If ever there was on occasion on which to crack open a bottle of scotch then international whiskey day, is it.
While Scotland is still in the grip of lockdown, the more raucous knees-ups will be cancelled, but a toast or two to the famous tipple will still be very much in order.
For those looking to expand their whisky collection with a new bottle of scotch, we’ve put together this list of single malts.
Some have been chosen for their links with the great Scottish poet Robert Burns, some because they perfectly accompany the traditional Scottish food, and others are here simply because we think they’re great whiskies for a toast.
So whether you’re taking part in an online celebration to mark international whiskey day, treating yourself to a solo sip, or are deferring celebrations until it’s time to do them full justice, the whiskies here will make the occasion just that little bit more special.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Robert Burns single malt, 43%
Best for: Budget
The Arran distillery is a patron of the Robert Burns Society, which has permitted it to use his name for a single malt whisky. The whisky is a top-notch tipple, fully deserving of a place at the Burns supper table when the anniversary returns next January, with light and fruity flavours, honeyed sweetness and a dry spicy finish. And with a portrait of the poet on the label, you also have an image to raise your toast towards.
Talisker 10 year old, 45.8%
Best for: Smokiness
This classic whisky from the Isle of Skye is noted for its strong peppery character, which we think makes it the ideal whisky to drink alongside a dish of haggis, neeps and tatties. And besides being a peppery powerhouse, you’ll also get a good fill of smoke, plenty of grain, and even a coastal pinch of salt to help your culinary experience along.
Tamdhu batch strength 5, 59.8%
Best for: Speyside whisky
Cranachan is the traditional Scottish dessert often served at Burns Night suppers and it takes a rich whisky to cope with the cream, raspberries and oats that make up the dish. Speyside sherry-cask masters Tamdhu can summon the required characteristics, and this release is so thick and luxurious it could almost be a cranachan sauce. Creamy, nutty, spicy and with a berry fruitiness to lift the tannic oakiness, its flavours will survive long after you’ve licked your dessert bowl clean.
AnCnoc 12 year old, 40%
Best for: Citrus flavours
We’ve picked this bottle because it’s a great value all-rounder. It has a citrus sweetness that is a good match for food and there’s enough of a malty background to make sure it stands its ground throughout an evening of revelry. Some oaky notes develop with increasing complexity as you sip, making it an equally good choice for those whisky drinkers who like to ponder their drams in more studious fashion.
Bowmore 15 year old, 43%
Best for: Creaminess
Bowmore distillery was founded in 1779, and this 15-year-old is a typically smoky Islay whisky that has spent three years in oloroso sherry casks, giving it an extra rich layer of sweet fruit before some leathery, woody spices emerge. It also has a deliciously creamy texture that will make you want to swirl the whisky around in your mouth for a while, soaking up those peaty flavours before swallowing in time for the next delicious sip.
The Glenlivet 12 year old illicit still
Best for: Tropical notes
This whisky takes its inspiration from The Glenlivet’s founder, George Smith, whose first whiskies were illegally distilled. It’s a smooth whisky with a peachy, stewed fruit sweetness, a few floral notes and a toffee richness. We suspect famous Scottish poet Robert Burns may well have enjoyed this whisky but, with him being an exciseman, we’ll add the reassurance that these days it’s produced perfectly within the law.
Glengoyne the legacy series chapter two, 48%
Best: Highland whisky
If you’re looking for a new whisky to please everyone, then this 2020 release from highland distillery Glengoyne will serve you right. Its fruit-salad aromas make it instantly approachable and the sweet, syrupy flavours will get you licking your lips with glee. Pineapple and melon are among the fruity finds, while some hints of toast and oak help bring its subtle spices to life.
Balblair 12 year old, 46%
Best for: Complex flavours
Ferintosh on the Black Isle was one of the major names in whisky back in the day. It closed in 1926, so we’ve shuffled a few miles north to the Balblair distillery and their 12-year-old highland whisky. It’s a light drink with a zesty lemon freshness and a creamy, honey sweetness, while a sprinkling of spice and a hint of leathery oak at the finish adds a touch of complexity to its easygoing character.
Glen Scotia 15 year old, 46%
Best for: Spice
"Will ye go to the Indies my Mary, and leave auld Scotia's shore?” These words are from a song penned for Robert Burns’ early love, Mary Campbell, and a possible future life together in Jamaica before her untimely death. Although known as Highland Mary, she also spent some time in Campbeltown, once the whisky capital of the world. Glen Scotia 15 is a mighty fine Campbeltown dram – richly fruity with some gingery warmth and even a hint of sea air freshness. Let it be a toast to your true love.
Mortlach 21 year old, special releases 2020, 56.9%
Best for: Investing in
If you’re a keen whisky drinker with deeper pockets, then international whiskey day could be seen the perfect excuse to channel funds into a new boozy investment. For this purpose we would suggest the limited-edition release from Mortlach, finished in sherry casks and bursting with flavour. Even a small sip of this whisky makes for a big mouthful, with oranges and dried fruit soaking up lots of warming spice, and a sherry sweetness mellowing out some nutty, savoury notes.
The verdict: Scottish single malt whisky
Any whisky named after much-loved Scottish poet Robert Burns has to be a good bet for whiskey drinkers, and Arran’s effort won’t let you down.
Gin more your thing? Check out our favourite flavoured varieties
For the latest discounts on alcoholic drinks try the links below:
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.