How to Choose Your Whiskey—the Ultimate Guide

How to Choose Your Whiskey—the Ultimate Guide

How to choose your whiskey? What whiskey to offer or which one to buy? This article shares exhaustive information to answer these questions and help you select among the thousands of references in whiskey. 

The world of whiskey is infinitely complex, and if you are not a great connoisseur, you will probably find yourself lost with all the technicalities. Here’s the ultimate guide to choosing the whiskey for all the whiskey lovers!

How to Choose Your Whiskey: The Basics

Before embarking on a search for the whiskey made for you, it is good to get back to the fundamentals and at the same time drive out all the “master whiskey” gurus who annoy with their so-called expertise: the goal of a good whiskey, made for you, is to give you pleasure.  Even the most renowned master distillers agree on this point. 

Whiskey may not be right for everyone, but there is a whiskey that is right for you. If you have understood this sentence, you have understood the most important thing: you will have to go in search of this whiskey made for you. And the best part is not the arrival, but the journey to get there.

When you take your glass of whiskey, there must escape that little smile in the corner of your mouth. When you smell this whiskey, let it remind you of a good time, and when you put it in your mouth, you have a good time. No need to search for a name, a price or specific tasting notes for the moment. Just a feeling! 

Now that we’ve seen this, you’re good to go!

1. Whiskey’s Name

There is not a single whiskey but a multitude of them. Although today we can find a wide variety of good whiskeys from different origins, the most internationally recognized are:

  • The Scotch whiskey
  • The Irish whiskey 
  • The American whiskey 
  • The Japanese whiskey
  • The French whiskey

It does not matter whether it is distilled in Tasmania, in the depths of Brittany, in the cold of Sweden, Scotland or Japan; it is whiskey! And besides, the famous scotch that we asked for in the 90s is quite simply Scotch whiskey. But there are quite a few different kinds of whiskey; otherwise, it would still be too easy. This is what we will see in the next point.

2. Single Malt Whiskey VS Blend Whiskey

For whiskey (whether Scottish, Japanese or American), you will always have a guru to tell you that the best is necessarily single malt. That’s not true! There are some really bad single malt whiskeys just good for lighting a BBQ. There are also some very good whiskey blends. But this legend continues to endure: in supermarkets, the first price whiskeys are blends, while the most expensive supermarket whiskeys are single malts. 

A blend would be a bit like a Bordeaux if we had to compare it with wine: an assembly of several barrels of several distilleries to form a whiskey blend. But also to lower costs, grain whiskey is used (much cheaper to distil), which is mixed with malt whiskey. And this gives us a whiskey blend.

On the other hand, the single malt looks more like burgundy wine: that is to say, a unique distillery under a distillery name. And this is where everyone gets excited because there is more chance to find things more marked in terms of style. Each distillery depends on its barrels, its stills, etc. So, there’s a more chance of doing something unique that will differentiate it from the neighbour.

If you buy a 10-ball blend from the supermarket, it is bound to be horrible. But if you buy the one with more than 100 balls, expect some great surprises.

3. Aging

In general, whiskey is aged for a minimum of 3 years, but the most usual time is between 8 and 12 years. However, just because a whiskey has aged longer does not mean it is better than others. Very often, each whiskey has an optimal period, and longer aging does not translate into better quality.

Some of the Best Whiskeys to Choose from

If you are a Scotch whiskey lover, you may find the following light and refreshing. The most demanding will probably perceive a small lack of complexity, even depth. Some of the best scotch whiskies are:

  • Glendronach Scotch Whiskey 15 Years
  • Starward Finished In Tawny Fortified Casks
  • Lagavulin 16 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
  • The Glenlivet 18 Years Old Single Malt Whiskey
  • Tomatin 2009 Verdejo Cask

Some of the above refer to the extraordinary whiskey from the Scottish distillery whose production ceased at the end of the 90s and are made using the traditional methods of the distillery, aging in barrels, making them unique. Some have strong peaty character, while others offer flowery and fruity aromas, aged 16 years and more in oak barrels! It all depends on your choice.

Some preferred choices for Irish whiskey enthusiasts are:

  • Redbreast 12 Years Old Still Irish Whiskey
  • The Tyrconnell 16 Years Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey
  • Bushmills 2011 Banyuls Cask

It is difficult to find one whiskey of similar quality at a similar price, which is why some stand out from the others. If you want to make a gorgeous gift for a whiskey lover without costing you a fortune, the above are probably some of the best options to consider. 

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