Aged whiskey is a thing of beauty; the mellowing of spirit over time creates a liquid that balances sweet, spicy and woody notes in harmony. However, at the same time, it can be hard to find a bottle that's not eye-wateringly expensive.
We've selected Five Entry-level Whiskeys for the aspiring connoisseur.
The aim here is simply to provide something interesting while remaining accessible price wise – although we'd happily recommend any malt featured here without reservation if you're looking for something delicious but won't break the bank…
First created in 2010 and released on an annual basis ever since, this rich, spicy whisky is bottled at cask strength, meaning it's undiluted and unfiltered. The name 'A'bunadh' derives from the Gaelic word for "ripe" – a nod to the effects of 12 years maturation in first-fill Oloroso Sherry butts. There are 56 casks included in this particular batch with each cask bottled individually – leading to subtle variations between bottles.
This highly rated blended malt from Campbeltown was founded by the Duntreath family in 1817 as one of Scotland's oldest distilleries still operating today. It was originally a single malt producer until 1975 when production switched to using cheaper grain whisky from other distilleries to mix with its own spirit – resulting in what we now know as blended malt Scotch whisky (malt whisky + grain whisky = blended).
Based near Elgin on Speyside where it has been producing since 1824, The Glenlivet is one of Scotland's most iconic names when it comes to single malts – although interestingly their 12 Year Old expression here is actually a vatted malt rather than a single cask offering due to demand outstripping supply!
We've chosen something very special here: Glendronach 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve finished in Pedro Ximenez Sherry Casks distilled 2004 bottled 2017 at 46% ABV is only available online directly from Glendronach themselves or via delivery service Majestic Wine Stores who stock all the range including this particular edition which we'd urge you do try if you haven't already!
As one of India's most respected producers of both gin and rum Amrut have recently turned their hand towards single malt whisk(e)y also based near Bangalore where they grow all their own barley for production using traditional Scottish methods and artisanal craftsmanship. They use first-fill American oak barrels for maturation before marrying them together using Port pipes sourced from Portugal which impart flavours of caramel chocolate raisin spice and nuts alongside vanilla fudge notes typical with sherry finished whisk(e)y before being bottled without chill filtration or additional colouring…
There you have it; six whiskeys that will show off the best of the categories (in our opinion).
If you're looking for something to dive into head-first then we'd suggest trying The Glenlivet 12 Year Old first – it's widely available and often discounted due to its ubiquity. It might seem like an obvious choice but there's nothing wrong with starting at the beginning! From there move towards increasingly complex offerings such as Amrut Portonova and Glendronach 15yo before finishing with something smooth, sweet and easy drinking like Blend No 1 or A'bunadh if you're feeling peckish!
Note: We didn't include any Japanese whisky on this list because for us Japan is more about exploring some of their most highly acclaimed, costly expressions – something we'll provide guidance on soon via our dedicated Japanese Whisky Guide. In terms of entry level Japanese whisk(e)y Suntory Hibiki 12 Year Old Blended Japanese Whisky is often cited as one of Japan's finest blends but due to its widely known popularity is hard to find at anything below 85 these days whereas Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky provides an excellent alternative that follows similar principles while being a fraction of the price.