The image of whisky - on the surface at least - may be rather staid and traditional, but producers are experimenting like never before.

The image of whisky -on the surface at least – may be rather staid and traditional, but producers are experimenting like never before, maturing their whiskies in different barrels and casks to achieve new flavours and styles. Don’t worry if you don’t know your cask-strengths from your non-chill-filtereds; it is reassuring that the overall standard of whisky these days is very high. As a general rule, Speyside whiskies are clean and pure; Highland whiskies tend to be fuller and spicier; and those from Islay peaty and smoky. Irish whiskies are softer, and bourbons sweeter. And I would urge you to give Japanese whiskies a try. They are not easy to find, but are comparable in quality to the best Scotch.


Ten Best Whiskies

Highland

Aberfeldy 16 Year Old, 40% –  Bourbon barrels and sherry casks used, this is a great value gap between the 12 year old and worldly 21 year old – UK Whisky Exchange £55.75

Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve Whisky, 44% – Made to accompany cigars, this Whisky is unbelieabley complex, aged using American white oak ex-bourbon casks, 30 year old oloroso sherry butts and Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques – UK Great Western Wine £86.00

Speyside

Cragganmore 25 year old, 51.4% – Honey, heather and sweet American oak enhances this special releases Speyside. UK – The Whisky Exchange £275

Islay

Ardbeg Uigeadail, 54.2% – Single malt using bourbon barrels and sherry butts – UK Whisky Exchange £57.95

Peated

Peat Monster, Compass Box, 46% – Not just a cool label, the Compass Box whisky makers blend from some of the best sources across Scotland – UK Great Western Wine £45.00

Irish

Teeling 2004  – Single Cask, 57%: The 24 year old is stupendous but if you can’t stretch to £250 this Sherry Cask aged Irish Whiskey is wonderful. – UK Master’s of Malt £69

Bourbon

Hudson Baby Bourbon, 46% – Individually labelled, manufactured in a potstill at the Tuthilltown Gristmill heritage site, for New Yorkers, this is one to try  – UK Great Western Wine £46.00

Four Roses Single Barrel, 50% – Sweet and rich, a pure Kentucky Bourbon that you can’t go wrong with – UK £41.35 The Whisky Exchange

Japanese

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky, 45% – An affordable single corn grain Whisky from one of Japan’s outstanding producers – UK £51.95 The Whisky Exchange

Best whisky for the big spender

Last Drop 48 Year Old, Blended Scotch, 48.6% – Only 592 bottles made, aged in Bourbon cask, with the oldest part distilled in the 60’s. Unbelievable balance and complexity makes this a real collector’s item. – UK Whisky Exchange £2,600