Welcome to Scotch-land – your bottle-by-bottle guide to the 120-plus distilleries who continue to put Scotland on the lips of the great, the good and the grand all around the world. Here, week by week, you’ll find a regular GQ roundup of Caledonia’s most famous export. From blends to single malts, from rare four-figure bottles to more accessible daily sippers, and from every corner of the UK’s dram clan, let us guide you round the distilleries that continue to put out the planet’s best of brown. And with more than 120 to choose from, it doesn’t matter if you’re an old whisky hound or a total novice, there’s always something new to discover and learn.
From the hip metropolitan whisky bars to the peaty, wet wilds of Britain’s far north, Scotch continues to find new audiences, and whether you already know your Speysides from your Islays or still find Scotch an acquired taste you’ve yet to actually acquire, we’re here to introduce you to the best bottles you need to know about. So grab your quaich and drink to the good stuff.
Age: 47 years old
Appearance: Polished copper.
Tasting notes: Aromatic and exotic with orchard and tropical fruits, subtle spice notes emerge with sage, rosemary, incense and myrrh, followed by a faint touch of smoke. With medium to rich body, its palate has soft, ripe fruits with an intriguing combination of sweet and sour notes – umeshu plums and peaches are both present, balanced by firm tannins and a rich earthiness with just a little smoke.
Old Pulteney 25yo
Tasting notes: Firm-bodied and smooth, there are notes of honey and cream from the first drops. It develops with ripe, fruity overtones and fresh spice, and the long-lasting finish is lively and faintly salty.
£390. At thewhiskyexchange.com
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Region: Speyside and Highland
Appearance: Smooth caramel.
Tasting notes: With a mellow, rounded nose, signature dry smokiness and raisin sweetness, the first sip reveals a velvety mouthfeel, then hazelnuts, honey, rose petals, sherry and orange. Subsequent sips reveal more hidden secrets, such as kumquat, wispy aromatic smoke, sandalwood, tobacco and dark chocolate. A rich and long finish of smoke and pepper ends with a touch of spice.
£189. At amazon.co.uk
Age: 18 years old
Appearance: Oiled cedar.
Tasting notes: Matured initially in American oak ex-bourbon casks, followed by Spanish oak butts. On the nose, it evokes rich toffee, while baked pears shine against a backdrop of new leather. The palate balances apricots, seasoned oak and vanilla custard. A long and warming finish with chords of fresh spices and raisins rounds off this dram.
Old Pulteney 12yo
Age: Twelve years old
Tasting notes: Firmly anchored in bitter chocolate and creamy vanilla with hints of toffee sweetness and overtones of fresh lemon and coconut. It finishes with a glimpse of dried fruit cake and exotic wood.
£32. At Waitrose. waitrose.com
Royal Salute 21 Year Old Beach Polo Edition
Age: 21 years
Appearance: A soft golden hue.
Tasting notes: A burst of sweet bonfire smoke is followed by a medley of ripe, soft fruits and apricot jam, candied lemons, nutmeg and oak. The finish is long and smoky.
£110. At masterofmalt.com
The Game Of Thrones single malt collection
Whoever you're backing to take the Iron Throne by the end of series eight, there's a bottle of Scotch with which to toast their win.
Cardhu Gold Reserve (Targaryen). £48. At thewhiskyexchange.com
Clynelish Reserve (Tyrell). £48. At thewhiskyworld.com
Royal Lochnagar 12yo (Baratheon). £38. At thewhiskyexchange.com
The Singleton Glendullan Select (Tully). £39. At thewhiskyexchange.com
Talisker Select Reserve (Greyjoy). £50. At thewhiskyexchange.com
Lagavulin 9yo (Lannister). £65. At thewhiskyexchange.com
Dalwhinnie Winter’s Frost (Stark). £48. At thewhiskyexchange.com
Oban Bay Reserve (The Night’s Watch). £65. At thewhiskyexchange.com
Mortlach 'Wee Witchie'
Age: Twelve years
Appearance: Burnished gold.
Tasting notes: Rich and deep on the nose, immediate warming, toasty oak tones and a light peachy element moves towards honey and cooked fruits. As it dries, the woodland gives way to lichen-encrusted logs in a woodpile. Medium to heavy-bodied, with a thick texture, it’s sweet, almost peachy, on the palate with a little oak and almost smoky, charred element. Most expressive on the mid-palate, bitter chocolate, marmalade and light tobacco is balanced by a puddle of syrup before it deepens further and starts to grip. It’s quite dry and slightly sooty on the finish, with some plum with an added hint of bitterness.
£50. At whiskyshop.com
Age: Ten years
Appearance: Brilliant gold.
Tasting notes: With a powerful peat-smoke on the nose with just a hint of the sea-water salt of fresh oysters and citrus sweetness, this full, rich-bodied single malt has a rich dried-fruit sweetness on the palate, with clouds of smoke, strong barley malt flavours. Peppery at the back of the mouth, the finish is huge, long and warming, with an appetising sweetness.
£40. At thewhiskyexchange.com
Appearance: Beautiful rich amber colouring.
Tasting notes: A sweet, balanced and beautifully easy-drinking dram, Langskip’s strength is matched only by its smoothness. Matured entirely in first-fill bourbon casks, this whisky has a unique richness and an extraordinary depth of flavour. On the nose, aromas of fruit blossom meld with dried apples and light oak. In the background you’ll find traces of raisins and dates mixed with rich fruit cake. Flavours burst on the palate, rich and sweet, including maple syrup, dark chocolate, almonds and raisins. The finish lingers nicely – hints of vanilla gently fade away with a warming trace of caramel at the end.
£68. At masterofmalt.com
Talisker Bodega Series: 40 Year Old
Age: 40 years
Appearance: Deep, limpid gold. Good beading
Tasting notes: Mild and rich on the nose, with a light prickle – sweet sultanas, pears and orange peel, framed in oiled sandalwood, with a suggestion of sea air. At natural strength, the texture is very fine, oil-smooth and lightly coating. The taste starts sweetly fruity – white grapes, more sultanas – then becomes salty and savoury, before finishing hot and peppery. As the sweet waves of flavour roll out across the palate, they break over a hint of hot chilli spice and some scented smoke (a Talisker trademark). The finish is long and warming, with a late, great tongue-tingling nuttiness in the embers as the fire slips down, and a final smoky trace of snuffed candle.
£2,750. At thewhiskyexchange.com
Glen Moray Fired Oak
Age: Ten years
Appearance: Copper gold.
Tasting notes: This is a sweet shop in a glass, with barley sugars, pineapple and butter toffee on the nose. It starts on the palate with blackcurrant jam and chewy liquorice toffee and is pleasantly sweet and spicy with layers of vanilla bark – a sweeter whisky than other Glen Moray single malts. For the finish, dark chocolate dissolves over the tongue and fades to reveal a hint of smokiness and toasted vanilla.
£40. At masterofmalt.com