Whisky is incredibly simple in ingredients and, in general, in the process of making it. The resulting product, however, is sublimely complex and comes in more variations than you can probably imagine. So, as we have found, choosing the best whisky is something of a tough task.From the smokey tar of peat to its golden nectar shimmer, whisky is both a celebrated yet enigmatic beverage. As iconic as it’s adored, whisky can be particularly intimidating and challenging to explore.Today, we have picked out the whiskies – and the places you can find them – that we’ll be restocking up on this year.
Easy to drink and with far more complexity than its price point would suggest, Speyburn’s Scotch whisky is nothing if not consistently excellent value. All of its offerings are mellow and moreish with a satisfying aftertaste. Light flavours make for a strong choice that comes with an affordable price tag for all. Those looking for a pleasant whisky without spending too much will enjoy Speyburn’s Bradan Orach. Meaning “Golden Salmon” in Gaelic, expect notes of green apple, honey, lemon and vanilla. It’s a wonderfully complex drink with plenty of depth for its budget price.This Speyburn comes without an age statement, suggesting it’s fairly young in comparison to others on this list. However, its ex-bourbon casks produce a depth that’s excellent on the rocks.
As much as we love good whisky, it would either have to be a spectacularly good or horrifically bad day for us to drop anything north of £100 on a bottle of malt. Nevertheless, such occasions do arise and needless to say, our expectations are that bit higher when it comes to the liquid in the glass.We did, however, find a worthy winner in Decades II by Highland Distillery Tomatin. This is a “marriage” of 21 casks distilled in certain vintage years over each of the last five decades, from refill bourbon casks from the early seventies and oloroso sherry butts from the eighties through to French oak barrels laid down as recently as 2013.We have so much respect for what Tomatin have done here; they could have easily bottled the oldest casks on their own and marked them up with eye watering prices. Instead, they have paid tribute to team members who have worked at the distillery over the last five decades by blending stand-out casks from the last 50 years together, each a respectful nod to a way of distilling that cannot be replicated ever again.On the palate, bourbon, sherry and verdejo wine casks have come together harmoniously to deliver a rather floral and fruity dram rounded off by such a long, waxy finish – a truly beautiful whisky.
Now, this was an especially tricky category to judge. We find that pushing the boat out to £100 presents an overwhelming number of respectable malts to choose from, including a healthy handful of well-aged bottlings. We narrowed this down to three drams and since we take this part of our job here at Ape fairly seriously, we tried each one a few times just to make sure that we made the right decision.In the end, we unanimously arrived at Highland Park’s 18 year old from the Orkney Islands. Distilled from barley gently smoked with local island peat turned by hand, this whisky was then matured in rich and dry European oak sherry casks left to slumber away on the islands until adulthood. The result? Heather honey sweetness meets peat smoke and ends with one hell of a long, warming finish.
Bourbon is served in a variety of manners, including neat, diluted with water, over ice (“on the rocks”), with cola or other beverages in simple mixed drinks, and in cocktails, including the Manhattan, Bourbon Smash, the Old Fashioned, the whiskey sour, and the mint julep. Bourbon is also used in cooking and was historically used for medicinal purposes.Bourbon can be used in a variety of confections such as a banana bourbon syrup for waffles, as a flavoring for chocolate cake, or in fruit-based desserts like grilled peach sundaes served with salted bourbon-caramel or brown sugar shortcake with warmed bourbon peaches. It is an optional ingredient in several pie recipes traditional to American cuisine including pumpkin pie, where it can be combined with brown sugar and pecans to make a sweet and crunchy topping for the creamy pumpkin pie filling. It can also be used as a flavoring in sauces for savory dishes like grit cakes with country ham served with bourbon mayonnaise, Kentucky bourbon chili or grilled flank steak.
5. Glen Moray
Hailing from Speyside, Scotland, Glen Moray is an iconic distillery known for winning several awards. The brand dates back to 1897, making it one of the most trusted whisky distillers in the world, too. It’s known for being partial to a sweet note. The Classic is Glen Moray’s entry level spirit — but don’t be put off by that. The vast range of notes from this bottle makes it an enjoyable drink to sip. Sweet notes like butterscotch and shortbread are the first to be tasted, followed by lemon curd and meringue.This single malt is another that whisky beginners will love, with a citrus tang that’s smooth on the palate. For the price, it’s a whisky that can’t be faulted. Add a droplet of water before sipping to bring out the rich flavours of black pepper-esque notes.
A slightly more unconventional brand, Teeling prides itself on doing things differently from the rest. Its roots date back to 1782 and over that time, it’s introduced a range of unique flavours and characteristics setting it aside from the rest. Teeling’s Vintage Reserve offers a unique flavour profile unlike anything else on the market. Distilled three times — initially in Bourbon casks but then also in ex-Sauternes wine barrels — it’s a spirit that’s won awards for a reason. The 24 Year Old is a limited release of 5,000 bottles, which comes with initial notes of orange peel, chocolate truffle and sugared almond before the stronger flavours of pineapple and honeyed barley hit. Its long and mellow finish is reminiscent of cooked apples and pears with a hint of earthy vanilla. This offering of Teeling is known for its beautifully balanced finish and is thought to likely rise in price over the coming years. Buy it for your personal collection to savour over time.