You want some kind of cocktail, or it’s Kentucky Derby Weekend, or you’re watching Justified - any excuse will do. Buy yourself Bulleit Bourbon. It was a surprise hit at my whisky tasting last year and it makes a great Manhattan (by the way, get some sweet vermouth and bitters for you cabinet as well).
Well there you have it, six or seven bottles to get you started on your journey. If you’re enjoying it, don’t stop there. Explore other regions (Speyside, Campletown). Look for some different age statements from distilleries you’ve enjoyed. Find a cask strength whisky. And call me to come over and hang out . . . please!