They're all at it when it comes to whisky – so what's the best of the rest?
Remember booze cruises (at least, in principle)?
Here's one with a destination other than oblivion. We've looked beyond Scotland, Ireland and the USA to see what whiskies the world has to offer, selected six and tried them out.
Some, well, two, will probably be fairly familiar to you already, Canadian Club being something of a staple and Suntory featuring in the film Lost in Translation (see Reel Meals p30). But the rest are from more unusual places: India, New Zealand, France and Wales. Looked at from the point of view of what they have to offer in terms of variety, there are some interesting drinks here. And that's the way we've looked at this selection, as drinks in their own right, their talking points and selling points.
Giving us the benefit of his sensory perceptions was Pedro Soares, Bar Manager, Four O Nine, 409 Clapham Road, London SW9. 020 7737 0722 fouronine.co.uk:
Single Distillery Pure Buckwheat Whisky (France)
"Our first Whisky is perhaps the most individual whisky in our selection. It doesn't smell like a whisky, more like an Armagnac – it has ‘rancio' about it – rusty in the mouth, likeable and unique.
"In comparing these whiskies from different parts of the world it's worth remarking that this is perhaps the one with the most national character – this is the only one where they've really gone for their own style in spades. In fact, you could almost call it something else altogether – something akin to a brandy – it's delicious and I wouldn't mix it with anything, that would spoil it.
Perfect for after-dinner drinking if you're looking for something different."
70cl, 40 per cent ABV, €30 + carriage.
+33 298 94 23 68 distillerie.fr
Suntory Single Malt Whisky
"Yamazaki" 12-year-old (Japan)
"The smell of this one stands out straight away – there are pear drops here and it's sweet on the nose. Great to drink on its own, the flavour builds up nicely. I like it a lot. It's sweet and complex and the burn builds up – it's all on the palate but in a nice way.
"Water opens this one up very well, it's nice and floral but water doesn't take away from it in the way it does with some of the others, it retains a nice mouthfeel.
"This is what quality whisky should be like, building slowly in the mouth. It's a whisky that could be drunk anytime."
70cl, 43 per cent ABV, £34.99 (inc VAT).
01786 406360 fiorbrands.co.uk
Canadian Club Whisky
Barrel Blended "I've seen this most often. It's well known in the UK – a traditional Manhattan is made using Canadian Club. These days though, people tend to use American Rye Whiskey instead, but that's why it's a standard.
"It's light in colour, mellow and mild, and it seems quite new. It's also quite sweet, sweeter than most whisky, and it's thicker than most. You can really taste the wood, the caramel and burnt oak.
"When you add water, it kills the caramel a little, so this is one that's better on ice – it makes it thinner without losing the flavour."
70cl, 40 per cent ABV, £14.99 (inc VAT).
01786 430700 canadianclubwhisky.com
Amrut Single Malt Whisky
"Wow, when you smell this there's absolutely no question that it's whisky, it's very like Scotch. You don't get that with Canadian Club, which, to be fair, is its own style of whisky, unlike this one, which is supposed to be like Scotch.
"There's more burn on the throat with this one – it's still quite sweet, though – and there's definitely caramel there. The flavour fades fast and you feel it doing so, but I wouldn't say that it was bland in any way.
"This one is best with water, and with ice, too, but moderation is key – too much water would kill it quickly – the flavour is subtle with not much wood, more caramel, no smoke and floral notes."
70cl, 40 per cent ABV, £17.86 (ex-VAT). 0141 221 4297 amrutwhisky.co.uk
Penderyn Single Malt
Welsh Whisky, Madeira Finished
"This has a very modern bottle and is six per cent above the standard ABV so you'd expect a strong flavour.
"It's sweet on the nose with an aroma of pear drops and wood, and there's something of the cellar about it – a mustiness. This is a very well-balanced whisky and water really opens it out.
There's a distinctive vinous aftertaste – that must be the Madeira – and the burn builds up on the tongue.
"I love this one, like the Eddu, it's very well-rounded and is definitely a whisky to put on the back bar – it would be great before seafood and it would make a grand Old Fashioned."
70cl, 46 per cent ABV, £30 (inc VAT). 01685 813 300, welsh-whisky.co.uk
Lammerlaw Single Malt,
10-year-old (New Zealand)
"This one's very light in colour and yellowish. Pear drops are the immediate aroma and it's oily.
"As with the nose, so with the flavour, but pleasantly so as it's nice and floral. This is very different from the others we've tasted so far – if I didn't know this was a whisky, I'd be hard-pressed to tell in a blind tasting. It's very strong, with a very strong acetone flavour and a smell like grape seeds, reminiscent of grappa. "It's hard to believe it's been aged for so long."
70cl, 47.3 per cent ABV, £32 (inc VAT).
01586 554258 wmcadenhead.com