World Whisky Day: Experts reveal their favourite whiskies

With World Whisky Day taking place in May, we asked some bartenders and experts about their favourite drams.

Published 17th May 2019
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

From peated to far-flung whiskies, there's a something for all to try this World Whisky Day.

Highland Park 30 year old

Chosen by Max McFarlane, Ardgowan Distillery

World Whisky Day 2019
Picture: Max McFarlane

Max McFarlane, who has recently joined the newly opened Ardgowan Distillery near his home town of Inverkip, recommends Highland Park 30 year old: “It’s a romantic thing, and my dream scenario would be sitting near the Yesnaby Cliffs on the west coast of the Orkney Mainland with the sun setting, a glass of 30-year-old Highland Park in my hand, my companion by my side and a Havana cigar – that would be my idea of heaven!

“Highland Park 30-year-old is a single malt I had the privilege to blend myself. I would choose all of the best casks from that year’s batch to ensure that it was just as good as the previous release, and was closely matched in terms of flavour and colour.

“I would always keep a wee sample in my blending room, and whenever we had a new visitor who had never tasted whisky before, that would be the dram I would offer. It is exceptionally smooth and rounded and I’d like to think that it transformed a few non-whisky drinkers into new whisky lovers.

Johnny Walker Black Label

Chosen by World Whisky Day founder, Blair Bowman

World Whisky Day 2019
Picture: Johnnie Walker Black Label and ginger ale
World Whisky Day founder, author and ultimate aficionado, Blair Bowman says: "One of my favourite serves is Johnnie Walker Black Label and Ginger Ale. It's super refreshing and very easy to make.
"One of the reasons I like it so much is I can get it pretty much anywhere. When I go to a new country I don't always know if I'll like the local beers or if the wines will be any good but I know I'll be able to find a Johnnie Walker Black Label (and most bars stock ginger ale)."

BenRiach 10 year old

Chosen by BenRiach Master Blender, Rachel Barrie

BenRiach Master Blender Rachel Barrie said: "The BenRiach 10 Years Old is the signature expression of our classic Speyside, showcasing three cask maturation in Bourbon, Sherry and American Virgin oak casks, perfectly balanced for smoothness and complexity.

"BenRiach's classic fruit-laden style is discovered as orchard fruits layered with honeyed malt, creamy vanilla and toasted oak spice, all in sublime synchronicity. Bottled at 43 %, there is no better day to sip and savour this award-winning malt than World Whisky Day.”

Kornog Sauternes Cask

Chosen by Joe Harper, Assistant Bars Manager of Beaufort Bar and American Bar at The Savoy

Joe says: "This peated French single malt is finished in sauternes casks and has amazing complexity delivered by competing sweetness and smoke."

He adds "For those staying in on World Whisky Day, I would suggest choosing a glass with a size that (responsibly) matches your thirst, fill with ice, add one part Craigellachie 13 year old and two parts sparkling mineral water. Garnish with good company."

Benromach 10 year old

Chosen by author and whisky judge, Sean Murphy

Sean says: "It's difficult to choose a favourite but one of my go-to whiskies is the Benromach 10 year old because of the flavour and complexity."

Raasay While We Wait

Chosen by Thom Solberg, Group Bar Manager of Black Rock

Thom says: "I tried Raasay While We Wait for the first time at a blind tasting of peated whiskies. Against the white tasting mat it stood out amongst all the others instantly as it had a completely different colour.

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"I was wondering if someone had snuck in a Provence rose in the tasting. One of the things I love about Raasay While We Wait is how it does stand out in the already crowded field of peated Scotch.

"Raasay has managed to do something different with their focus on softening the peatsmoke with Italian red wine cask finishing.

"The lightly peated and fruity profile makes it ideal as an every day sipper as well as a whisky to introduce new drinkers into the smoky category.

"The way Raasay showcase their style makes me genuinely makes me excited for the whiskies that are gonna come out of the distillery in the next couple of years."

Glenfiddich Winter Storm

Chosen by Steven McGonigle, General Manager at Heads + Tails in West Hampstead

World Whisky Day 2019
Picture: Glenfiddich

Steven comments: "A rare premium expression from the Glenfiddich Distillery which is only available by allocation and only a small handful of venues across London are privileged to have it - we're lucky enough to have it at Heads + Tails."

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Bruichladdich: The Classic Laddie

Chosen by Ian Stirling, founder of the Port of Leith Distillery

Ian Stirling says: "I love this whisky for two reasons. Firstly, Bruichladdich has been a huge inspiration to me and Paddy (my business partner) as a distillery reinvigorated by new ideas that has hugely enhanced Scotch Whisky.

"And the second reason is that they make beautiful whisky. This is their benchmark Single Malt, still within the realms of affordability and it is so beautifully complex and delicate - whisky making at its finest."

Chichibu from Japan

Chosen by Alasdair Day, Co-founder of Isle of Ramsay Distillery

Alasdair says: "A small independent distillery - similar in size to our distillery on Raasay - producing exceptional young whisky. Their 4-year-old peated whisky, bottled in 2016, is well worth a try.

"Or why not try, Floki from Iceland, another small independent distillery. If you really want to try something very different then go for their Floki young malt Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve."

Balblair 12 Year Old

Chosen by Chris Tanner, Bar Manager of the Vault at Milroy’s of Soho

World Whisky Day 2019
Picture: Balblair

Chris says: “The Balblair 12 Year Old has always been one of my favourite whiskies.

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"The balance of creaminess and tropical fruits is perfect for both sipping and bespoke cocktails. I particularly enjoy the Balblair in a Bobby Burns, hands down one of my favourite drinks or even just lengthened with soda.”

Caol Ila 18 year old

Chosen by Rafal Karwacki, owner of The Barony bar on Broughton Street, Edinburgh

Rafal comments “My ultimate favourite whisky has to be the Caol Ila 18 year old single malt. It’s the perfect dram for a special occasion, thanks to its aromatic and full-bodied elements with a luxurious, almost oily texture. It balances oak sweetness with smokiness really well, and I love the long and soft peaty finish.

“For a more casual, everyday drink, the Caol Ila 12 is my favourite option. It’s not quite as sweet as the 18 year old, but it has the same level of peat and a long peppery finish.”

Lagavulin 16 year old

Chosen by Jon Niemi, The Ivy on the Square’s Bar Manager

Jon comments “As a keen whisky enthusiast, it’s difficult to pick just one favourite from the hundreds I’ve sampled over the years. But I would have to go for the Lagavulin 16 year old single malt.

"It’s not the most expensive whisky I’ve tried, or the rarest, but it’s one that combines all of my favourite elements. A tremendous taste experience, it has a fantastic peat smoke quality and is rich and full-bodied – plus, it’s great value for money!”

Starward Whisky

Chosen by Dan Pavey at The Gallery in West Hampstead

Dan recommends: "I love this Australian whisky. Think toast, honey, vanilla with a touch of red fruit – aged on Apera (Australia Sherry) casks"
Yamazakura Blended Whisky: "I am a big fan of this Japanese Yamazakura Blended Whisky from Sasanokawa Shuzo. It is soft, delicate and floral with cherry blossom notes."

anCnoc 18 Year Old

Chosen by Sebastian Kasyna, Bar Manager at the Ivy City Garden in London

World Whisky Day 2019
Picture: AnCnoc 18

Sebastian says: "My favourite scotch? Hmmm… well, not to avoid a straight answer, but my tastes vary with the occasion. I like pretty much all of the Islay whiskies, but recently discover anCnoc – it’s a real hidden gem. Crafted by hand, it has a characteristic malty flavour across its range.

"anCnoc 18 Year Old is my particular favourite with its light but complex flavours – sweet dried fruits from ex-sherry casks, gentle spices from ex bourbon casks and a hot and smooth finish."

Glen Moray Elgin Heritage 18 year old

Chosen by Iain Allan, Glen Moray Visitor Centre Manager and Brand Ambassador

World Whisky Day 2019
Picture: Glen Moray

Iain Allan has chosen Glen Moray Elgin Heritage 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky as his favourite whisky, saying: “I love this whisky as it is a Glen Moray which shows off the more traditional style from the distillery.

"Keeping things simple in the process (all first fill bourbons, no chill filtration and a higher abv) produces a whisky that not only highlights the best of Glen Moray but also, I believe, the best of Speyside.”

Glengoyne 21 year old

Chosen by Scotsman food and drink editor, Rosalind Erskine

"This was the whisky that started me on a journey of discovery within whiskies. It is smooth and sweet with hints of sherry but you still get that classic Glengoyne character coming through.

"Matured predominantly in first fill European oak sherry casks, this for me is a real Christmas cake dram and would make a fab after dinner treat."

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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