Rorschach here with a Special Scotch Review:
You like a nice smooth blend? A Little Dewar’s and soda? Some Walker Red? This review is not for you. Disclaimer 1: I enjoy a nice blended scotch from time to time as well, I’m not some crotchety purist who demands only single malts or death. But for the case of this monograph, we will consider two very polarizing single malts from the Islay region, and two of my favorites. Expand your horizons, and you may find a friend for life. Disclaimer 2: very much like Cuban cigars, I would not choose to drink these kinds of scotch every day. They are to be savored and appreciated, special occasion and all that. There are two standout features for Islay region Scotch that I love (and some hate) : the flavors of Smoke and Peat. (And what is peat? the upper stratum of soil bound by grass and plant roots into a thick mat, That’s right: DIRT)
A great introduction to Islay malts is Lagavulin. (pronounced "Lagga-voolin") It is by no means smooth when compared to your Dad’s blended scotch. But it has a certain refinement for its appellation. Lagavulin is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, so these lads know what they’re doing. I am not a great poet of tasting notes, if you must read about whiffs of chocolate and clover, see here. I will say that the aroma of this Islay is subdued, and the peat flavor is not so strong.
But when you want to go Xtreme Islay (sigh), you must consider Laphroaig. (“La-froyg”) As my good friend at redleopard put it: “Man it’s like chewing on a bog.” And he meant that with love, truly. This is an intense PEAT experience. The aroma alone may put you off tasting, but I urge persistence. Like truffles, it can truly be rewarding. So pour a wee dram, get into a pensive mood and have a flavor explosion.
One last note: how do you take it? Some purists demand that the scotch be taken straight up, room temp (cool-ish). This can be the best way to enjoy the aroma and the flavors, but I have been known to throw a block of ice in my glass from time to time. Just don’t ruin these gems with any water or (gasp) mixer.