This Sunday is Father's Day in the UK and whisky is traditionally a popular choice as a gift. For many it may be the only time in the year that they purchase a bottle of whisky and it can be a daunting experience with the ultimate question being - which one of the vast array of bottles on the shelves is the right one to go for? Here is our quick guide and a few suggestions at different price points to help you purchase the correct present for your dad.
What do I need to consider?
It is a common misconception that you as a shopper need to know lots about whisky in order to buy something other than the big popular brands. This is not true. How much you know about whisky is actually not important at all - what has to be considered is what you think your father would like or prefer – light, rich, sweet, smoky? It may be that you know a whisky that he likes and you can ask for help to select something similar. Also think about if you want a famous brand/distillery or something a bit less well known.
How much do I want to spend?
Your budget is an important consideration. Set an upper limit - any salesman worth their salt will try and get you to spend more but stick to it! Single malt whiskies start around £25 for a 70cl bottle and most will be under or around £50. Blended whiskies can start for as little as £10 (sometimes even less if it is a supermarket own brand). There are whiskies that can fit any budget, including those costing hundreds and even thousands of pounds!
What are my shopping choices?
There are a few options - specialist whisky retailers, supermarkets and the internet. Specialist retailers, offer a wider range of whiskies and will have knowledgeable staff that can explain the differences and advise you to make the correct decision. These shops can be daunting but if you go in having considered the first two points, then they will be able to recommend you some great choices. Supermarkets are different in that they sell the products but staff may not know a great deal about them, especially as many have cut back on specialist wine and spirit staff in the recession. The distilleries marketing departments help you here, as many of them now print basic tasting notes on their packaging. The internet has many places to buy whisky - some are online specialists, while others are websites of the specialist whisky retailers or supermarkets - and many of these print helpful tasting notes on each page, with some giving more information, customer reviews and distillery facts to help you make your choice.
Our five whiskies for Father’s Day
£20-30 > Balvenie 12 years old ‘DoubleWood’
This is a classic single malt and the whisky that got me interested in whisky. It may be widely available but this doesn’t detract from its quality. The nose is full of rich, sweet fruits (peaches, raisins, sultanas) combined with vanilla, coconut, caramel and honey. The palate, this is so soft, mellow and creamy that your taste buds go into ecstasy. There is a glorious dried fruity sweetness (raisins, sultanas), distinct malty cereals, nuts (almonds), orange zest and a hint of woody spiciness (nutmeg, cinnamon). The finish is long, rich and deliciously sweet. An excellent whisky offering a gorgeous and complex drinking experience.
£30-40 > Penderyn Madeira finish
Fancy something non-Scottish? How about this single malt whisky from the only Welsh distillery? The nose is light and vibrant with vanilla, honey, fresh green fruits (apple, pear), cereals and dried fruits (sultanas). The palate feels creamy and velvety with initial oaky woodiness (cinnamon, nutmeg) quickly fading to caramel, malted barley, vanilla, green fruit and almond notes. The dried grassy note also appears later. The balance is lovely and the finish is long and refreshing, with the enjoyable sugary sweetness giving way to a nutty, slightly spicy and woody bitterness. Delicious, fresh and very more-ish.
£40-50 > Lagavulin 16 years old
This whisky is a single malt from the famous whisky island of Islay. Produced in the island’s famous smoky, peaty style, this whisky is a worldwide favourite. The nose offers a sumptuous, complex mix of sweet peat smoke (dried earth, moss), oak, leather, vanilla and dried fruit (sultanas, candied peel). There are also aromas of lapsang souchong tea and cloves. The palate is creamy, full bodied and slightly oily with a blast of smokiness (think bonfire), some damp moss, sweet vanilla plus hints of saltiness and menthol. The finish is long and dry with plenty of powerful peaty smokiness. A truly fantastic example of a smoky Islay whisky.
£50-100 > Shackleton Whisky
This whisky is a recreation of one from Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic in 1907/08. The originals were found under the ice after 100 years. The nose is clean, attractive and elegant with subtle aromas - vanilla, butterscotch, green pear, apple, walnuts, baked oat biscuits, wood spice, burnt sugar and a whiff of dry peat smoke. The palate has tangy sweetness (orange zest, honey), followed by creamy richness (butterscotch, toffee) and finishes with peat smoke and warming wood spice (cinnamon, nutmeg). The smokiness carries in to a long, lingering and pleasant finish. Absolutely delicious.
£100 + > Glenfarclas 40 years old
If you fancy getting the cheque book out and spending about £300, then this old whisky is a stunning choice. The nose is intense with sweet notes (vanilla, toffee, brown sugar, dried fruits - raisins, dates and prunes) mixing with darker ones (treacle and dark chocolate). The palate is surprisingly vibrant for a whisky of this age. Wood spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg) are followed by sweetness (raisins, prunes, candied orange peel), butterscotch and brown sugar. This whisky is rich, intense and full bodied. The finish is long and lingering with plenty of dried fruits, wood spices and tannins. The combination is superb.
We are delighted to say that a version of this article has appeared in The Sun newspaper today - our first appearance in the national written press. We would like to thank Luke O'Mahony for making this possible and the kind comments we have received throughout the day.