It happens to everyone: getting stuck in a rut. Even if you have a favorite whisky, there are times you’ll get the itch to branch out. When that happens, consult this list.
It’s the apples that do it here. The Glenlivet has a fresh fruit salad, green apple, and pineapple element to it. Linkwood smells like an orchard in spring: apple and peach blossom, new grass. It also has a thicker, almost oily palate that helps the flavors roll around the mouth.
The most successful sherried whiskies are those whose distillate has heft and power. Macallan’s oiliness demonstrates that, but so does the direct fire-derived power of Glenfarclas and ‘Dronach’s robust earthy weight. Both are complex in their own right, revel in sherry casks, and create multifaceted, layered drams. Try them.
A few years ago I’d have been encouraging people to try Balvenie. Now that it’s well-known, it can act as an entry point for the exploration of lesser-known, medium-weight, complex malts; like Craigellachie, with its heavy florals, ripe fruits, and thick yet creamy palate. A rich, old-style mouthful.
You’d think peaty whiskies were pretty much interchangeable, but each wrangles the smoke in a different direction. Ardbeg’s is sooty and a little maritime, but it’s the fresh sweetness of the spirit that links it to Kilchoman’s creamy scallops, oyster brine, clove, and bonfires. Same island, different coasts, equally great.
…or vice versa. Here are two enigmas. The key is how each balances its smokiness within a rich and fruity frame. Springbank has a little more brine and oil, HP more heather; Springbank has a floral top note, HP shows fudge; both are citric. There are equal amounts of rippling power and complexity.
…and not just because they’re the same age. Oban’s charm is its citric intensity. Arran is similar, but here there’s also a little malty crunch with the spicy flamed orange peel and barley sugar. If Oban is a poached orange with ginger sauce, then Arran is an orange cheesecake.
If spring whiskies are all about freshness and vibrancy, then summer drams talk of soft, fleshy fruits and gentle, sweet creaminess. Glenmo’ Original delivers all of this, but so does Aberfeldy. In fact, this could be Scotland’s sweetest dram, all honeycomb, strawberry jam, and peaches. A suitably hedonistic treat.
Is there life beyond Johnnie Black? Hard to believe given its (deserved) ubiquity, but every so often it’s good to open your palate to new possibilities. I came across this Cadenhead recently and its mature, resinous, and figgy gingerbread depths certainly rang a few bells. It’s now a house dram for me.
The Chivas style is an understated, balanced mix of delicate, light fruits with gentle grain. Exemplary blending, but so is Antiquary, which has been a firm favorite since I read about it in the novels of William McIlvanney. Golden syrup, light spice, popcorn. Slightly richer than Chivas but easily its match.