Just picture yourself on a Friday evening. You’ve come home from a long day’s work, and you decide to start the off the weekend with some quiet contemplation; accompanied by a measure of civilized hooch. You stroll over to your dedicated whisky vault, (which I sincerely recommend you keep well hidden) and to your horror you find your precious stock has run dry. How did this happen, you ask yourself.
Maybe you were gifted a single malt by some relatives, and hadn’t realised its diminishing qualities over the last few months. Or perhaps you simply had some friends around and one of your mates discovered the location of whisky utopia?
Whatever the cause may be: I am here to help guide you to renewing your stock for the year, with extra tips on what to look out for when purchasing new whiskies.
- Start off with something new
Before restocking or even starting your first collection, consider trying something new. I recommend that you try a whisky from a country you’ve never been to before. Different countries around the world have developed their own whisky producing industries over the last century and many have their own quirks and styles. An iconic example of this would be Japan which started off mimicking the experienced Scottish whisky industry, and then around the end of the 1940s they had developed their own unique style and methods of drinking whisky. However there are many, less obvious places you can find a good dram.
I personally recommend you try Mackmyra, which is a Swedish whisky. There’s two things that stand out about this whisky; a large amount of the casks used for maturation are made from Swedish oak and the ingredients are all locally sourced with no added colouring. The whisky tastes different from other whiskies I’ve tried, it’s smooth, easily drinkable and the taste reminds me of alpine forests. They have a lot of different versions of Mackmyra, so to avoid the confusion I suggest Mackmyra Brukswhisky with a price tag of £40. Also if you’re interested they recently released a limited 10 year bottling this year. (They only started producing the spirit in 2002)
I find there are two types of whiskies. Whiskies for yourself and whiskies for sharing. Obviously both can be shared, it’s just some whiskies seem less appropriate for sharing. Think about it, your partner or significant other comes home one day and suddenly decides that they are up for trying whisky and have never tried it before, or its Christmas and your aged 20 something relative wants to try whisky for the first time. And you are their guardian into the world of whisky, however you’re not going to just pour out a 50 year old Macallan and expect them to appreciate it? Letting someone try whisky for the first time is like teaching an apprentice, you cannot simply tell them all the secrets of the trade straight away. You must ease them into it. So that they may become wise – just like us.
For this task diversifying your whisky stock is crucial. I recommend including a blend, such as a Whyte & Mackay triple matured. This is ideal for introducing people to whisky and at under £20 very reasonably priced indeed, the flavours are an excellent representation of a good quality blend.
I would also include a well-aged single malt, such as Aberlour 12 year old, an excellent representation of a Speyside single malt, a full bodied whisky with a hint of orange.
And most importantly; remember to demonstrate to them how to appreciate whisky properly – in moderation.
- Shopping around (UK retail)
If you walk into an average supermarket in the UK you will find a decent range of scotch on the shelves, another thing you will find is some pretty decent discounts. In the whisky industry, demand can be tricky to predict, this sometimes results in the price of some whisky going down. I have seen pretty much every whisky on the supermarket shelves be discounted at some point. There are some excellent deals to be had; if you live in the north of England Booths has a more extensive range of whisky than most supermarkets and more often than not, discounts.
I would also check out Aldi which has a very interesting range of their own branded whisky and gin, both of which have won awards trumping the more expensive brands. Check out their Highland Black 8 year Scotch whisky, many are calling it one of the best budget whiskies at only £12.95.
If you are looking for something you have never tried before and would like to sample what you are buying I recommend going to a local spirit/whisky specialist if you have one. Occasionally they allow you to try before you buy– if you are unsure just ask.
And of course my personal favourite option, go straight to the distiller themselves. Most whisky distilleries offer guided tours these days, and offer whisky at the end of the tour – this allows you to properly learn about what you’re buying and how the distillery operates. Unfortunately you are limited to Scotland for most distilleries in the UK, however there are a few English distilleries and a couple of Welsh if you are living south of the border. I can recommend the Lakes Distillery located in the heart of the Lake District, a tip top guided tour is available. Penderyn Distillery in South Wales located in the Brecon Beacons is another brilliant distillery. Sometimes you get a discount on their products with your tour ticket.
So; try something new, diversify your collection and shop around. These are my recommendations –let me know what kind of whiskies you have included in your collection!