Help with selecting a few Scotch Whiskies

I have somehow or another got myself volunteered to coordinate a Whisky tasting event this summer/fall. Still not quite sure how this happened… Not that that matters at this point, I agreed to do it, so now it’s time to just make the best out of it.

It’s an annual event that’s part of a larger event that lasts for a week in my small hometown. Funds generated in excess of expences go towards supporting local non-profits, (such as scholarships).

This whisky tasting is in its fourth or fifth year, and each year it has a different theme. At last year’s tasting, the attendees asked for Scotch to be the 2022 theme. Cigars are usually part of these whisky tastings as well (I do not smoke, so I have delegated that to someone else).

It is usually five, ~1.5 OZ pours and it lasts about 3 hours. Casual, outdoors, some snacks, and generally a good time. Tickets are $100 Per Person, although I may bump that up to $125 if needed. I think the max capacity (per local regs) is 50 people, and so far, sells out quickly.

I have only been dabbling in Scotch for a couple of years now, and frankly, I prefer bourbon. I am not a fan of heavy smoke and/or peat, and like just enough of both to know I’m drinking Scotch. For reference, Dalmore 15 is my favorite so far. So again, I’m probably the wrong person to coordinate this thing.

I was thinking about having six pours this year. Five would be single malts, and they would each be fairly representative of whichever of the five separate ‘regions’ it hails from (Campbeltown, Highlands, Islay, Lowlands, Speyside). The sixth would be a blend.

The bottles would need to be somewhat unique, but not unobtainable or terribly expensive - keeping the ticket price ($100-125) in mind.

What do the Scotch drinkers think about this idea? Good, dumb, bad, or might you have a better idea? And if it’s an OK idea, any recommendations for the bottles I should start searching for?

What are you looking to spend per bottle and how many bottles do you think you would need? These would be my picks just based on my own tastes, and my friends who enjoy scotch. Most if not all of these bottles should be under $100. Even if they are not scotch drinkers, most of them should recognize those names.

Islay: Lagavulin 16 I know you said you don’t like peat, but it is pretty much perfect. Laphroaig 10 Year Old is another good option
Speyside: Macallan 12 or Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask
Highlands: You can stick w/your Dalmore, or try to find Oban 14
Campbeltown: Not familiar with any from that region
Lowlands: Not familiar with that one either.
Blend: Johnny Walker Green is a safe bet

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I found this article. https://www.liquor.com/slideshows/scotch-regions-101/

I have not tried most of their recommendations.

Sprinkbank is responsible for keeping the Campbeltown region viable, is the most widely available producer, and you can find it at many price points.

I’ll also suggest a curve ball. Campbeltown Loch is an excellent blend from the region and is gently priced (30ish) if you can find it. I wouldn’t include it as the only blend because it’s not representative of the typical highlands blend you would find, but it would be an interesting addition to compare and contrast with both the single malt Campbeltown and with whatever other blend you choose.

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Islay - Lag 16 or Ardbeg Uigeadail
Speyside - Glenfarclas - whatever works under your budget
Campbeltown - whatever Springbank meets budget
Highlands - so if you are doing Glenfarclas for Speyside, you might want to try a different profile, so pick a Clynelish or Old Pulteney. The alternative is to double down on high sherry and get a Glendronach.
Lowlands - I don’t find any of these distilleries interesting. Maybe Auchentoshan as an option.

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Islay: if you’re shooting for any kind of typicity, you need peat for Islay. Lag 16 is a good scotch and would be my suggestion. Laphroaig is like a caricature
Speyside: there are a zillion choices here, but my advice would be to avoid atypical cask maturation like rum casks, sauternes casks, wine casks, etc.
Highlands: Clynelish. This is probably a hot take, but I think Oban 14 is a pretty boring middling all-rounder that is in no way offensive and so survives its mediocrity with aplomb.
Cambletown: Springbank. Got to go Springbank if you’re looking for a representative distillery.
Lowlands: Glenkinchie - famous Edinburgh malt, been around nearly 200 years, easy to find. I’ll be honest, it’s not great scotch, but not a lot of kick ass lowlands readily available, and that includes Aucentoshan
Blend: JW green or gold is good, Compass Box makes some fine blends.

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Islay - Lagavulin is a classic, but if you don’t like peat, do Bunnahabhain 12
Speyside - Macallan for name rec, Glenfarclas is solid & cheaper, Aberlour also cool
Highlands - Glendronach / Clynelish
Campbeltown - Springbank (if you can find it, lolol)
Lowlands - meh
Blends - something from Compass Box

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  • Islay - Kilchoman Machir Bay. Accessible, affordable, but unique relative to Lagavulin, Laphroaig, and Ardbeg. Kilchoman is still independent.


  • Campbelltown - Kilkerran 12. I’ve found these to be more available than Springbank. There’s been a run on SB and they’ve reduced production.


  • Speyside - Aberlour A’bunadh. The A’bunadh is a fantastic sherry bomb bottled at cask strength, probably need a touch of water with this. If this is too expensive, see if you can source a Glenallachie 10 or 15. The 15 absolutely requires water to open up and bring out the dimensions of this whisky, drank neat it is linear, lifeless, and boring.


  • Lowlands - Bladnoch 10


  • Highlands - Deanston 12. 46% ABV, non-chill filtered, no color added. Fantastic whisky that’s super approachable and fun to drink.


  • Blend option - Compass Box Spice Tree This is easily available and fun to drink, if you want to go big see if you can source The Spice Tree Extravaganza, this is a Limited Edition bottle with much older whiskies in the blend.
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In general, based on John’s personal recommendations to me, I’d listen to whatever he had to say.

Of his list, my absolute favorite is Clynelish 14, about $80 or so - great Scotch, herbal, low peat profile

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I’m a plodder when it comes to scotch, but of the suggestions above, I like A’bundah, and Oban 14 (inoffensive with aplomb is a good description). I dislike peat as well, but Islay is pear from what I know.

Dalwhinnie 15 might be an alternative to Oban.

I used to love Macallan, but it doesn’t seem to be the same anymore.

This is from a perspective of someone with very pedestrian tastes in scotch, an outlier on this board but maybe closer to your tastes.

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Thanks so much for the recommendations folks! I will start searching for these bottles now.

Also great.

Interesting comments.

And I put your Scotch bond fides above mine, but I take Bowmore 18 and Laphroig 16 over Lag 16. I also think Oban 14 is quite decent, but I take Glenmorangie 18 over the Oban 14.

Your recos on Compass Box are great. What was the stoopid expensive one you got me to buy? Was excellent, killed it in no time flat. The Artist Series is arguably the best under $50 Scotch on the planet. So refreshing and easy to drink, love the low ABV.

Have you tried Laphroaig Lore? Have been debating between that and the Laphroaig 16 for my next purchase.

I agree it’s great, but it’s also very atypical due to the strong sherry cask influence. I find it an outlier for Speyside.

Also, probably not great for an intro class to feature a 60%+ bottle?

If you approach it from the perspective of showing how different amounts of water influence the whisky, this could be very educational and fun.

They are pouring 1.5 oz “tastes” which is substantial. If this holds, they could try it neat, a few drops of water, then a few drops more. Seeing the fats separate, the alcohol reduced, and the flavors change would be a lot of fun, IMO.

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