Is your partner, Dad or Granddad (or even Grandma!) a Whisky drinker? Don’t know the first thing about how to chose a fine bottle? This little guide should point you in the right direction.
In my case it’s my brothers who would be partial to a 25 year old Glenmorangie!
In this post we’ll take you through the basic principles to buying Whisky and ensure you’ll get a great present for your friend or relative.
What is Whisky?
The one thing that Whisky from around the world has in common is that it is made from fermented grain. After that there are many different recipes and variations found all around the world, but for the purpose of this article and for buying a birthday present, we’ll stick to the world renowned Scottish Whisky.
There are three types available:
- Malt whisky: This is produced from 100% malted barley
- Grain whisky: Made from a variety of cereals, which may or may not include a proportion of malted barley
- Blended whisky: A combination of malt and grain whisky
The Whisky is then produced by grinding the cereal to a coarse flour and steeping it in hot water. The resultant liquid (wort) is cooled, yeast added and the result is a strong ale, which is then distilled.
In Scotland, all Whiskies will be aged for at least 3 yeas in an Oak cask and will be at least 40% (abv).
So How Can I Choose a Whisky?
The following tips will help you choose the perfect Whisky gift for your friend or relatives birthday.
Scotland is divided into four producing regions which each deliver their own unique characteristics.
Islay: Traditionally pungent, smoky, medicinal and intense, malts from the island of Islay take their characteristics from the peat used to dry the barley, and their proximity to the sea.
Highland Malts: Speysides, from the banks of the river Spey, are the sweetest of all Highland malts. From the northern half of the country, they are elegant and well flavoured. They tend to have more complex, fruity tones and a richness and delicacy.
Lowland Malts: These are drier than their Highland counterparts. They are usually lighter and slightly more spirity.
Speyside: The Speyside region is located within the Highlands, but the Speyside distilleries are adjacent to the River Spey and are thought to have sufficiently unique characteristics to warrant a region of their own.
Blended Whiskies are a mixture of single malt whiskies from different distilleries.
Single Malt vs Blend
If the person you are buying for is a seasoned whisky drinker then you should be looking at a single malt. Single-malt Scotch allows for true discrimination, connoisseurship, lavish spending and unbridled snobbery.
However if you are introducing the drink to a new whisky drinker you should consider a smoother blended variety. Scotch is an earthy beverage with strong, smoky flavours, and only those who have taken the time to acquire the taste will appreciate single malts.
The longer a Whisky has been aged, the smoother it is. Once you have decided on the variety, you should therefore try to buy the oldest available.
By law all Whiskies must be aged at least three years, but it really comes into its own after 10 years. Try to buy a 12, 15 or 21 year old bottle if you can afford it, and remember that ageing does not continue once bottled so don’t think keeping it in the cupboard for ten years will help!
When considering blended varieties, any age statement claimed must be that of the youngest whisky in the blend, which is invariably the grain, as they need much less ageing than malts.
If you are in the UK, take a look over here for a selection of the finest Scotch Whiskies.You might be interested in: