Giving dad a bottle of whisky on Father’s Day might seem predictable. But with a little research and a bit of imagination, you can still spin a surprise this Sunday.
There’s arguably never been a better time to buy whisky in the whole of history. More and more countries are getting in on the distilling act, to create a brave new world of whisky. From Tasmania and New Zealand to India and England.
With experimental cask finishes and innovative approaches to distillation, a brave new generation of whisky makers is not afraid to rip up the rulebook. They are showing real creativity in the pursuit of fresh flavours and distinctive new tastes.
The result is that there’s something here for every paternal taste, whether their penchant is for a smoky Islay dram, a spicy American rye whiskey, or a tangy Irish single pot still. They might even be persuaded to share…
Best whiskies for Father’s Day
This year’s Ardbeg Day bottling is a self-styled punk whisky. The use of roasted black malt adds notes of bonfire embers and burnt toast slathered in Bovril to Ardbeg’s trademark herb-accented peat. Even the distillery’s signature fruit – lime, kiwi – has an edge of barbecue char. An explosively smoky delight. Alcohol 46%
Dartmoor Whisky Bordeaux Cask
England is one of the most exciting emerging whisky-producing nations on Earth right now, and this is a cosmopolitan mix of the West Country, Scottish expertise (Frank McHardy, ex-Springbank), a Cognac still and casks from the Médoc. It adds up to a hedonistic, sweetly fruity whisky with a silky mouthfeel and a nutty, lightly spicy touch. Very promising indeed. Alc 46%
Johnnie Walker Black Label Sherry Finish
It’s a brave move to monkey around with one of the world’s best-selling whiskies, but this limited edition again illustrates the fact that smoke and Sherry wood – in the right hands – are a great combination. All the figgy, plummy comfort of ex-Sherry casks, alongside Black Label’s classic notes of dry smoke, sweet fruit, gentle spice and vanilla fudge. Alc 40%
Lot 40 Dark Oak
This terrific 100% rye whisky from Canada is an exercise in intensity, with the extra strength and use of heavily charred American oak making for a boldly expressive rye with bags of black cherry layered on top of orchard fruits. On the palate, the power builds, thanks to explosive oak tannins and lots of clove and cinnamon – all undercut by a note of anise and peppermint. Alc 48%
Redbreast Dream Cask Aged 30 Years Double Cask Edition
This year’s Dream Cask release from Irish distiller Redbreast is hard to track down, but if you do chance upon a bottle, snap it up as it’s one of the best whiskeys released in recent times. Harmony, complexity, texture, character – it ticks every box, combining fruit basket aromas with nutty toffee, fig and the lift of tobacco leaf and liquorice. Just terrific. Alc 56.9%
Talisker Elements 27 Years Old
Arguments about the ‘greatest’ single malt Scotch will rage on forever, but this superlative release is a reminder of Talisker’s claim to the crown. Triple-matured in refill and heavily charred casks, plus European oak puncheons, it perfectly balances the Skye distillery’s maritime smoke and salinity with a fiery pinch of chilli and sweet orchard fruits. The downside? You can only buy it at the distillery. Alc 58%
The Balvenie Aged 15 Years Madeira Cask
Madeira casks can be tricky beasts to control, so this sweetly syrupy, hazelnut-accented Speysider is all the more admirable for keeping them in check. Balvenie’s unmistakable fruit-and-spice combination is given an extra edge of ginger and dark honey, as well as even more layers of peach and tangerine peel. Only available in travel retail. Alc 43%
The Cardrona Growing Wings Central Otago Pinot Noir Cask
Great things are happening at this innovative distillery on New Zealand’s South Island. Cardrona’s lightly honeyed, apple-scented distillate spends five years maturing in casks supplied by Mount Difficulty. The wood adds sweetly fragrant notes of wild strawberry and cream spiked with Madagascan vanilla, but be careful – at close to 70% abv, you’ll need water to hand. Alc 67.4%
The Royal Salute Platinum Jubilee Edition
The whisky created for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II could hardly let Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee go unmarked. Combining ‘ghost’ whiskies from Caperdonich, Lochside and Inverleven (among others) and finished in tawny Port casks, this is a sumptuous, endless, multi-layered blend with the unmistakable hallmark of great age. At $20,000 a bottle, it’s also a handsome Father’s Day gift. Alc 50.6%
Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon
This continues the barbecue whisky theme – the Ardbeg, Lot 40 and Talisker releases all convey a charry, smoky character – in even more obvious fashion. Take a small-batch, 8-year-old bourbon, refine it using charcoal from Kentucky white oak and Texan mesquite, and you get an opulent, silky and mildly smoky whiskey – with a touch of celebrity gloss in the involvement of Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey. Alc 43%