How to choose the perfect whisky as a Christmas gift
Taste and flavour profiles vary, depending on where the whisky comes from and how it was matured, so here's what to look for.
If you are a whiskey connoisseur, there is nothing more enjoyable than sipping on a good glass of your favourite bottle, or perhaps even a new discovery you stumbled upon.
At a recent Laphroaig whisky tasting event, we learned just how important it is to really know your whisky and the person you are buying it for, before just purchasing any bottle at random.
Another interesting fact we learned is that when whisky is spelt with no ‘e’, it means that it was distilled in either Scotland, Canada or Japan. Whiskey spelt with an ‘e’ means that the alcohol was distilled in either Ireland or the United States.
Pronounced ‘la-froyg’, a Gaelic word meaning ‘beautiful hollow by the broad bay’, this single malt has a very distinct smoky taste.
During an exclusive dinner at the Da Vinci Hotel in Johannesburg, we were treated to a whisky and 3 course food pairing to discover the unique flavours of this Scottish whisky.
The evening kicked off with welcome drinks served at the Maximillien Cigar lounge – the perfect setting for an evening of fine whisky. The Laphroaig Select was used to create beautiful cocktails before we moved over to the main restaurant for the food pairing and whisky tasting.
The first whisky of the night was the Laphroaig 10-Year-Old, which was paired with a venison carpaccio drizzled with Laphroaig vinaigrette.
Our first impression of the whisky was a very smoky taste – even more so when you add ice or water. I preferred it neat.
The Laphroaig 33-year-old was paired with pan seared smoked salmon and herb fondant potato and crumbed red onions.
Steven Zylstra, brand ambassador for Laphroaig explained that this is the crème de la crème of Scottish whiskies, having been matured in an American oak barrel for 33 years.
I found this whisky smoother than the 10-Year-Old, and not as strong.
The last whisky we tasted was the Laphroaig Quarter Cask which was paired with a three-way chocolate mousse. This whisky was matured in a European Cherry barrel, and also has that very distinct smoky taste.
We asked Zylstra to give us some handy tips for anyone looking to buy a bottle of whisky as a Christmas gift this year. Here are his tips:
“The first thing you want to do is understand the basic flavour profiles of sweet, spicy and strong. You’re going to use these three basic tasting notes to figure out exactly what you like.
“If you prefer something sweet and are perhaps new to whisky tasting, my first suggestion would be to look for anything that has a bourbon cask and is done in your Highland and Spey regions – these are regions that are really well known for their sweeter whiskies, as well as having the bourbon cask which is always going to give you that sweeter profile.
“If you like spicy flavours, I would go for Islay and your Ireland whiskies; these are often done in your sherry casks and are also known as peated whiskies. This is your smoky whisky and is always a good thing to go for, however, I recommend going for 43% as the ABV is much more palatable.
“The next thing is if you like your strong flavours, look for a cask strength – it doesn’t matter which barrel it’s put in, a cask strength generally means a higher ABV, and this can be noted in your quarter casks.
“For a more experienced whisky drinker, I would recommend grabbing a bottle within the Laphroaig Whisky family as it’ll surely be a gift that puts a smile on their face!”