Unfortunately, I suspect Pete's case is more the norm rather than the exception. Too many people often start off with too advance, and are immediately put off by the pungent taste. Starting with an Islay (as in Pete's case) is like drinking a Guinness if all you ever had was Bud Lite.
To help beginners out there still discovering the wonders of scotch, I developed this simple "scotch ladder" guide. Start off at the bottom rung, and move on to the next step when you feel comfortable with the level you are on now. This way, it allows your taste buds to develop and adapt, and in the process appreciating, the various flavors of scotch, without them being too overpowering right from the start.
Your journey starts here.
1. Start with a smooth, light scotch. Focus is on drinkability.
Recommendations: Cragganmore 12 yr, Glenfiddich 12, Dalwinnie 15 yr
Value selection: Cragganmore 12 yr
Premium selection: Glenlivet 18 yr
|Cragganmore 12 Yr|
2. Next, introduce some complexity and richness.
Recommendations: Macallan 12 yr, Glenfarclas 17 yr, Longmorn 15 yr
Value selection: Arbelour 12 yr
Premium selection: Dalmore 21
|Macallan 12 Yr|
3. Add some light smoke.
Recommendations: Oban 14 yr, Highland Park 15 yr
Value selection: Glen Garioch 10
Premium selection: Royal Lochnagar 12 yr
|Oban 14 Yr|
4. Dial up the smokiness.
Recommendations: Highland Park 18 yr, Bruichladdich 10 yr
Value selection: Highland Park 12 yr
Premium selection: Springbank 15 yr
|Highland Park 18 Yr|
5. Enter the peat man.
Recommendations: Talisker 10 yr, Bowmore 12 yr, Talisker 18 yr
Value selection: Talisker 10 yr
Premium selection: Ledaig 20 yr
|Talisker 10 Yr|
6. Final stop: Islay
Recommendations: Lagavulin 16 yr, Laphroaig 10 yr, Ardbeg 10 yr
Value selection: Caol Ila 12 yr
Premium selection: Lagavulin 12 yr
|Lagavulin 16 Yr|