Beginners Drams

Getting into whisky is quite a complex journey and the level of marketing make it incredibly difficult to know what whiskies to try, and what to expect from them. That’s why we’ve pulled together this list of 10 whiskies you should know. Each whisky is fantastic in its own way, and uniquely suited to introducing a beginner in to the exciting landscape of blends, grains and single malts.

There are obvious substitutions you can make if you find your palette leans a certain way, particularly when it comes to your first cask strength bottle, if you find you’re a huge fan of sherry then a Lagavulin makes an excellent alternative to Caol Ila, if you’ve got a little more cash to spend you might want to opt for a more premium version. And don’t forget to get a proper whisky glass, we recommend the Glencairn, and strap in.

Caol Ila 8 Year Old 2011 (cask 13077) – Provenance (Douglas Laing)

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0 out of 5

0 reviews

If you're going to dip your toe into the world of single cask whiskies then Douglas Laing's Provenance series is an excellent place to start, they're generally on the younger side and thus cheaper but the offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore a distilleries signature style and get an example of what a single barrel imparts flavour wise. This edition Cask #13077 was distilled at Caol Ila distillery. This Islay single malt has been matured in a single refill hogshead for eight years, before being bottled in February 2019

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Loch Lomond Single Grain

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3.8 out of 5

20 reviews

Loch Lomond is perhaps the most versitle distillery actually producing for the market, they do everything from unpeated to grain whisky and they do it well. They also do it oddly, no stranger to breaking the rules this grain whisky is 100% malted barley whisky distilled on the same Coffey still as the Nikka coffey malt. In all honestly there's not much between the two, except for price where the Lomond offering comes in at about half the price of the Nikka. Expect one of the most flavourful and unusual grain whiskies on the market! Although this is an unusual grain whisky this is perhaps the best introduction to what grain whisky can and should be for a beginner. Partly because it contrasts so obviously to a single malt and partly because it's relatively cheap but very drinkable. Most grain whiskies aren't especially enjoyable until they're well into their teens and considerably more expensive. This is a great way to understand the difference between pot still and column distilation without buying a bottle you don't really want to drink. As an alternative you might enjoy a bottle of Brewdogs Uncle Duke's

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£25

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Green Spot Leoville Barton Bordeaux Finish

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4.3 out of 5

24 reviews

Green Spot is a pure 'pot still' Irish whiskey made by Jameson (Midleton) distillery for the Dublin whisky merchants Mitchell & Son. Pot Still whiskies use an unusual mixture of both malted and unmalted barley within their mash bill. The Green Spot Château Léoville Barton is a Green Spot variation aged initially in a combination of bourbon- and oloroso-sherry casks before being finished for up to two years in barriques from famed Bordeaux winery Château Léoville Barton. The result is a sweet blend of orchard fruit and spicy flavours with obvious wine notes.It's an unusual whisky with an unusual history but it's an incredibly flavourful look at a completely different approach to whisky production. Incredibly easy going, very drinkable and one of my "you say you don't like whisky" whiskies.

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£50.92

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Buffalo Trace Bourbon Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

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4.5 out of 5

540 reviews

Bourbon is often looked down on by single malt fans as a cheap mass produced and standardised drink. While there may be some truth to the standardisation a decent Bourbon will develop far faster than the average single malt. For two reasons, firstly by law a Bourbon has to be aged in 100% virgin American oak, this single use approach means it will rapidly impart vanilla, toffee and caramel flavours, Scotch in contrast may use a barrel numerous times, like a teabag the second use of a barrel imparts less of these early flavours. Secondly the maturation cycle is determined by the rise and fall of temperature, as the wood heats it expands sucking in the whiskey, as it cools it expells the spirit. As American temperatures tend to fluctuate faster this leads to accelerated maturation. If you're looking for subtle flavours and the variety of Scotch you wont find it but you'll be amased at how quickly a virgin barrel can impart flavour on a Bourbon. The're generally a lot cheaper and make excellent sipping whiskies, especially if you have a sweet tooth.

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£18

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Craigellachie 13 Year Old

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4.2 out of 5

46 reviews

Craigellachie 13 might have the worst packaging still on the shelves, it screams 1980s and has so much going on it's hard to know where to look or what to read. The whisky inside is the exact opposite, pleasantly smokey, very fruity and a Speyside dram to the core. As Craigellachie is one of only a handful of distilleries still using wormtub condensors this offering shares the savory, almost meaty taste of Mortlach.This whisky can be somewhat divisive due to the banana oil note wafting through but should be tried by everyone. Let it sit for a few minutes though, this whisky really opens up in the glass

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£44.99

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Chivas Regal 12 Year Old

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4.5 out of 5

648 reviews

Chivas Regal is the ultimate beginner whisky blend as it aims for balance and quality over anyything else. You'll find oodles of herbs, honey, caramel and fruit leaping forth on the palate, the most prominant notes are green apples and nuts with the just the faintest wisp of smoke. It finishes a bit sharp but the aftertaste is pleasantly bitter and salty. If we had to describe this in a word it would be balance, you'll find tiny hints of virtually every whisky tasting note concievable from sweet vanilla and caramel, green and red fruits, tobacco and chocolate, pepper amd peat smoke. It doesn't emphasise any style of whisky at all and so can be thought of as the representative of all. And that's the entire point of a blended whisky, a base canvas of grain whisky is painted with single malts to create a tapestry of whisky styles.

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£20

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Caol Ila 12 Year Old

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4.4 out of 5

267 reviews

Caol Ila is perhaps the most overlooked of the Islay single malts in part due to its role as one of Diagio's workhorse distileries. In recent years Caol Ila has been slowly building up a fanbase and more of it's output is being released as single malts. The 12 year old is the distillery's entry level bottling, launched back in 2002. This expression is a medium weight with fresh sweet fruits and a refined oiliness all boalstered by that distinctive Caol Ila smokeiness. Despite sharing the same with a phenol level of 35 ppm (parts per million) as Lagavulin the Caol Ila 12 is noticably less smokey and so less likely to overpower. That said if you know you're already a peat fan you'll certainly find something to savour here.

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£38

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Auchentoshan 12 Year Old

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3.6 out of 5

385 reviews

Distillation at its simplest is the seperation of alcohol from water and other unwanted particles such as yeast. Double distillation is the rule for single malts across Scotland, triple distillation is the reserve of the Irish, and Auchentoshan distillery. The 12 year old was introduced as a replacement for the standard 10 year old during their rather dramatic rebrand back in 2011. The triple distilation makes Auchentoshan one of the smoothest, most delicate tasting single malts on the market, look for mandarin, toasted almonds, vanilla, caramelised toffee and the signature smooth, delicate, Auchentoshan honeysuckle.

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£33.8

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FEW Rye Whiskey Cask Strength American Rye Whiskey

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4.5 out of 5

2 reviews

Technically a Rye is a grain whisky but this is no gentle wallflower. Not only a Rye whisky but a cask strength one! Rye whiskies in general are spicy with red fruit and strong caramel notes and this one is no exception though it has a touch of corn in the mix to sweeten the deal. Despite the aggresive cask strength we're big believers in this offering from FEW, feel encouraged to water it down but do try it neat first, you'll be amazed at the difference a little water makes. Rye bread, citrus and peppercorns start to dominate. It's alwasy fascinating to see the difference made by a little more alcohol or a different mash bill (combination of grains). As a point of interest the company is named after Francis Elizabeth Willard, a local woman and part of the temperance movement that ultimately led to the introduction of Prohibition! Come and taste why the prohibitionists never stood a chance

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£69.95

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