Hallo, Jeff. I'm new to this, too (my first post!), and I'm having the same experience. I've got:
Clynelish 12 (distilled in '84, Signatory bottling, 375 ml, purchased at Park Ave Liquors, NYC)
also a set of 6 minis from different places, which I haven't opened
I got the Glenfiddich and the Macallan first, and it took me a few sittings to be able to tell the difference. Now I can tell. The Bowmore, being so peaty, was easy from the start.
Additionally, I'm starting to be able to get specific scents. The fresh fruit in Glenfiddich is starting to come out, a touch of apple in the Clynelish, as well. Peat, to varying degrees. Richer fruit in the Macallan... dried things, like raisins and dates. Toffy, too. The Bowmore? PEAT! SMOKE!
I went to a tasting at Park Ave Liquors here in NYC yesterday. (Lucky me, having them so close by!) They had some fellows there, I think from Diageo, giving samples from the Classic Malts Distiller's Editions. One of the nice Scottish fellows from Diageo gave me a bit of a lesson... talked to me about each of the 6 different malts they were showing, their characteristics and such. Had me try each of them, then this one and that one right after one another, then this one with and without water. He got me considerably more inebriated than I had expected.
But the point of the story is that I could hardly tell the difference. Part of that was probably because of the less than ideal nosing conditions, but I'm sure it was also due to the fact that I couldn't take the time with them that I could with my own bottles, since I only had small samples. With my bottles here at home, I have dram after dram to notice more and different things.
So, I'm right there with you, Jeff! It was actually a bit of a relief to see your post... phew, I'm not alone!