Go single malt, and at least 10 years old, though there are a lot of great blended scotches (Johnny Walker and Chivas Regal being the most famous), I recommend starting with a solid single malt. Single malt has fewer rounded edges than a blend and in turn, each single malt you try will offer a dynamic journey for your pallet. Typically the older the better, but 10 year old Macallan, and 12 year old Glenlevit are in my opinion great scotches to start with, especially if you can have one, then the other and compare the two.
Enjoy the view – always drink scotch from a clear glass. Swirl the scotch and hold it up the light. The color will tell you about the age and cask it was stored in, and how long. Notice how quickly it runs down the sides – this will tell you about the scotch’s viscosity, and in turn allow you to estimate sugar and alcohol content. Typically, thinner veins of liquid mean less sugars and higher ABV.
Water – always drink scotch with water. Add a few drops to your glass. It cuts the alcohol just enough to allow you experience the whole spectrum of taste and smell.
A note on ice, the colder the scotch the less flavors you’ll notice, as the ice melts it also waters the scotch down taking away from the its potential to take your taste buds on a journey. No judgment, just sayin’.
The Nose – Bring the glass to your nose, breath out through your mouth, then inhale deeply through your nose. The first whiff will be almost all alcohol. Immediately repeat. The second smell won’t overwhelm you with alcohol, and you will be able to smell the musky peat, and hopefully the highland or Speyside mists. Let the aroma inspire you to describe the smells you sense. No one can tell you you’re wrong.
Do you even taste, bro? Take a sip! Pretty good, no? Again you can describe the taste with any adjectives, allegories of similes you see fit.
Repeat and enjoy!
P.S. If you want to go a step further, consider investing in Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible. For around $15, it can be a great guide to your new journey with the magical world of Scotch Whiskey.