World Whisky Day 2020: Best Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, Bourbon and more

Celebrate World Whisky Day with a bevy of bottles from around the globe. Sláinte!

Whisky
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Although we're all stuck at home as a result of the global health crisis, it does mean we have time to slow down and savour new experiences. And there's nothing quite like savouring a good dram of whisky. 

World Whisky Day, falling on the third Saturday of May every year, is a celebration of all things whisky. It doesn't matter whether you're already a whisky connoisseur or you're brand new to the spirit: since you can't go to a bar, World Whisky Day is the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to a tipple of the good stuff. 

Below are five great drams from some of the most famous whisky-drinking regions in the world. Grab your favourite glass, order one of our top picks below and get ready to celebrate. Sláinte!

  • Best Bourbons: old Kentucky's finest for Juleps, Old Fashioneds, neat or on the rocks

World Whisky Day: How to taste a whisky for the first time

If you're already a got a bit of whisky know-how, chances are you've already developed your own likes and dislikes when it comes to the kind of whiskies you like to drink. You might be a Bourbon person, a Scotch savant, or perhaps you just like an Old Fashioned now and again. For the uninitiated, we've tapped Johnnie Walker brand ambassador Ali Reynolds for some expert advice on trying your first whisky. 

"First and foremost, start with an introductory whisky," says Reynolds. "Blended Scotches like Johnnie Walker have a diverse range of flavours to explore within the blend, so there’s something for new and expert whisky drinkers to enjoy.

"Make sure you have a glass of water on the side, either to sip between drams or to add to the whisky, which enhances the flavours. Whisky should be drunk however you like it best – whether that’s neat or in a Highball or cocktail – but always taste the whisky neat at room temperature to really understand the flavours."

World Whisky Day: Best Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, Bourbon and more

Johnnie Walker Black

(Image credit: The Whisky Exchange)

1. Johnnie Walker Black Label

An enduring classic, Johnnie Walker might be the most famous blended Scotch

Specifications
ABV: 40%
Type: Blend
Age: 12 Years Old
Country: Scotland
Reasons to buy
+Easy to drink+Great in a Highball +Affordable

A great first whisky. It's a blend of different whiskies from all over Scotland, from the lowland Glenkinchie distillery near Edinburgh to the coastal Caol Ila, which is all the way up on the island of Islay. it's delicate, fruity and beautifully balanced, which makes it very easy to drink.

One of the world's most recognisable Scotch whiskies, it's available almost everywhere. It's not just good on its own: try it in a Highball, with loads of ice, soda water and a slice of lemon. Perfect for a sunny May Saturday.

Talisker 10

(Image credit: The Whisky Exchange)

2. Talisker 10 Years Old

A salty, smoky single malt from Skye

Specifications
ABV: 45.8%
Type: Single malt
Age: 10 Years Old
Country: Scotland
Reasons to buy
+Big and bold flavours+Salty and smoky+A crowd-pleasing single malt

One of the most popular single malts among diehard whisky fans, Talisker 10 is an incredible drink. As opposed to a blend of lots of different whiskies like Johnnie Walker, a single malt is a whisky that only comes from one distillery.

This particular single malt, made on the Isle of Skye, is said to have a "sweet, pear-like quality" underneath its robust smokiness. It's this combination of harsh and sweet which makes it beloved around the world.

Redbreast 12

(Image credit: The Whisky Exchange)

3. Redbreast 12 Years Old

One of the best Irish whiskies around

Specifications
ABV: 40%
Type: Single Pot Still
Age: 12 Years Old
Country: Ireland
Reasons to buy
+A really rich, spicy dram+Traditional single pot still whiskey style+Indulgent red wine/fruitcake flavours

Much like Scotland has become known for its single malt, Ireland has become a pioneer for "single pot still" whiskeys. While blends are whiskeys from lots of different distilleries made with lots of different grains, a single pot still whiskey is all made in one place, from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley.

Redbreast, one of the best, takes the liquid and ages it in casks which used to carry oloroso Sherry for 12 years, which is what gives it that deep, rich colour. It's spicy, sweet and sticky: a bit like a boozy liquid fruitcake.

It's a little more expensive at just under £45 per bottle, but if you're feeling adventurous, it makes for a mean "Irish" Old Fashioned cocktail.

Buffalo Trace

(Image credit: The Whisky Exchange)

4. Buffalo Trace

A great introductory Bourbon

Specifications
ABV: 40%
Type: Bourbon
Age: No-age-statement
Country: America
Reasons to buy
+One of the best all-round Bourbons on the market+Vanilla and toffee flavours+Perfect in cocktails

Buffalo Trace is one of the best Bourbons you can get: it's inexpensive, popular and it's as good on its own as it is in a cocktail. Bourbons are always aged in American oak barrels that have never been used before, so they've usually got strong vanilla and toffee flavours drawn out from the wood.

Although it's a great drink neat or on the rocks, it shines in an Old Fashioned. Usually made with Bourbon or rye whiskey, the Old Fashioned is the most famous whiskey cocktail, and certainly one you should try at home. You'll need whiskey, ice, an orange and some bitters.

Nikka From The Barrel

(Image credit: The Whisky Exchange)

5. Nikka From The Barrel

A delicious Japanese whisky

Specifications
ABV: 51.4%
Type: Blend
Age: No-age-statement
Country: Japan
Reasons to buy
+A strong, full-flavoured Japanese whisky+Clove, caramel and soft orange notes+Multiple award winning

Japan has quickly become a rising star on the whisky scene, so much so there's now a shortage of age-stated whisky. It's tough to come by old bottles, because once whisky fans realised how good it was, they were all quickly snapped up.

Nikka From The Barrel is the Nikka distillery's way of replicating those flavours while keeping things affordable, and it doesn't disappoint. This crowd-pleasing whisky is the strongest on our list, but there's loads to like, with pepper, sweet caramel, clove, and toffee giving way to soft fruity notes. 

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