Whisky (or whiskey) is produced in several countries around the world, each with it's own style, taste profile, history and tradition. With dozens of different distilleries, each producing several different bottling's a year, it's understandable that many feel overwhelmed when trying to buy a bottle. We've chosen 5 whiskies that everyone should try at least once, chosen for various reasons, not just based on awards won or number sold. Some just have a great story!
5: Suntory "Hibiki" 12 Year
Hibiki is a premium blended whisky from the famous Japanese distiller Suntory. "Hibiki" means "resonance" or "echo" in Japanese. The range is available in several versions, including: Hibiki 12, 17, 21 and 30 years old, all aged in umeshu casks. For several years the Japanese distiller was hesitant to make age-statement whiskies, tending to focus on continual improvement of younger whisky rather than hope it developed well in the casks.
Hibiki was blended according to the wishes of bartenders across Japan, who felt that there was a lack of excellent Japanese blended whisky on the market. Suntory’s chief blender, Seiichi Koshimizu, followed their suggestion on what sort of taste this perfectly blended whisky should have, and the Hibiki was born.
Tasting Notes: 12 Year old Hibiki has notes of pineapple, plum, raspberry, honey and hibiscus with banana, pomegranate, custard and pink pepper palates along with sweet, sour and complex finish.
4: Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Johnnie Walker is famous the world over, one of the largest exported Scotch Whiskies with a quality reputation. Blue Label is their premium product, as they state the aim was "To create the epic, ultimate expression of Johnnie Walker".
Blue Label is an exceptional blended scotch made from some of Scotland’s rarest and most exceptional whiskies. Only one in every ten thousand casks has the elusive quality, character and flavour to deliver the remarkable signature taste of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
Tasting Notes: Notes of chocolate, toffee sweetness, hints of grass and a finish of floral, spice, smoke and honey. Above all smooth.
3. The Shackleton Whisky - Discovery Edition
In the mid-2000s, an archaeological expedition to the Antarctic, uncovered several cases of whisky beneath explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's hut. Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt was originally distilled at Glen Mhor distillery in Inverness, Scotland. The original bottles were labelled the 'Endurance expedition', but the expedition actually sailed south onboard the Nimrod. Having set up a base camp at Cape Royds, Shackleton and his men ultimately failed to reach the South Pole, but they did return safely, and sailed for home in March 1909, leaving three crates of the malt buried in the ice.The Whisky remained frozen in the ice ever since. Still wrapped in its protective tissue and straw, they were perfectly preserved and became a time-capsule to a great man and great expedition.
The conservation team recovered ten bottles intact, and the whisky they contained, now well over 100 years old, was described as 'a gift from heaven' by Richard Paterson, the master blender at Whyte & Mackay, owners of the Mackinlay brand. In 2011, three of the bottles were flown back to home to Scotland for detailed scientific analysis. Analysis of the original Mackinlay's malt revealed the taste profile of the whisky. The team also established the strength of the whisky at 47.3% alc/vol, the fact that Orkney peat was used in the malting, and that the spirit had been matured in American white oak sherry casks.Inspired by this analysis, efforts to re-create the whisky begun. Malts from Glen Mhor and Dalmore distilleries were combined with others from Speyside and beyond. Inspired by this analysis, a perfect reproduction was created.
Tasting Notes: Whispers of gentle bonfire smoke slowly give way to spicy rich toffee, treacle and pecan nuts. These enticing flavours linger lovingly on the palate but are soon combined by a sensual, complex array of creme brûlée, orange rind and freshly baked bread.
2: Macallan 18 Sherry Oak
Sometimes called "the Rolls-Royce of Single Malts". This legendary Single Malt is Triple Cask matured for a minimum of 18 years in a unique, complex combination of Exceptional Oak Casks; Spanish oak casks seasoned with sherry, American oak casks seasoned with sherry and American oak casks seasoned with bourbon. This delivers an extraordinarily smooth, delicate yet complex Single Malt.
Macallan is one of the few to age whisky in genuine sherry oak casks imported directly from Juarez, Spain. These are the most expensive casks possible to mature whisky in.
As of July 2016, we have been informed by a source at Macallan, that all future age statement whiskies currently in inventory will only be sold in the Asia market. Also, no further age statement whiskies will be produced once current stocks are sold. So these make great investment pieces, prices have already risen for £110 to £245, in one year.
Tasting Notes: Dried fruits and ginger, with a hint of citrus, vanilla and cinnamon. On the palate, Rich dried fruits with spice, clove, orange and wood smoke. Finishing with: Full and lingering with dried fruits and sweet toffee, ginger and a hint of wood smoke.
1: Glenfiddich IPA Experiment
After several centuries you'd think the taste palate available for whisky was pretty much sorted, that no new tastes could be produced, guess again. In a worlds-first groundbreaking experiment, Malt Master Brian Kinsman has proven that traditional whisky casks can still be seasoned in a pioneering way. Collaborating with a local Speyside craft brewer, Brian created a bold and zesty IPA beer to imbue Glenfiddich's rich oak casks with extra hoppy notes. The experiment resulted in the first single malt Scotch whisky ever finished in craft IPA (India Pale Ale) casks.
Brian secretly kept up to nine barrels seasoning at any one time, hidden from view in his warehouse. He varied the time the craft beer spent penetrating deep into the oak casks, before filling the casks back up with whisky to see what new flavours would be revealed. It was a lengthy, experimental process but they finally decided on their favourite: Brew 2. The science of seasoning, beer strength and the time the whisky spent being finished all had a remarkable effect on the final, distinctive flavour.
Tasting Notes: Not a beer-flavoured whisky, but one that sits alongside the beer and shares some flavour ideas – floral touches, fruit and a hint of green leafiness. Barley sugar, lemon zest, brioche, milky cornflakes (with a sprinkling of white sugar), dried apple rings, soft cinnamon and a dusting of nutmeg.