It all started with uisge beatha, or “water of life.” The Scottish are known for their affinity for a fine Scotch, a tradition that dates back to the first distillation in Scotland in 1494. Since then, establishments have popped up across the nation, specifically in the five regions of Scotland: the Lowlands, the Highlands, Speyside, Campbeltown, and Islay.
Home to more than three dozen different distilleries, these regions have pumped out incredible brands that dominate liquor shelves across Scotland and the United States. If you’re in need of a new bottle to add to your collection of alcoholic beverages, our recommendations lie within these five affluent brands, all distilled in the heart of the United Kingdom’s whiskey capital.
Hailing from the Scottish town of Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire, John Walker started the process of distilling whiskey that led to the creation of the Johnnie Walker brand. By 1820, Walker’s sought-after brew started to hit grocery store shelves and, by 1865, the Old Highland Scotch Blend became the first blend of the Walker name.
Though the Kilmarnock distilleries have since closed, Johnnie Walker’s smooth whiskey is still distributed via the Park Royal, London company, Diageo. Despite the change, Walker’s signature notes of its Red, Black, Double Black, Swing Superior, Pure Malt, Green, Island Green, Gold, Platinum, and XR 21 Years Labels are ever prevalent in the whiskey scene.
Depending on which blend you go for, you’ll enjoy a mix of tasting notes like fresh fruit and a wooden smokiness enhanced by vanilla or other spices.
If it’s a flavorful single malt whiskey you’re looking for, then Auchentoshan is a brand you’ll want to keep an eye on. Responsible for Single Malt, Classic, and Three Wood malts, Auchentoshan is brewed at the brand’s Single Malt distillery near Glasgow.
Auchentoshan is an award-winning brand, specifically it’s 16- and 18-year Scotch whiskey’s which have earned praise as double gold medals at the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. If you love cigars, the Auchentoshan Three Wood expression earned accolades as the best Scotch whiskey to pair with a cigar.
Depending on which of Auchentoshan’s fine distilled options you opt for, you’ll be met with delicate and sweet flavorings that’s aged in three different casks. You’ll enjoy a rich fruitiness coupled with that distinct flavoring of initially being matured in bourbon casks.
Fun fact about Auchentoshan – it’s believed the 1800’s mention of an illegal Duntocher distiller was a predecessor to this fine, popular brand.
Hailing from Ross-shire Scotland of the Highland region, Glenmorangie produces a single malt Scotch whiskey distilled with water pulled directly from the Tarlogie Springs. If you ever wonder why it has a crisp, fresh taste, its source is precisely why. At over26’ tall, the stills used in the Glenmorangie distillery of Tain are the tallest you’ll find in Scotland, attributing to the brand’s somewhat lighter taste.
It all started with the Sixteen Men of Tain, the small team responsible for started distilling the now-popular brew. Though cask types have varied throughout the years and even differ today, everything from Glenmorangie is aged in a white oak cask, giving its Scotch whiskey a woodsy note.
The brighter color is appealing to the eyes while the citrus, fresh grape, and hazelnut notes appeal to a wide range of different palates.
Golden yellow and bottled by William Grant & Sons of Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Scotland, Grant’s first sold bottle of whiskey hit shelves 50 years ago. Since then, over 5 million cases of the favored whiskey have been distributed from the skilled distillery, which uses a base of grain whiskey from Girvan distillery.
From the 18-Year-Old Whisky known for its fruity and full-bodied notes to the sweetness of the 25-Year-Old blend of 25 malt and grain whiskeys, Grant’s has a fine selection of recognizable and distinct tasting notes and aromas.
If it’s a smooth and sweet flavor, touched with notes of toffee, vanilla fudge, and smoky oak, Grant’s Whisky is an affordable option that fits nicely into all liquor shelves.
Founded in 1779, this Islay-region distillery is known for its 12, 15, 18, and 25-Year-Old whiskeys distilled in primarily American Oak casks. Distilled using water from River Laggan, the Bowmore Distillery produces a whiskey that delivers on a sweet vanilla note, honey, fresh lemon and orange zest, finished off with a smoky perfume, grass, and ashy citrus.
Dark amber and golden yellow varieties offer their own smooth varieties of this Scottish favorite. Single malt Scotch whiskeys from Bowmore are infused with a creamy sweetness accentuated by peat smoke for a well-balanced sip.
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