The penny has finally dropped, but the realisation does bring with it a certain irony.
Of the whiskies I have bought and tried over the last two years there have been a few that I do not like. A bottle of Cardhu 12 is still half full despite 2 years worth of attempts to drink it. A Scapa 14 has the top quarter missing, but will go no further. A Balvenie 12DW was given to a friend following a few attempts at it. There is also an Old Pulteney 12 whose nose promises that I will like the whisky, but whose taste is, well, not to my taste.
On the other hand I am merrily drinking a bunch of Islay offerings (stand fast Bunnahabhain), and I like Talisker 10, Glenmorangie 10 and Clynelish 14. A recently opened bottle of Oban 14 is not going to last long, and a just opened bottle of HP12 is going down a treat.
For ages I have been trying to put a name to the taste, as it is a common denominator for the disliked whiskies. It reminds me of an experience with JW red label in my teens, which put me off whisky until my 50th birthday.
Last night I spotted a link to a guide for choosing whiskies based on flavour. I plotted my whisky experience against the flavour groupings and found that the whiskies I have disliked are all described as having “malty notes”.
This is now making sense; it appears that the taste that I do not like in some whiskies is the pronounced malty note they have. Further research revealed that JW Red Label contains Cardhu, which may explain my teenage reaction.
The only slight wobble in my theory is that I like Glenmorangie and Oban, but not Old Pulteney yet they are in the same flavour group. This may be down to batch variation, but who knows. There are enough whiskies out there that I am going to enjoy, so I won’t worry about that little contradiction. At least now I have a better idea of how to choose the right ones for me.