We asked an expert all about choosing the right whiskies for the right occasions
Everything from making the best Irish Coffee to the ultimate gift-giving for your boss at Secret Santa.
If you're a fan of whiskey, you're certainly not short of choice as the sheer amount of options available can be daunting.
As a result, you probably have your favourites and are going to stick with them, but if your palate is open to exploring alternatives, we asked Oisin Davis, whiskey-whisperer over at Great Irish Beverages, to help us find the best whiskey to suit certain specific occasions.
Best whiskey for drinking neat / on the rocks
Some whiskey drinkers are fine with a mixer, but others prefer to have it straight up, on its own, with maybe only an ice cube or two for company. So when it comes to the solo experience, what might be the best for that?
Davis tells us that it is the Redbreast 12 Year Old. "It just got world's best whiskey at The International Wine & Spirits Challenge (read all about that here), which is basically the booze Oscars, scoring 98 out of 100.
"It's got spice from the fact that it's a single pot still whiskey, depth from the fact that it's aged for so long and all of the Christmas fruits from the sherry cask its finished in."
Best whiskey for making cocktails with
This is a bit of a toughie, because obviously there are so many cocktails that can be made with whiskey. So we wanted to whittle it down to two of the most popular cocktails primarily based around whiskey instead of having the whiskey overpowered by the other ingredients.
So first up, the Old Fashioned, which is basically whiskey, bitters and a sugar cube. For this one, Davis has two recommendations. First is Teeling Small Batch. "Its rum cask finish gives it a tropical sweetness, or if you're feeling lazy, just buy the Powers Old Fashioned Cocktail, a pre-bottled delight that is ready to serve."
And then, of course, there is the Irish Coffee, which is whiskey, coffee, brown sugar and fresh cream.
For that, Davis opts for Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition.
"The coffee and chocolate notes on the whiskey that are imparted by the stout seasoning casks pair beautifully in an Irish coffee," says Davis. "Bar Swift in Soho London were the first to champion this whiskey in their Irish Coffee and it's one of their most popular cocktails."
Best whiskey to save for a special occasion
Unlike most other types of alcohol, some folk are likely to splash out a bit more on a particular whiskey that they'll only whip out for a wedding, or a promotion, or just a particularly good day. So is there one particular brand that Davis would single out?
Yes, at is it turns out, Midleton Very Rare.
"This is a special blend that only comes out once a year and every year is different from the next. It's been released since 1984 and bottles from certain years are worth a lot of money. Irish whiskey aficionados like to buy a Midleton Very Rare on the year that they were married or the year that one of their children was born."
Best whiskey to buy as a present (without breaking the bank)
Giving, or to be fair, getting whiskey as a gift is pretty neat (whiskey joke), especially if you happen to know that the recipient is a big fan. But, again, as much as it can be daunting to buy a new whiskey for yourself, that doubles when buying for someone else.
You don't want to go with something that is generic or cheap, but maybe you don't want to go overboard, either. We're talking 'You got your boss in Secret Santa' levels here. Not go nuts, but still nice.
Davis has the perfect recommendation: "For the amount that it costs, Green Spot is always a winner. It has a fantastic history in that it is established by the Mitchell Family merchants in Dublin, whose many products and imports included fortified wines like sherry by the barrel. When the sherry butts were empty, they'd fill them with whiskey from their neighbours at the Jameson distillery."
Best whiskey to buy as a present (breaking the bank just a little bit)
The opposite problem: you really want to impress with your whiskey buying skills without buying the single most expensive bottle in the Airport duty-free, because that is just too much.
But, at the same time, you still want to make it pretty obvious that this didn't come cheap.
"Method & Madness, acacia wood finish," Davis recommends.
"The Method & Madness brand is all about pushing out the envelope and trying out new styles for Irish whiskey. It has a very limited release, and is only available in Celtic Whiskey Store. The acacia wood gives the whiskey an amazing mahogany colour with an additional layer of nuttiness and length on the palate."