Scotchy, Scotch: It’s cold out there

Laphroaig distillery, Islay, Scotland. Credit: Kevin R. Kosar.

By Kevin R. Kosar

I grew up in Ohio, just south of the snow belt. My favorite home was a wood frame on a street without sidewalks. Drafts made their way in, and the single pane window near my bed got frost on the inside, which I like to scritch-scratch with my thumbnails. Sometimes we wore stocking caps to bed.

Which is to say that cold does not much bother me. Or, at least it didn’t when I was young. I went coatless and wore t-shirts no matter how low the Mercury went. As I have aged, I am a little less hot blooded. A little.

Chilly weather changes my appetite for drink. I’ll drink a cold lager in January, but my thirst for dark spirits is strong. The more powerful, the better. Harsh cold merits an intense spirit.

Scotch frequently fits the bill. I enjoy malts from the Lowlands to the Highlands, but my favorite whiskies tend to be the spirits made in the most weather-exposed parts of Scotland. Here are a handful of reasonable priced hearty Scotches I like, from mildest to the most beastly. All of them should be enjoyed neat, but add drops of water if you want to cut the intensity and open their flavors. Continue reading “Scotchy, Scotch: It’s cold out there”


Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Ardbeg UigeadailUigeadail—easy for the Scots to say!

We are big fans of Ardbeg, having tasted reviewed a number of its whiskies over the years. (See here.)

Uigeadail (roughly, “oog-a-dal”), which means “dark and mysterious place,” 54.2% alcohol by volume, or 108.4 proof. Nonetheless, we enjoyed it neat. It won the highest praise from Jim Murray, and his fellow whiskheady, Ralfy, too.

This is a marvelous whiskey, heavy with peat, and showing sherry flavor. It is well worth a taste, but novices beware—it has big flavor. Ardbeg Uigeadail sells for $55 to $75 a bottle. (Rating: Very Good)

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Whisky Magazine Hosts a Single Malt Scotch Whisky Tasting

Marcin Miller, editor of the UK’s Whisky Magazine, was the host of a scotch tasting on September 17, 2002 in Manhattan. Twenty-plus journalists and brand representatives gathered in the second floor dining room of The Leash an exclusive club, where thirteen malts were presented. Among the standouts were:

Glen Garioch (pronounced Glen Geary): A $20 malt which is a terrific bargan. Soft, with a thick honey note, light peat, and a long close (Rating ***3/4).

Bruichladdich 15 Year (pronounced Brook Laddie): An astonighingly complex malt. So soft, so intriguing… Not to be missed. (Rating ****1/2) See our full review of Bruichladdich 15 and other Bruichladdich whiskies here

The Macallan Cask Strength: A whale of a malt. Orange colored, big, spicy, and a real belly warmer at 50.6%. (Rating ****)

Glen Morangie 1981 Sauternes Finish: Glen Morangie is always fruity and these wine casks add butter, wood, and a dollop of chocolate. Fascinating malt. (Rating ****)

Talisker 20 Year Old: 62% alcohol, it is, like other Taliskers, immense, with iodine, must, smoke, seaweed, and black pepper. There are only 1800 bottles allotted to the U.S. Alas. (Rating****)

Ardbeg Provenance: Taken from 1974 casks this whisky amazed a numbered of the tasters. 26 years (it was bottled in 2000) has made for a unique and glorious malt: peat that smells like burning embers, oaky-bourbon, and a bit sweet. It isn’t super complex, but it is perfectly integrated and balanced. A miracle, as it should be at $600 a bottle. (Rating *****)

Laphraoig 30 year: Big, gooey legs on this malt. Unlike the 10 year it is a touch sweet, and the peat has mellowed. It’s salty, soft, and delicious. (Rating****1/2)

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Ardbeg 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Ardbeg 10 YearPut one glass of dark colored spirit and one of light colored spirit in front of 10 individuals and ask them, “Which has the most robust flavor?” and the majority of folks will likely pick the darker drink. Ardbeg 10 Year is a whisky that puts the lie to the notion that darker color means bigger flavor.

This 92 proof, Islay whisky is remarkably light colored, like straw, and it’s not particularly viscous. Nose it, though, and your head will be flooded with flavor– iodine, berries, and smoke. The late, great boozehound, Michael Jackson, once wrote of Ardbeg 10 Year “Palate: Skips sweetly along at first, then becomes mean and moody in the lengthy middle of the encounter.”

That’s pretty accurate, but “mean”? No, we find it spicy, and profound and settling. It’s a whisky that makes you focus on it, then yourself. It’s not a party drink; it’s a quiet time sip to be enjoyed alone. While a bottle will set you back $40 to $50, depending on the strength of the dollar, a little of this scotch goes an awfully long way. (Rating ****1/4)

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Ardbeg Maritomo Single Malt Scotch Whisky (SMWS Cask #33.53)

Distilled in May 1994, this 10 year old whisky is a hefty 59.2% alcohol (118.4 proof!) Straw colored, it noses nicely, showing sweet and briny notes. In the mouth, it starts sweet and fruity, gets a touch smoky, then offers up iodine. A potent scotch, not for the novice, but a real delight to the lover of big malts. (Rating ****1/2)

For more information on this whisky, contact the Single Malt Whisky Society at You can also see if our retailer can get you a bottle by clicking SHOP, typing “ARDBEG” in the search engine, and clicking the magnifying glass.


Ardbeg Lord of the Isles 25 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

A good friend gave us a wee sample of this rare whisky. It’s fabulous. For a few specs on it, see The nose offers a rich fruitiness; in the mouth, the berries are less pronounced and iodine and gentle peat appear. It’s a full flavored whisky yet very gentle. Most impressive. (Rating ****1/2) To see two other opinions of this whiskey, surf to

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