Whiskey to give yourself the Burns Night treatment | whiskey

aOne of the best things I did last year was take myself on a road trip around Scotland, which I didn’t intend to be a bus driver’s holiday but turned, for a few days at least, into one. While there, I had the opportunity to visit the incredibly fine The Macallan distillery, so it seemed a shame not to visit some of the other producers while in the country, and I honestly can’t think why I hadn’t.

Seeing and tasting a brew where it’s made is always exciting, but the distilleries, with their shiny, polished copper stills, are especially exciting. As with any type of food and beverage tourism, you end up understanding a lot about the product and appreciating the difference between one dram and another. (For the ultimate audio-visual experience, go to the Johnnie Walker Experience on Princes Street in Edinburgh, which will also help you decide which whiskey you like — or win the round if you don’t think whiskey is for you.)

At most distilleries, you can also try buying limited-edition malts, which are often cut once they hit the market. Specialty whiskey shops are also a great way to discover whiskeys you haven’t tried before, and in their own way are just as attractive as bookstores. I particularly liked Gordon & MacPhail in Elgin, whose discovery range is divided into three styles – sherry, smokey and bourbon – so it’s a very good place to start for a whiskey novice. My favorite was Ledaig (pronounced led chig) in the selection of the day. Also look for a whiskey shop, which has branches all over the UK (there’s a good one in Fort William, for example).

It’s also likely that whatever hotel you stay at will have a large selection of whiskeys, even if not all of them make it to the heights of Rasay Island, just a short ferry ride from Skye, which has its own whiskey hotel. The Dowans in Aberlour, meanwhile, has a great whiskey bar with a great selection of drams, many of them rare bottles of which you won’t find a full bottle even if you can afford it.

If you’re thinking about what you might be doing next summer, you could do a lot worse than jumping into a distillery. To get in the mood, invest in a copy of Dave Broom’s beautifully illustrated and written book A Sense of Place, which is as much about the culture and history of whiskey as the liquid itself. You may end up living there.

Five of the best scotch whiskeys

glenfarclass Age 15 years £54 Majestic, £57.94 Master Malt, 46%. Rich and warm whiskey birthday cake.

Gordon and MacFile Discovery Ledge12-year-old Tobermory £49.95 Gordon & MacPhail, £47.95 Amazon 43% off. Part of the distillery’s excellent value Discovery Collection, which focuses on different flavours. Sweeter and smoky than Islay, with a true seaside flair.

Benromach 10 years 32 GBP Master Malt, 43%. A surprisingly complex whiskey for the price, aged in used bourbon and sherry barrels with just a hint of peat.

Oban 14 years old £71.95 Master of Malt, £76 The Whiskey Exchange, £77.50 Ocado, 43% off. Sweet and fragrant with a touch of peat. Lovely with seafood too, as I discovered at Ee-Usk seafood restaurant in Oban.

Lindores Lowland is a singular malt STR wine barrel £49.95 Hard to Find Whiskey, £52.94 Mr. Malt, 49.4% off. One for the geeks: a limited-edition STR-aged (Shaved, Roasted, Re-Charted) aged whiskey, which gives the whiskey an intensely fruity flavor with a strong hint of savory spice.

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