Best Scotch whisky: 15 to try

two glasses of whisky

I’m not sure that any of us needs an excuse to crack open a decent bottle of Scotch, but just in case you do, Thursday 27 July is National Scotch Whisky Day. It’s a whole 24 hours dedicated to the country’s most famous (and most lucrative) export.

If you’re experiencing a mild case of déjà vu, don’t worry… There are a few landmark dates in the diary, ensuring that, like every dog, every dram has its day.

There’s International Scotch Day in early February, marking the birthday of Alexander Walker of Johnnie Walker fame. Then International Whisky Day on 27 March and World Whisky Day on the third Saturday in May. Factor in Burns’ Night and Hogmanay and the calendar is filling up nicely.

Drawing up a list of whiskies fit to mark such an occasion reminds you of just how rich and diverse the world of Scotch is. You can’t let the day pass without referencing the classics, but at the same time there are always some cracking new expressions that deserve a nod.

If you’ve never tried Ballantine’s 17 or Glenfarclas 15, where have you been? But don’t miss out on terrific new releases such as the Mossburn Blair Athol, or Talisker’s limited-edition tie-in with the Parley for the Seas charity.

Characterful single malts, beautifully constructed blends, luscious grains. Distillates that are delicately fragrant, pungently funky, or full of the enticing aromas of peat smoke. Maturation in everything from sweet ex-bourbon barrels, via rich Sherry and spicy Cognac, to punchy virgin oak casks.

Prices can differ widely too. There are some bottles here that won’t set you back much more than £30 – and others that run to four figures.

The world of whisky is a large and cosmopolitan one these days, and there are fine liquids coming out of everywhere from New Zealand to Israel. That’s tremendous news for whisky lovers, but it’s still nice – for one day, at least – to revel in the cornucopia of flavours that only Scotch whisky can offer.

Best Scotch whisky: 15 to try

anCnoc Sherry Cask Finish Peated Edition

Smoky whiskies and ex-Sherry casks are a match made in heaven – so no wonder that a Sherried extension of anCnoc’s Peatheart variant went down a storm in Sweden, prompting this global release. Exuberant fruit, campfire aromas, spiced orchard fruit and dark fudge. Simple flavours, neatly assembled. Alcohol 43%

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Cheekily named after a whirlpool that sits between Jura and Scarba – not Islay – this is a rich, meatily spicy whisky with lots of juicy dark fruits and dark chocolate to supplement Ardbeg’s trademark briny smoke. I know a lot of people prefer the distillery’s Uigeadail bottling, but this expression has always hit the spot for me. Alc 57.1%

Ballantine’s 17 Year Old

Blendophobes who can only drink single malts should try this, and think again. A superlative evocation of the art of blending – even after seeing its strength cut from 43% – combining fleshy fruit and an unctuously creamy, vanilla-accented and honeyed palate. Silky, smooth and utterly seductive. Alc 40%

Benriach 2010 (bottled 2023) Cask #08036 Pedro Ximénez, Berry Bros & Rudd

A cracker from Berrys’ spring release programme, but one that you need to tease out with a generous dose of water. Not only will it go further, but you’ll get the full effect of Benriach’s fruit basket aromas, alongside gentle spice and liquorice-covered gingerbread from the PX cask finish. Alc 61.1%

Blair Athol 2009 (12 Years Old), Mossburn Vintage Casks

Another whisky from the terrific recent tranche of Mossburn releases that showcase less heralded distilleries. First-fill bourbon casks have softened Blair Athol’s funkily earthy, malty character and created a beguiling beeswax note, alongside lots of walnut and dark oaky flavours. A BFG of a whisky. Alc 54.5%

Carsebridge 48 Year Old

Aged grain whisky can be a little sweet and one-dimensional, with the cask overshadowing the distillate. So when this single grain from…

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