It could be Father’s Day, Christmas, a birthday or just because, but when the time comes to give that perfect bottle of Scotch whisky to someone special in your life, where do you start? There’s a wide range of whisky flavours and styles produced in Scotland, so it pays to have an idea about what your giftee might enjoy most. Do they like peated or smoky whisky, or do they prefer to steer clear of this polarising Scotch whisky style? Do they drink whisky from a particular region – like the Lowlands, the Highlands, Speyside or Islay? Or prefer whisky aged in a specific cask type – ex-bourbon, sherry or port casks? (Look out for these terms on bottle labels.)
If none of that information is available to you, think about the flavours your whisky enthusiast might be drawn to: something light, floral and fruity, something malty, nutty and winey, or whiskies at the other end of the spectrum entirely – heavy, smoky and medicinal? From here, some basic knowledge of Scotland’s whisky regions and the different styles of single malt produced in each area will steer you in the right direction. Below, check out our breakdown of the regions and some of their famed whiskies to get you started.
Lowlands malt whiskies are predominately on the lighter side of the flavour spectrum. They’re often floral, dry and grassy and made from unpeated malted barley, so don’t contain those robust smoky characters. Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky is one of the quintessential Lowland whiskies. Produced just inside the boundaries of Glasgow, this signature Auchentoshan is aged entirely in first fill ex-bourbon casks which add plenty of vanilla and toffee. It’s also triple-distilled, which helps to create a light, delicate and bright whisky, perfect for those looking for something easier to drink.
Another great option from the Lowlands is the Glasgow 1770 Fresh & Fruity Single Malt Scotch Whisky. It’s all there in the name with this whisky, which was the Lowlands winner in our 2023 Best of Whisky and Rum Awards. Matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks, it’s then finished in virgin American oak to bring on coconut and honey notes and a slightly spicy finish.
Speyside is the heartland of Scotch whisky-making and is located in the north-east of the country around the River Spey. You’ll find almost half of Scotland’s whisky distilleries in Speyside, and the single malts produced here are generally sweeter and fruitier than those produced in the Highlands or Islay. One of the seminal Speyside malt whiskies is Glenfiddich 12YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Glenfiddich has pioneered the single malt category since the 1960s, and this is their renowned flagship. Matured in ex-bourbon and sherry casks, it’s light and fresh with notes of pears, green apple and fruitcake.
Down the road from Glenfiddich is the famed Balvenie Distillery, and the Balvenie 12YO Doublewood Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Speyside winner in our 2023 Best of Whisky and Rum Awards – is one of their iconic releases. It was one of the first Scottish whiskies to undergo ‘wood finishing’, and the additional maturation in Spanish ex-oloroso sherry casks adds an extra layer of nuttiness and depth.
Generally speaking, Highlands whiskies are drier and less fruity than those from Speyside but have a bit more body and grunt than Lowlands malts. Some of the most northerly distilleries in the Highlands produce faintly salty and smoky whiskies, but Glenmorangie Distillery, located 45 minutes north of Inverness, goes the other way. Glenmorangie has some of the tallest stills in Scotland which help to create a light, fragrant and elegant spirit. The Glenmorangie 10YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky is the perfect representation of this style: floral and creamy, with hints of citrus and cinnamon.
Further south, the Loch Lomond Distillery is one of the most unique whisky operations in Scotland. Loch Lomond’s distillers create a vast array of whisky styles, but their Loch Lomond 12YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a more classic Highlands malt. The winning Highlands whisky in our 2023 Best of Whisky and Rum Awards, it balances peach, pear and vanilla notes with soft touches of peat smoke and is ideal for someone looking for a complex and intriguing whisky.
The island of Islay off Scotland’s west coast is home to the country’s most pungent and intensely flavoured single malts. If you’re thinking about buying an Islay malt as a gift, it’s worth remembering that these smoky, sea-influenced whiskies aren’t for everyone, and can be daunting even for long-time whisky drinkers. Taste Ardbeg 10YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky and you’ll understand why. This legendary Islay malt has sooty and shellfish notes, but those potent flavours are matched by a creamy, citric sweetness that helps to balance the experience.
In the same vein, but even more medicinal and challenging, is the Laphroaig 10YO Single Malt Scotch Whisky, the Islay whisky finalist in the 2023 Best of Whisky and Rum Awards. Often described as one of Scotland’s most characterful whiskies, the seaweed and iodine flavours in the Laphroaig spirit are tempered by aging in ex-Maker’s Mark bourbon casks, which add plenty of vanilla sweetness. This is the perfect dram to accompany seafood or charcuterie, but we’d recommend finding out if this style is to someone’s liking before gifting them a bottle.
Products featured are available from 02/08/23 to 05/09/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.