In these dark and uncertain times, with the world on lockdown, a little of what George Bernard Shaw nicknamed “liquid sunshine” may be just what the doctor ordered.
And, with this Saturday marking World Whisky Day, what better excuse to crack open a bottle of your favourite scotch or bourbon?
The Week Portfolio has rounded up some of our favourites for you to try in the comfort of your own home in celebration of usquebaugh or the “water of life”.
We aren’t judgemental here, so all of the below can be enjoyed straight, with ice, a dash of water or a mixer. Where one of those is best, we have let you know.
World Whisky Blend
A blend of whiskies from around the globe that, according to its producer, “celebrates a truly global flavour and the way the world really drinks whisky”.
World Whisky Blend combines samples from 14 different countries - including Scotland and the US - to produce a light, fresh drink with a spicy palette and hints of brown sugar.
This whisky is a good one for new drinkers to try straight or with a single ice cube, in part due to its light flavour. However, 50ml mixed with around 150ml of either soda or tonic water also makes for a mean highball that would please even more seasoned drinkers.
Teeling Whisky Small Batch
Slightly darker than the World Whisky Blend, the Teeling is aged initially in bourbon casks for up to six years, before spending a further six months in Central American rum barrels.
The aging process gives it a dried fruit character, which when combined with a caramel-like smooth finish makes for an excellent whisky. Another that we best enjoyed straight, the Teeling’s creamy vanilla palette combines nicely with ginger ale for those looking for a suitable mixer.
Starward has quickly established itself as one of Australia's leading whisky distillers, aided by a series of exceptional limited edition releases, which have ranked highly in international competitions.
Their Wine Cask whisky, which was finished in Australian red wine casks, was awarded best Australian single malt at the 2017 World Whiskies Awards, while Solera - a twice-distilled single malt whisky - won a gold medal last year in the same competition.
This year's limited edition is the Starward Tawny, so named because it is fully matured in Tawny fortified wine barrels. The flavour, as you would expect, has taken on plenty of fruit from the Port casks, including dried apricots and figs, as well as spice and nuts. The result: a spectacular dram, perfect for after-dinner sipping.
A single malt from the heart of the American whisky trail, Balcones is a real treat.
Warm and woody, this is a heavier whisky than the World Whisky Blend, the Staward, or the Teeling, more suited to a regular whisky drinker or perhaps a newcomer that is a fan of tannin-heavy red wines.
Undertones of honey and vanilla make for a smooth experience, which we would wholeheartedly recommend trying straight or wish a tiny dash of water rather than opting for a more elaborate mixer.
Johnny Walker Black Label
Over at The Week Portfolio, we are a pretty well-travelled bunch. The job requires frequent trips (in normal circumstances) and if there is one thing we have learnt, it is that you can get this whisky anywhere in the world.
Whether you are in Cambodia to Kansas, Botswana or Berlin, Johnny Walker Black is always behind the bar. It’s not the flashiest or best whisky in the world, but like an old friend, it never fails to pick you up.
It’s affordable, a damn smooth blend and with a 12-year statement is a huge step up from other whiskies in the same price bracket.
From the same maker as the World Whisky Blend, The Boutique-y Whisky Company’s 10-year-old Säntis is the first batch of Swiss single malt from the Säntis distillery in Appenzell.
The distillery sits on top of a Swiss ski slope and has produced a fine whisky artfully combining a nose of toasted brown sugar and sticky treacle with an earthy, but sweet, palette. We tried this one straight and had no complaints, but found it came to life when combined with a little maple syrup and some bitters for a perfect Smoked and Salted.
At more than £100 a bottle, it is at the pricier end of our recommendations, but this delightful Swisskey is well worth the price tag.
It also features the best label we have seen for a while, on which Santis distillery owner, Karl Locher, appears dressed as Bond villain Blofeld and screaming: “Let your hangovers be particularly unpleasant and humiliating!” With your help Locher, we will do our best.
Jack Daniels Single Barrel Select
Yes, Jack Daniels is an obvious choice. And yes, JD and coke is disgusting and only drunk by students and metalheads. But put your prejudice aside for a moment, because JD’s signature single barrel offering is not the drink of horrible early-20s hangovers.
With a sweet, simple flavour profile, the whisky is built on the bones of the standard Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 offering. But the Single Barrel Select boasts a more refined flavour, with a more rounded and balanced palette, combining toasted oak and banana chip flavours.
This one we tried both with straight, with a dash of water and as what Jack Daniel’s describes as a “Gentleman and Ginger”. All worked well, though if you are following the JD recipe, increasing the measure of whisky ever so slightly is recommended.
Lagavulin 16 Year Old
A personal favourite, as well as something pretty special that won’t break the bank, this sought-after single malt is famed for its heavy, smoky and peaty palette.
Typically for an Islay whisky, this Lagavulin has a richness and a dryness that may be a little too much for some, but is a treat for those that like that sort of thing. Pairing perfectly with a salty blue cheese, this mouthful of malt and Sherry provides truckfuls of fruity sweetness.
Striking too is its incredible aroma, “it smells like gasoline” was one friend’s review, that fills the nose just as the flavours dominate the palette.
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1970 Glenrothes Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Now for something a little bit special. The year this Glenrothes single malt was distilled, the Beatles broke up, the Boeing 747 made its first commercial flight to London and Apollo 13 launched on its ill-fated journey into space.
That year is 1970, the release of this whisky completing a trilogy of Glenrothes Single Malts. The first, from 1968, was released in 2018, and the second from 1969 in 2019.
Silky smooth and seriously spicy, this whisky is not one for beginners, but is a real treat for those with the money to procure a bottle. With a thick vanilla finish and smoky palette, the Glenrothes is real whisky royalty.
We can only imagine it would go well with a mixer, but couldn’t bring ourselves to dilute this one. No ice or water was involved in the tasting of this show-stopping tipple.