It’s around this time of the year that, without fail, there are a few more people heading down the spirits aisle in your local supermarket. Whether it is a purchase for themselves or someone else, whisky sales sky rocket at this time of the year, and rightly so. One of the (great) results is that there is usually an abundance of offers available, with prices coming down to be more competitive in the more-whisky-friendly festive season – Father’s Day seems to be the only other time of the year that this phenomenon seems to occur!
In no particular order, here’s a compilation of the usual scotch whisky players that adorn the UK shelves and our thoughts on where they could fit into your buying decision – usually without breaking the £25-30 mark if you can successfully shop around a bit.
1. Glenfiddich 12 – starting with the biggie and the world’s best selling single malt whisky by volume, it’s a classic because it’s just a damn good dram. Easy going, familiar, it is a one-size fits-all “smooth” finisher.
2. Glenmorangie 10 – simply branded as “The Original” this is a simpler-tasting, velvety-smooth box-checker and the presentation just oozes a touch of class that is easily recognisable and would look good in any stocking.
3. Glenlivet Founders Reserve – in previous years I would have said Glenlivet 12, but this newer entry-level chap still has that light, sherbet-like, sweet-pear taste and good finish that the younger Glenlivet is known for.
4. Glen Moray 10 – the last of the Supermarket standard ‘Glens’ in this list and usually the cheaper of the drams available but that doesn’t always mean worse and it’s a decent, fruity drop with a slightly coarser finish for the more ardent whisky drinker.
5. Aberlour 10 or 12 – slightly cheating here, but both are great gambits with a more sherry-heavy taste and finish that ties in with the festive season just nicely (or any time of the year, really)
6. Old Pulteney 12 – a lighter dram with a sweet fudge-like taste and texture and the noticeable (but not overpowering) sea-saltiness that won’t push you over the edge after Christmas dinner.
7. Highland Park 12 – a richer and fuller tasting whisky with a warming, gently-smoked finish that works perfectly during the colder winter nights. Plus the packaging and the fact that it’s from Orkney makes for a great little selling point and ice-breaker.
8. Laphroaig 10 – not for the faint hearted, this beast is a strong tasting, intensely warming, smoky number and probably best bought for someone who you know is already partial to a peat bomb at the end of the day.
9. Chivas Regal 12 – don’t be a snob about whether or not it’s a single malt, because ultimately it comes down to taste and preference and this one is a good example of a blended whisky that is well-rounded, fruity and easily competes with the single malt players on the the other shelf.
10. Own brand – don’t be afraid to go with the shop’s own! Supermarkets are ultimately businesses and they will not invest in something unless it is worth it and there are some great scotch whiskies out there that just carry someone else’s label. Sainsbury’s Highland Single Malt and Speyside Single Malt are fine examples. Other supermarkets are available.
Now, this list may change slightly if you were looking to buy in the larger superstores where you tend to get more variety and usually see a bigger (usually Diageo-based) range – Talisker 10, Caol Ila 12, Dalwhinnie 15 etc. – which all come with their own notes and personal preferences, but whether you are looking for a gift for somone or you are just a year-round whisky drinker, this is as good a time as any to stock up on some cheeky deals and staple whiskies.
Of course, this list does not touch on the wide array of Irish whiskies increasingly available in our stores nor the offerings from our American cousins across the pond. Some stores around the UK have also cottoned on to putting out some of the Japanese entry level drams (including Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Hibiki lately), as well as cashing in on the produce of the more local distilleries (Bushmills’ 10yo, Penderyn Madeira and English Whisky Company’s Fine Single Malt being prime examples) – no doubt cashing in on the more patriotic purchasers below the Scottish border or those just looking for something different (Haig Club anyone?).
Put short, there are loads of whiskies to choose from, but hopefully this list can help you within the traditional ‘scotch’ bracket of whiskies more readily available at this festive time of year.