Are you ready to upgrade from your usual liquor to scotch whisky? Known as a gentleman's drink, this amber liquid could be intimidating for most. However, drinking need not be so complicated. Just like any luxury in life, this is meant to be enjoyed.
Whether you are dressing up your home bar or considering which is best for gifting, we can help you with the process. We rounded up the 10 best scotch whiskys you can add to your cart - and tell you how to savor this drink properly.
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Depending on who you talk to, there are people who believe that whisky originated in Scotland, while others argue that it all started in Ireland. Scotch whisky is made in Scotland, where they follow strict rules in production in making what they fondly call "uisge beatha" or "the water of life."
Hence, Scotland passed a law called ‘The Scotch Whisky Act,’ which regulates whisky production in the country and ensures that each bottle passes the standards. First, scotch has to be distilled at a Scotland distillery from water and malted barley. The liquid also has to be distilled at an alcoholic strength by volume (ABV) of less than 94.8%.
They also regulate the years of whisky maturation, which should be no less than three years in oak casks. To ensure the purity of the liquid, there should be no other substance added to the water and malted barley other than plain caramel coloring. Finally, it has to have a minimum ABV of 40% upon bottling.
If this is your first time purchasing whisky, the choices can be truly overwhelming. To make the process easier, here's a simple guide on things that you need to keep in mind before making that purchase.
There are two types of scotch whiskies - blended whiskies and single malt whiskys. Simply put, blends are made from whiskys sourced from several different distilleries, while single malts are made from whisky that comes from just one distillery.
As single malts reflect the signature taste coming from a particular distillery, blends put those together to create a new taste for their bottling. Single malts usually pack a punch in terms of flavor, making it harder for first-time whisky drinkers to appreciate.
Some bottlings go for cask-strength alcohol content, going as high as 50% alcohol by volume. Blends are usually more mellow in the palate, making it more accessible for those who want to try scotch whisky for the first time.
The topography of the region in Scotland where the whisky is made greatly influences its flavor profile. Speyside is a Scottish region known for its rolling hills and the mighty River Spey. As a result, whisky from this region is usually sweet and fruity. For those who are starting out in the single malt category, you can never go wrong with a Speyside whisky.
If you are looking for whisky that would best complement your favorite cigar, going for an islay is your best bet. Whiskies from this region are heavily influenced by peat - a type of fuel that is used in either drying the malt or cask used for the liquid. As a result, smoky flavors are apparent in whiskies from this region.
Whiskies that pack a punch in terms of flavor come from the highland region of Scotland. This is the largest region in Scotland, with Speyside bordering it off one side. Whiskies from the highlands are rugged and full of spice, as malts from this region range from dry to sweet. The result is a robust liquid that has a full-bodied flavor.
With the ABV of whisky kept at a minimum of 40%, this drink has a higher alcohol content than most drinks. Beer has an average ABV of 4.5%, while wine is usually at 12%. The reason for setting this standard for whisky dates as far back as the early 1900s and is mostly political.
Distillers, however, found that bottling at 40% has advantages in terms of flavor. A lower strength puts the liquid at risk of losing delicate top notes that make whisky more enjoyable. This is what happens in gin and rum, where some of its aromatic notes are lost with lower ABVs.
The main ingredients of making whisky are just water and malted barley. The flavor you get from the liquid is largely from the casks where it is matured. The longer it stays in the cask, the more flavor it gets from the wood.
The cask also mellows out flavors from the new-make spirit, which tends to be sharp. This is the reason why younger whiskies tend to have stronger and spicier flavors as opposed to older whiskies that are more mellowed out. Older whiskies also tend to have more complex flavors, as oaky and sherry notes can be detected in the liquid.
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15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Single Malt With Bold Flavors
Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old Scotch Whisky
A Whisky Finished in Rum Casks
16 Year Old Scotch Whisky
Smoky With Sweet Floral Notes
Sherry Cask Edition
Light Whisky With a Burst of Sherry
Whisky Matured in Seven Different Casks
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Easy to Drink, Blended Malt Whisky
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
An Affordable Blend of Expensive Whiskies
Dufftown Scotch Whisky
Refreshing Speyside Flavors Matured for 12 Years
Whyte & Mackay
Blended Scotch Whisky
Inexpensive Blended Whisky for Your Cocktails
Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky
Household Whisky Brand You Can Still Enjoy
While some might argue that the flavors of the Dalmore might be a bit too complex for beginners, its orangey-chocolatey notes make it an enjoyable sipper that might surprise first-timers. Expect strong and robust notes from the liquid, helping you sharpen your palate and detect different nuances that you can discover in your whisky.
On the nose, citrusy sweetness is anchored with dark cocoa. This is followed by notes of dried fruit and milk chocolate on the mouth. A long and lingering finish completes the experience.
If you still find this too strong for you, try making it into a cocktail. For instance, try mixing it with Angostura bitters, syrup, and sherry. Then, serve with lots of ice and enjoy the sweet and fruity notes of this liquid.
This whisky takes you straight into Caribbean shores with its bright, fruity flavors. This offering from Balvenie is sweet and creamy, reminiscent of a pina colada, which packs a good punch. On the nose, you can detect notes of toffee and fresh fruit— oaky vanilla coats your palate, followed by the sweetness of mangoes and pineapples.
The finish is refreshing. It is best enjoyed neat to fully appreciate the flavors it has to offer. If 43% ABV is too high for you, add a block of ice or a dash of water to open up the liquid and mellow it out a bit. Even beginners can enjoy this bright and sweet whisky!
If you are trying peat for the first time, you better do it right! Lagavulin 16 has been the favorite of many whisky lovers for its complex taste. While the nose of this liquid might come off too strong for the uninitiated, with notes of iodine and smoke, let the drink surprise you with its gentle, fruity sweetness.
However, you must keep an open mind if you are trying this for the first time. Its ABV is a tad higher than your usual whisky, and its flavors come out like a one-two punch. This is the best gateway for those who want to explore the smokey flavors of Islay whiskies.
Sherry has been a popular trend with whiskies today, and this single malt is a great introduction to the world of sherry cask flavors. The sherry sweetness is strong from the nose and bursts in your palate. You can find notes of oranges, cherries, and vanilla with each sip.
If you want to tone down the sweetness a bit, you can add a block of ice or a dash of water to your drink. This whisky is an affordable single malt that is perfect for those who are looking for a dessert-type whisky or just want an easy sipper that can easily be shared among friends.
What is interesting about this whisky is that it was matured in seven different casks, making it a complex and rich whisky. It is surprisingly light and sweet, perhaps because it is a non-aged statement liquid. It has the sweet notes of peaches and pears with a hint of milk chocolate.
If you want to delight your senses with something unique, pair this whisky with mint chocolate. Take a bite of mint chocolate and let it melt in your mouth before taking a sip of this whisky. The liquid comes alive at your palate before giving away to a nice refreshing finish.
This blended malt whisky has the sweetness of mangoes and pineapples but with the muscle of a hint of smoke. While it is promoted as best served over ice, it tastes wonderful neat as well. If you are feeling adventurous, try freezing it overnight to relive the adventure of Sir Ernest Shackleton himself.
The box and bottle are a pretty shade of blue that makes it great for gifting too. This is perfect for a hot toddy - a cocktail popular in the UK for its supposed medicinal properties. Squeeze the juice of a lemon into your glass, add hot water, honey, and a dash of Shackleton.
A blend of Macallan, Highland Park, and Glenrothes, this blended malt whisky from Edrington is everything you've imagined it to be. It is sweet and approachable, with notes of sweet berries and caramel and the slightest hint of smoke at the finish.
This is easily enjoyed neat or with a dash of water. This whisky is an easy sipper that makes you forget you are drinking a 40% ABV whisky. Try it with apple juice and lots of ice for a refreshing summer drink that you can enjoy at the beach.
If you are a beginner looking for an aged single malt, this would be a good place to start. It is an easy drink that is hard to dislike! It has distinctive notes of fresh apples and pear, a characteristic of Speyside whiskies. Its sweetness makes it enjoyable for those who are not fans of whisky.
If you want to transform this into a long drink, put a shot of this whisky in a glass filled with ice and top it with lemon juice. Add a bit of syrup to bring out its sweet flavors. Mix it well and enjoy it with friends!
Whyte & Mackay is one of the most popular blended whiskies in Europe. It is a great whisky for beginners, particularly those who are still trying to get into the world of scotch. It is easy to drink with its notes of sweet toffee and fresh fruits. Plus, it is triple-matured, making it a smooth and refreshing sipper.
This whisky is also perfect for cocktails. For non-whisky drinkers, serve this with lots of ice and top it with soda for a refreshing drink. It also goes well with iced tea and soda water, so you can craft many drinks with this affordable yet tasty whisky.
This is an easy-to-drink whisky from the brand which is most familiar to whisky and non-whisky drinkers alike. The affordable price point makes it a perfect gateway to the world of blended scotch. This is widely used as a cocktail base as this whisky is easily mixable. A crowd favorite is mixing 1 part of Johnnie Walker Red Label with 2 parts of lime soda topped with lemon.
But this whisky is also a great sipper. If you want to take this whisky neat, you will surely appreciate the flavors it has on the nose and the palate. It has sweet notes of apples and vanilla, and a dash of pepper for a bit of spice, making it a sweet whisky perfect for casual drinking.
You don't need to find a reason to take out a bottle and enjoy a drink or two. Whether it's having a relaxing nightcap alone or sharing it with your spouse, there are many ways to enjoy staying in. Here are some options worth considering!
Drinking is something that could bring a lot of happiness, and finding a drink that you could truly enjoy after a stressful day is one of the best feelings in the world. Exploring different liquors is always exciting, and the process should be easy and not intimidating. Just remember that whatever it is that you choose, you must enjoy the drink responsibly.
Author: Laura Mercado
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