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)

Read more at, and try to order a bottle through our preferred retailer by clicking here.


Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky 15 Years

Back in April 2008, we reviewed LAPHROAIG 10 YEAR, again. Now we are enjoying the slightly more a mature cousin.

Beyond the cold weather, we were prompted to hoist a scotch today, January 25, 2009, as it is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robbie Burns, that whiskey-loving, romantic poet from 18th century Scotland. If we really wanted to be true to Burns’ memory, I suppose we would sip whisky made in South Ayrshire, where he was born. Instead, we grabbed an Islay whisky, as whenever we think of Scotland our minds cannot help but recall our happy time on that lovely island.

LAPHROAIG 15 YEAR OLD WHISKY is delicious. It is much more demure than its 10 year old sibling. The iodine and peat notes are much softer, and it offers almonds and a wee blackberry note. Wonderful stuff, and worthy of our highest rating. (Rating *****)

To see if our retailer can sell you a bottle of LAPHROAIG, click here. Otherwise, check with the company that produces it,


Distillery Visit: Bruichladdich Distillery, Islay, Scotland

Here’s one from the archives. We made the trek to Islay in July of 2002. Jim Murray, master distiller and true gentleman, had extended us an invitation some months back. If we covered the airfare, he’d feed and house us, and let us work in the distillery. We leapt at the opportunity.

Ah. what memories we have of the beauty of Islay. When our puddle-jumper plane landed at Islay’s tiny airport, we smiled wide at the sheep grazing at side of the runway.

Lush green hills all about…. Night spent quaffing whisky at the Lochindaal Inn; mornings spent regretting the nights and choking down the 5,000 calorie English breakfast…. Glorious.

The Bruichladdich distillery is a beauty. (See it at We spent a morning or two with “Young Davey,” followed Duncan about during the afternoons, and spent a night with the unbelievably loquacious “Budgy.”

Check out this video of the Bruichladdich mashtun at work (turn on your speakers):

It is a heavenly place. Go see it soon.

More of our distillery visit videos may be seen at



Laphroaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky 10 Years Old

Ah, what was it — five years ago? — that we found ourselves at the LAPHROAIG distillery in Islay, peering over the water at Ireland in the misty distance. Ian Henderson, then the distillery manager, poured samples freely for a few of us, and entertained us with good chat. It was quite an experience.

We are where we are now, a very different place; yet, LAPHROAIG 10 (86 proof) remains delicious as ever. It is an iconic malt whisky; it can’t be confused with any other. It is not, for sure, a whisky for novices. It explodes with flavor— great layers of iodine beneath which lurk feint, sweet berry and honey flavors that can be glimpsed upon the swallow. Terrific– do add just a couple of drops of water to a neat dram to enjoy it. (Rating *****)

To see if our retailer can sell you a bottle of LAPHROAIG, click here. Otherwise, check with the company that produces it,


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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