When I first got into whisky, I would buy a bottle, finish it, and then buy another. But there comes a point in every whisky lover’s voyage of discovery when one bottle is not enough. I don’t think anyone really plans to start a whisky collection, it just sort of happens but here are some good pointers of styles you need in your drinks cabinet. From there, there’s a whole world of whisky to explore. Happy drinking!

Starting a whisky collection

The perfect smoky blend, Green Isle

Find the perfect blend

For most whisky drinkers, at least in Britain, the place to begin is with a blended Scotch whisky. These are blends of full-flavoured malt whiskies with comparatively lighter and cheaper grain spirits. Many single malt lovers look down their noses at blended malts but a good blend offers an enormous amount of flavour for the money. Furthermore, there’s a great variety to be found in the blended category. We think two stand-out blends to try are Green Isle made with a high percentage of smoky Islay whisky for those who like their blends on the peaty side, and Dewar’s 12 Year Old which shows the other side of the blended coin, being sweet and fruity, perfect for a Whisky & Soda.

A fruity single malt

All whisky lovers will have a favourite fruity single malt in their collection, a real crowd pleaser. These sorts of whiskies tend to come from Speyside or the Highlands of Scotland. The big names here are Glenfiddich and Glenlivet – the two best selling single malts in the world – but there’s also some great under the radar, in other words cheaper, expressions like Speyburn 10 Year Old or Glen Moray Elgin Classic.

Wormtub 10 Year Old

Like a sherried dram? You’ll love Wormtub 10 Year Old

A sherry bomb

Well, you’ve got to have one, don’t you? These are whiskies long-aged in sherry casks, usually PX or oloroso, so that they pick up wonderful Christmassy type flavours of dried fruit and spice. The classics here are Macallan and Glenfarclas but such whiskies are produced all over Speyside and into the Highlands. Those looking for whiskies with great sherry per pound should try Glendronach 12 Year Old, Tamdhu 12 Year Old or the mighty Wormtub 10 Year Old.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old goes brilliantly with seafood

Laphroaig 10 Year Old – for many, the ultimate peated whisky

Something smoky

Peated single malts can really divide whisky lovers: some people love them and some people hate them. Though for a surprising number of people Islay malts are how they got into whisky. I had a friend once who wasn’t a massive whisky fan but she did love a Laphroaig 10 Year Old always drunk with one cube of ice so that it melted slowly and diluted the whisky. Islay is where most people head to get their fix of smoke with classic expressions like Caol Ila 12 Year Old, but don’t discount other Scottish examples like Ledaig 10 Year Old from Tobermory, Talisker 10 Year Old and Highland Park 12 Year Old

Redbreast 12 Year Old

Redbreast 12 Year Old – Robin not included

Head over to Ireland

You don’t have a whisky collection unless you’ve got something Irish in there. If I could only have one bottle, it would have to be Redbreast 12 Year Old. This is the classic example of that classic Irish style – single pot still whiskey. This means it’s still made in a pot still, like a malt whisky, but from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley (and sometimes other cereals such as oats.) It is a decadent, spicy drop that’s a pleasure to swirl around your mouth so you can appreciate that creamy pot still character. If you’re looking at blends, I’d recommend Powers Gold Label Distillers Cut which offers some of the pot still magic at a very reasonable price.

FOUR ROSES SMALL BATCH SELECT

If you only have room for one American whiskey, Four Roses Small Batch is the perfect option

Corn and rye

Now US readers will probably have various types of rye and bourbon of different ages and styles in their collection but the collections of most British whisky lovers will undoubtedly lean towards Scotland. So I’m just going to recommend one American whisky that covers a lot of bases. It’s perennial Master of Malt favourite Four Roses Small Batch. This is a high rye bourbon meaning that it has the sort of big spicy flavours you might find in a rye whiskey but it’s also smooth enough to sip neat. And it goes without saying that it’s amazing in classic cocktails like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. I’m also a big Woodford Reserve fan too.

Ledaig 18 Year Old

Ledaig 18 Year Old – a whisky to savour at a reasonable price

One absolute banger

This is one special expensive single malt that you keep for special occasions such as old friends coming over or rare events like your Southeastern train not being delayed. It’s one that you can spend hours, ok minutes, nosing before diving in for a sip. It’s usually something with a high age statement, 18 years or more, or perhaps a rare single cask bottling that you can pontificate over. And while such a whisky might cost £100 or more, it doesn’t have to be that far north. Single malts like Ledaig 18 Year Old or Glendronach 21 Year Old are perfect for late night ponfication without breaking the bank. 

Once you have the basics, then there’s a wide world of whisky to explore not just from Scotland, Ireland and America but Taiwan, Japan, Australia and beyond. Before you know it, you’ll be thinking of turning the guest bedroom over to house your collection. 

Header image shows the whisky collection of dream at the Fife Arms.