I came to malt whisky late and have been making up for lost time ever since. As a result my top five changes on a weekly basis. There is just so much out there to enjoy, and my favourite is almost certainly that dram I’ve yet to have. Nevertheless, I’m proud to present the findings of my latest researches: and herewith declare my current top five, in ascending price order.
Benromach Wood Finish – Pedro Ximenez 45%vol (£34.99)
I’ve always had a soft spot for Benromach, the smallest working distillery on Speyside, brought out of mothballs in 1993 by Gordon & McPhail. With only two people in production, it’s small scale, but what they produce is magical. There’s the Organic, the Sassicaia Wood Finish and this, my favourite, full of rum, raisin and cinnamon thanks to 30 months in old PX sherry barrels.
Glenkinchie 12 Year Old 43% (£40)
One of three remaining Lowland distilleries, Glenkinchie is Edinburgh’s own, barely 20 miles away. It was my chum Dave Broom who first put me on to it while explaining his Whisky Flavour Map, and I was smitten straight away by Glenkinchie’s light floral character and seductive sweet creaminess. Best served with a cube of ice as a bracing aperitif.
Ardbeg 10 Year Old 46%(£40.99)
The Ardbeg distillery sits slap on the shore of Islay, waves crashing against its whitewashed walls. There’s salt in the air and in the whisky too — and plenty of peat. Ardbeg 10 is light, but rich with iodine and smoke, finishing with an oily, spicy, floral sweetness. It’s an ideal entry point to the wilder whiskies in the range such as Supernova and Corryvreckan.
Highland Park 18 Year Old 43% (£67)
Founded on Orkney in 1798, Highland Park is a prince among whiskies. Every expression in the range hits the spot, thanks to the unique heather-rich peat of wind-blasted Hobbister Moor used to dry its barley. This burns more slowly and less smokily than other peats, leading to a sweet, heathery, smoky flavour that finds its truest, most honeyed voice in the sublime 18 Year Old.
Dalmore King Alexander III
A tongue-tinglingly complex single malt, being a blend of whiskies finished in oak barrels previously used for maturing oloroso sherry, madeira, bourbon, port, marsala and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s not until well into the second glass that one can appreciate fully the rich, spicy, toffee, caramel, orange and chocolate flavours.