Best Whiskies to Buy

Best whiskies to buy

Check out our guide to whisky, from scotch to bourbon, Irish to Japanese, along with the best blowout and budget bottles to buy

Whisky at its most basic is made up of just three ingredients – water, grain and yeast.

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From there however it can have a multitude of differences, from the intense smokiness of some Scottish single malts to the sweet caramel and vanilla notes of American bourbon. There’s something for everyone – you just need to find the right one. 


Scottish whisky

The world’s biggest producer has five different types of whisky: 

Single malt scotch whisky: made only from malted barley, and the product of only one distillery.

Blended scotch whisky: A combination of different single malt and single grain whiskies, blended together after the individual whiskies have matured.

Blended malt scotch whisky: A blend of single malts from different distilleries.

Single grain scotch whisky: The product of one distillery, and can be made with a variety of grains including corn, wheat and barley. 

Blended grain scotch whisky: a blend of single grains, from more than one distillery.

Though its whiskies are officially divided into geographical regions, when it comes to flavour profiles Scotland, as a general rule, has two traditional styles – those from the mainland, which tend to be fruity and smooth, and those from the islands, where the barley used to make the whisky has been dried over burning peat, adding a characteristic smokiness to the end result. 

Which Scottish whiskies to buy

The blowout: 

Smooth – The Glenrothes 12-year-old Speyside single malt scotch whisky. Why? Fruity, sweet and smooth – this is easy drinking with bags of depth and flavour. 

Smoky – Ardbeg 10-year-old Islay single malt scotch whisky. Why? Spicy, sweet and smoky. 

On a budget: 

Smooth – Glenmorangie 10-year-old single malt scotch whisky. Aged in bourbon casks, this has citrus and vanilla notes. 

Smoky – Laphroaig Select single malt scotch whisky. Fiery and assertively smoky.


Japanese whisky 

During the 20th century would-be Japanese whisky makers travelled to Scotland to learn their craft, sparking an industry that has gone on to make some of the best whiskies in the world. 

Which Japanese whiskies to buy

The blowout:

Suntory Hibiki Japanese Harmony. Why? A blend of malt and grain whiskies, with notes of orange peel and white chocolate.

On a budget: 

Akashi blended. Why? Matured in bourbon and sherry casks, with notes of toffee, oak and vanilla. 


Irish whiskey

The Irish were once one of the biggest whiskey producers but the industry fell into decline in the 20th century. The good times are back, however, with several exciting whiskies being made in Ireland. 

Which Irish whiskies to buy

Blowout: 

Bushmills 16 year old. Why? Matured in three different casks – bourbon, oloroso sherry and port – which each bring their own nuances. Spicy, with berry fruits and a deep colour from the port.

On a budget:

Tullamore Dew. Why? Triple distillation brings smoothness while a blend of golden grain, pot still and malt whiskies give complexity and depth.  


Bourbon whiskey 

Bourbon and single malt whiskey may appear similar, but the raw materials, distillation process and maturation of the spirit differ greatly. For example, bourbon is made from a range of grains and must include at least 51% corn, whereas single malt must be 100% malted barley. By law bourbon must be matured in new charred oak barrels whereas other whiskies can be matured in anything from sherry to cider casks.

Which bourbon whiskies to buy 

Blowout:

Woodford Reserve Double oaked. Why? Unusually this has a second aging period in heavily toasted oak barrels to give a complex, toasty finish.  

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On a budget:

Buffalo Trace. Why? Made from corn, rye and malted barley and aged for at least eight years, this is sweet, smooth and very easy drinking.