I joined the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (www.smws.co.uk) and have enjoyed learning about 'the water of life' or, in Gaelic, uisce beathe.
Malt whiskies are made the original way, by turning barley into malt and infusing it in water, fermenting it and then distilling this in a copper, kettle-shaped container. Blends, such as Ballantines, mixes less expensive grains, with malts.
Single malts are from a single distillery, and Scotch is one that has been distilled and matured for at least three years in Scotland.
The taste of the whisky is affected by the water it is made from, the local soil, the climate, the barley and also importantly the wood used for the barrels in which it is matured.
To taste, use a small brandy glass - best to display the colour and aroma. If you prefer to add water, do so, but please don't add anything other than water.
I recommend the first whisky to try is the Macallan 10-year-old. This Highland malt is a beautiful amber colour, tastes of sherry and is quite fruity with just a hint of smoky aftertaste.
The next malt I suggest is Laphroaig from the Island of Islay. This is a peaty, seaweedy taste, much more distinctive and really quite an acquired taste - worth persevering with. Two more highly thought of malts to follow are Highland Park and Lagavulin.
Don't be put off if you don't like the first malt you try; there are so many that you will no doubt find one to suit your palate. Some supermarket single malts are also good quality. I particularly recommend Morrisons' Islay malt - I challenge any but the most experienced to differentiate it from Laphroaig.
Most of all, take time to relax and savour the experience.
Glenmorangie 10-year-old malt £27.
Glenfiddich 12-year-old special reserve £25.
Macallan 10-year-old highland malt. £26.
Laphroaig Malt 10-year-old single Islay malt £26.
Highland Park 12-year-old single malt £26.
Lagavulin 16-year-old Islay malt £37.
Morrisons' Islay Malt £14.98 from Morrison stores.
Macallan 52-year-old distilled 1946 numbered bottle £3,150 from www.thedrinkshop.com.