15 January 2012

A 2-variable taste guide for single malt whiskies

Courtesy of the Strange Maps column at Big Think.
“I know that people find whisky confusing - and they often try blended Scotch and get put off whisky for life”, says whisky expert Dave Broom. “They are really missing out […] You need help to find what you like.”  Which is why Broom developed the aforementioned grid, also known as the Whisky Flavour Map...

The horizontal axis differentiates lighter from richer flavours... The position on the vertical axis is determined by the whisky’s degree of ‘peatiness’. Peat can be used to heat the pot stills in which the damp malt is dried, during which time the smoke gets into the barley - more time, more smoke, more smokiness...
At our house we keep three bottles hidden away in a cabinet for special occasions (guests present, day ending in the letter "y") - a Laphroaig, a Highland Park, and a Macallan.  Perhaps we should add one from the lower left quadrant.


  1. The Jura is pretty good, and a reasonable price. Good in tea.

  2. Me loves me some Glenfiddich...

  3. Send me a bottle of each so I can verify this chart.

  4. The barley is actually malted on a perforated floor and not dried in a pot still which could be extremely dangerous (pipes clog, pressure build up, ka-boom!)The relatively clear liquid mash goes in the still.

  5. I've got a bottle of Laphroaig in the house too. Definitely a special mood kind of drink.

  6. I heartily agree with Mister Broom's assessment of blended whiskies. They're good for two things only:
    a) mixing with soda water
    b) pouring down the drain!

  7. Over the past five or so years I have really learned to appreciate a good single malt scotch. Lagavulin 16 is my favorite, followed closely by Laphroig. I'm trying to get my hands on all of the Isle of Islay malts before moving onto other regions. I've had Ardbeg and Bowmore in addition to the two listed above. My next bottle will be Caol Ila. The distillers at Johnny Walker make some very fine blended scotches. I am partial to Blue, but at $200+ US it's definitely a top shelf purchase. JW Black is still a very good everyday scotch.

  8. I prefer the 18 year old Highland Park, dear. Perhaps you would pick some up the next time you're at the store....

    Mrs. Minnesotastan

  9. "no maps for these territories" - this holds true for both w.gibson and w.turkey, apparently :)

    but still, the selection of charted spirits seems to be slightly 'off' - while some rather obvious candidates (e.g. Bruichladdich for strongly peated goodness) have been dropped, the "Classic Malts of Scotland" are featured prominently. entire regions with VERY peculiar tasting whiskys(campbeltown, isles of mull and arran) are not represented at all. hmmmmm....

    methinks that with the current selection of entries, the axis shouldn't be read as 'peatiness' and 'flavour', but as 'profitable to Diageo' and 'concession to mainstream taste'

    just my 2 dram - slainte mhath! ;)

  10. I've just poured m'self a bit of Glennfiddich for an evening libation. My current favorite is Oban and I'm always open to try a new flavor. I have found that the smokier whiskeys such as Laphroaig to be too smokey for my pallet. But cut correctly with water, a new flavor emerges.

    Whatever scotch I'm enjoying, there is nothing like having a bit of dark chocolate between sips!

  11. It's a VERY personal thing, tasting whisky (and whiskey!). I have found that it's not enough to say that some particular bottling of a single malt is an Islay (pronounced "eye-lay" and not "ee-lay" incidentally), or a Highland, or a Speyside, or a Lowland, because within a region, the differences can be substantial. This map is a decent enough attempt to categorize the flavor profiles, though I think that David Wishart has something better in his idea of clusters (see "Whisky Classified: Choosing Single Malts By Flavour").

    My absolute favorite bottling so far is the Master of Malt 40 Year Old Speyside, but my current favorite "bang-for-the-buck" is The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old.

    For me it was important to start taking notes on the whiskeys I've tried so I can narrow down what I like and what I don't. And I also think it's important to try things that are not likely to be good - it gives you a sense of context for the things that are really good.


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