A bottle of whisky is one of the easiest gifts there is – it’s simple, thoughtful and something people wouldn’t necessarily buy themselves. However, navigating your way around the whisky aisle can be daunting, particularly if you’re not a whisky drinker yourself. To make it a little easier, here are three of the most popular varieties you’ll see on our shelves.
Malt scotch whisky is whisky made from one distillery that only uses a single type of grain. As the name suggests, this variety of whisky comes from five regions in Scotland: Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Island and Campbelltown. The region in which a specific whisky is made affects its flavour, with different varieties being a little more fruity or smoky.
Blended scotch whiskyis a mixture of different single malt whiskies from different distilleries. These whiskies are blended together to produce new flavours, with distilleries very carefully using the same ratio every time so the flavour doesn’t change. Usually the whiskies to be blended are single malt and single grain whiskies.
Even though it’s not as general a variety, bourbon is such a popular kind of whiskey that it warrants a mention. This spirit is distilled from corn – scotch is mostly made from malted barley – and it must be made in America to call itself a bourbon.
Although many whiskies come from Scotland and Kentucky-made bourbon is now a liquor cabinet staple, that’s certainly not the only variety on offer. Irish whiskey has its own unique flavour profile. Unlike scotch, it uses any malted cereal grain during distillation but like scotch, it’s aged in wooden casks for a minimum of three years.
Japanese whisky has gradually grown in popularity, and might be a good gift idea for a dad who loves a unique drop. It’s usually made in the same way as scotch, but has only been commercially produced since the 1920s. Getting your hands on Japanese whisky can be difficult because it’s so rare, but we have limited stock in selected stores of Yamazaki 12YO Single Malt Whisky; a lovely balance between sweetness and spice.
Once you get your head around the different types of whisky, it’s worth exploring how they differ from country to country.
So you have given – or received – a nice bottle of whisky. Now what? You can serve whisky in multiple ways, and it might be worth searching the particular brand you have to see what suits it best. You can serve whisky neat, or at room temperature in a glass with no ice. It can also be enjoyed on the rocks (ice and in some cases, with a little bit of water to bring out the flavour of the whisky).
Whisky-based cocktails are usually some of the most traditional mixtures; think a Manhattan, Old Fashioned or Whisky Sour. If you have a little time on your hands and are looking to really impress Dad, have a crack at this Citrus Irish Whiskey Punch
Malt whisky – Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Extremely Rare Malt
Malt whisky is aged for at least three years in oak casks, but if you’re really looking to impress, pick up a bottle of Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Extremely Rare Malt. For 15 years it is matured in American white oak casks, then 30% of the whisky is transferred into Spanish Oloroso casks for three years, before it’s blended back together to forge a rich, honey and wood smoke flavour.
Blended whisky – Ballantines 17YO Scotch Whisky
Although blended scotch whisky isn’t always considered as desirable as single malt, it shouldn’t be overlooked! We recommend the 2011 Whisky Bible ‘World Whisky of the Year’, Ballantines 17YO Scotch Whisky, which combines complex dessert fruit, sweet pears and figs, with hints of oak and peat smoke.
Bourbon – Old Ripy Bourbon Whiskey and Bond & Lilard Bourbon Whiskey
We tend to like bourbon whiskeys with a unique history. Old Ripy Bourbon Whiskey, named after Irish immigrant James Ripy, blends eight-year-old and 12-year-old Kentucky bourbon to create a spicy whiskey with dark chocolate and cinnamon flavour. Bond & Lilard Bourbon Whiskey with flavours of butterscotch, orange and brown sugar – is still made based on the original 1904 recipe.