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Burns Night: 11 best Scotch whisky alternatives

From Japan to Sweden, source your celebratory drink from slightly farther afield this 25 January

Samuel Muston
Thursday 14 January 2016 18:23 GMT

Burns Night is a great time to try a new tipple. Scotch not your thing? Why not try these 10 examples of the best non-Scotch whiskies from around the globe. Give them a go, Rabbie would surely approve...

1. Hibiki Japanese Harmony: £53.99, Waitrose

Hibiki has been making whisky in Japan for 90 years now, and frankly it shows. This blend of malt and grain whiskies – which is aged in white oak and American bourbon barrels, respectively – is as smooth as treacle and as complex as Kate Bush. Serve it over ice for lip-licking results.

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2. Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve: £45, Sainsbury's

Rich, easy-going and a bit fruity – this is a whisky we can do business with. It is the flagship of the Yamazaki brand and is made from combining malt whiskies, which have been aged as much as 20 years, in sherry casks. The result is a drink rich in delicate dried fruit flavours. Unsurpassed in a highball.

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3. Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve: £45, Sainsbury's

This has the peaty elements of a Scotch without being too overwhelming. Made in Japan’s Southern Alps, the Distiller’s Reserve is aged in American white oak casks which gives surprising depth to the finished product. Very powerful – a great Burns Night drink.

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4. Hakushu 12: £73.95, The Whisky Exchange

This 12-year-old single malt is crisp as a hospital bedsheet with a pleasing smokiness and a touch of fruit to it (some also say they can taste herbal notes, but that was lost on us). A fine example of what Japan has to offer.

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5. Mackmyra Bruks Single Malt Whisky: £39.99, Amazon

Sweden is not exactly known for its whisky but don’t let that put you off. This single malt from Mackmyra Bruks is made with great care; each batch’s origin can be traced down to the individual barley field. It’s aged in bourbon casks, giving it a gentle, fruity tone.

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6. The Dubliner Irish Whiskey: £24.95, 31DOVER

A blend of single malts and grain whiskey, this Irish number is a little spicy, a bit appley, and very much delicious. Unlike its Scottish counterparts, it is honeyed and caramely and rather smooth.

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7. Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey: £24.95, 31DOVER

Aged in sherry casks and bourbon barrels for as long as seven years, this 40 per cent malt whiskey is an easy-drinker that stands up well in cocktails. In fact, it positively thrives in an Old Fashioned.

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8. Penderyn Peated Edition: £44.99, Amazon

From the Land of our Fathers comes this whisky. You might not be familiar with the Welsh stuff but it’s definitely worth a punt. This light gold single malt is delicate and a touch sweet with subtle fruit-basket hints, ranging from green apples to citrus fruits.

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9. Tullamore DEW: £22.35, The Whisky Exchange

Here’s an approachable drink for those finding their way in the world of whisky. Silky on the tongue, it won't blow your head off. At its best when mixed into a cocktail.

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10. Buffalo Trace: £20, Amazon

You could set your watch by this bourbon, so dependable is it. Made from a combination of Kentucky and Indiana corn, it is aged for eight years in the barrel. The result is a soft, creamy drink that dances citrus and oak pirouettes across your tongue. Little wonder it won a Silver Outstanding Medal at the International Wine and Spirits Competition.

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11. Old Forester Bourbon: £33.95, Master of Malt

This Kentucky Bourbon has quite the lineage having been in continuous production since 1870 when its maker George Garvin Brown started selling it in sealed glass bottles, so no one could tamper with it. It was even sold during prohibition for its “medicinal qualities”. Today it is rich warm and buttery on the tongue with a spicy finish.

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Verdict

If you are looking for finesse, style and a whole lot of complexity, try the Hibiki Japanese Harmony. Not only is it great, it also has the prettiest bottle. If your purse doesn’t run that deep, stick to old dependable: the Buffalo Trace Bourbon.

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