Shrine to Spirits: Main Vodka Rum Whiskey Liqueurs Gin Brandy Mezcal Chiew and Soju Other Non-beverages Index


The art of whiskey

Whiskey, simply put, is aged grain alcohol. Fermented from malt or grain, distilled and aged in wooden barrels. Whiskey starts out as clear, and gets its colour from aging in wood. Sometimes, the spirit is filtered, or other ingredients such as neutral spirit added. A straight whiskey has nothing else added to it.

There are many different kinds of whiskies. If you want to be adventurous and try different ones, don't be put off by the occasional dud. I've found that there is Scotch that I like, Scotch that I don't like, bourbon that I like, bourbon that I don't like, and so on. So far, I haven't found a rye that I don't like.

Whiskies include: bourbon, rye, Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, single malt whisky, Canadian whisky, corn whiskey, Tennessee whiskey. Read more about single malt whisky.

Whiskey is a common base for a lot of liqueurs, which can be found here and on the liqueurs page.

Want to know more about whiskey? Read More About Whiskey. With:

And the list:

Ardbeg: 700 ml bottle box
A truly outstanding 17 year old single malt Scotch from the Isle of Islay. It has the smoky peat one expects from an Islay malt, but is not overpowered by it. Full-flavoured, but very well-balanced, with peat and malt and a touch of oak all complementing each other beautifully. So smooth and gentle, it just slides right down. If you don't like Islay malts, you probably won't like this too much, though, 'cause it is still very much an Islay malt at heart. Otherwise, if you're willing to brave the rather formidable price tag, give this candidate for the world's best whisky a go. Bottled at 40% alcohol. The distillery stopped production in 1981, and was reopened in '89. We'll have to wait a few more years before we see if the new Ardbeg has maintained the old quality.
T *****

Baker Beam's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 50 ml bottle
Baker's for short. A 107 proof, 7 year old Jim Beam small-batch bourbon. Smooth, and reasonably nice.
T *** G **

Ballantine's Finest Scotch Whisky:
This mass-market Scotch is a very big seller in Europe, and it's easy to see why. Nice and flavoursome, smoky and sweet. Nothing at all wrong with it. I like it. 80 proof.
T **** S *

Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey:
In their more than 200 years of experience, these guys have learned how to make a good bourbon. This is the best of the Jim Beam stable I've ever tasted. This 8 year old, 80 proof small-batch bourbon is smooth and has a well-rounded balance of flavour. Very nice. Might be a bit bland to some.
T **** G ***

Black Bush: 50 ml bottle
A "special old" Irish whiskey, from Bushmills, this is 80% single malt blended with a single grain whiskey. The best Irish whiskey I've tried so far, this has a nice aroma, and a delicate light malty flavour. It has a depth of flavour lacking in other Irish whiskies that we've tried. Often considered to be the best Irish blended whiskey.
T ***

Black Cat Whisky:
``The special Thai blended whisky of the best quality'' smells fine, tastes fine. Smoky, but not overpoweringly, it's like a Thai version of Ballantine's, but smoother. Smooth, tasty, easy-drinking. Cheap, too. 40% alcohol.
T ****

Black Douglas de Luxe:
A nice, smooth and tasty blended Scotch. Pleasantly smoky, in a fairly restrained manner, it makes for a tasty, yet still easy-drinking drop. 74 proof.
T *** S ***

Black Jack Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey:
Not too much smell, tastes unpleasant (and lingering). Avoid this. 37.1%, from Kentucky.
T * S **

Booker's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 50 ml bottle
A barrel proof (125.3) bourbon from Jim Beam. It smells good, but tastes rather unpleasant. Might be made from oak-aged piss. Not to our tastes at all.
T * G *

Bushmills Malt (10 years old): 50 ml bottle
Single malt Irish whiskey, and a great example of a good Irish whiskey. Triple-distilled, and as a result, expectedly smooth. It's a light and fairly subtle single malt. If you like Irish whiskey, you'll probably like this a lot. 40% alcohol.
T ** J ****

Canadian Club:
This, the standard 6 year old Canadian Club, is good. Light, but quite flavourful. Good and easily drinkable.
T *** G **

Canadian Club Classic:
A 12 year old blended Candian whisky, this is smooth and mellow. Inoffensive and mild, but not tasteless. 80 proof, and overpriced.
T ***

Chivas Regal Blended Scotch: 1000 ml bottle
A premium Scotch, 12 years old, quite popular. I really don't like this style of Scotch - reminds me too much of cat piss. Mix it, and it's not so bad, but I still don't like it. Other people quite successfully down it in quantity.
T * G ** S ***

Clan Campbell:
A very middle-of-the-road blend. Drinkable, and while pleasant enough, quite forgettable. 80 proof.
T ** S *

Cougar Black:
Sam Cougar Black, "authentic Kentucky style" bourbon whiskey comes from Indiana. It smells okay, but tastes worse. Just drinkable. 74 proof.
T ** S **

Cragganmore: 700 ml bottle box
This 12 year old Speyside single malt Scotch whisky is hyped as elegant and sophisticated, "with the most complex aroma of any malt." It has a light and delicate smell, and a light and delicate taste, lightly smoky. Well balanced. Good enough so that I like to drink it even if I don't really like the flavour.
T ***

Crown Royal:
Mild aroma, and respectable in flavour. I thought this was very Scotch-like for a Canadian whisky, and quite different to Seagram's other whiskies. Crown Royal has a reputation as the best Canadian whisky of them all. Seems quite okay, not what I like, though. 40% alcohol and 10 years old.
T **

The traditional (and great) Scotch liqueur (and expensive). ``An Dram Buidheach'' - the drink that satisfies. Flavoured with herbs and honey, it's very herby and not too sweet. Two parts Scotch to one part Drambuie makes a Rusty Nail, one of the great digestifs.
T *** S **** J **** G * Arne *****

Early Times Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 50 ml bottle
A little harsh, but tasty enough nonetheless. Mild and harmless. 37.1% alcohol. Made for export, from a mash of 79% corn, 11% rye and 10% barley malt.
T ** G ***

Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 750 ml bottle box - front box - back
Twelve years old and 94 proof, and in a nice bottle too. Mild in flavour, but still tasty. This one is good, though perhaps a bit too woody. According to legend, the Reverend Elijah Craig was the first to distill bourbon in Bourbon County, Kentucky. (Others say he invented aging in charred barrels.)
T **** G *****

Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey: 375 ml bottle
A very smooth whiskey indeed. From the makers of Jack Daniels, this claims to be unique in that it is charcoal mellowed twice, both before and after aging. Anyway, this is smooth and tasty. It still has the classic JD taste. This 80 proof comes in a wide-mouth bottle so you can chug it down quickly.
T **** J **** G *****

George Dickel Tennessee Whisky Superior No. 12:
A "finest quality sippin'" Tennessee whisky, this is smooth and mellow. I felt this to be much better than JD, its better-known neighbour. The younger No. 8 (4-6 years) is supposed to be good, perhaps even better. 80 proof.
T ***

Gibson's Finest:
A 12 year old Canadian whisky, by UDV Canada. Mild, and lightly unpleasant in flavour. All the burn that anybody could want in the finish, and more. Didn't like this one at all. 40% alcohol.
T *

Glayva: 500 ml bottle
A Scotch whiskey liqueur, sweetened with honey, flavoured with herbs. In the same general category as Drambuie and Irish Mist, but less herby and sweeter, very sweet in fact. This is good; if you like honey liqueurs, try it. Leaves a crusty residue in the glass the next day. 35% alcohol.
T **** G *** S ***

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength: A rather high-proof (60% alcohol) Speyside single malt Scotch whisky, bottled at 8 years. I didn't particularly like it straight, but I found it somewhat better cut with a small amount of water. Drinkable enough, but didn't appeal to me; I found it a feeble performer for the price. Powerful, and highly regarded by many.
T **

Glenfiddich Special Reserve:
The single-malt Scotch that opened up the market. Light and balanced, a good starter for people who want to try single malts but are afraid. 86 proof.
T *** S *** J ***

Heaven Hill Old Style Bourbon: 50 ml bottle
This Kentucky straight bourbon smells bad and tastes bad. Don't drink this unless you like it for sentimental reasons.
T * G * S *

Highland Park:
Looking like a very bright and lively whisky in the bottle, this is a single malt scotch with a restrained power to it. A well-balanced flavour, with a lingering smoky sweetness. Not too light, and not too heavy, I found this to be a very easy drinking whisky. 80 proof and 12 years old.
T ***** S ****

J & B Rare:
An excellent blended scotch, at a less-than-premium price. Light and delicate, slightly malty, and with a well-rounded flavour. The ultimate compromise (?) in Scotch, it's blended from over 40 different malt and grain whiskies. Justerini & Brooks continue their tradition of quality blending with which they supplied English royalty from George III through Victoria to George VI. 80 proof.
T **** S **

Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey: 375 ml bottle
A fairly good whiskey, quite smooth, with a distinctive, special, taste. Can be good drinking at the right time. Famous, and popular. 86 proof.
T * J *** G ***

Jameson Irish Whiskey: 50 ml bottle
We felt that this whiskey embodied all that can be bad about whiskey. It smells and tastes like a mixture of metho and cat urine. Enough to make the tasters run for the sink. Try at your own risk. Some people quite like it.
T * S *** J ** G *

Jim Beam Black Label: 50 ml bottle
For an 8 year old 90 proof bourbon, this is mediocre. A fairly typical Beam product, we didn't think this was as good as their regular (cheaper) white label.
T ** G ** S **

Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 375 ml bottle
Hardly the world's finest bourbon, Still, not bad for a cheap bourbon. Glen says it's a damn good mixer. I wouldn't say I like it, but if you're a bourbon fan, this'll probably go down quite OK. This upmarket house bourbon has many supporters. 80 proof.
T ** G ***

Jim Beam Rye: 700 ml bottle
A good drinkable rye. The bottle claims it's the world's finest rye, but we don't think so, too mild and tasteless in comparison with Wild Turkey rye and others. But it's still damn good.
T **** G ****

Johnnie Walker Black Label: 50 ml bottle
A nice blended Scotch, hard to dislike if you don't mind a somewhat robust smoky flavour. Smooth, smoky, and mellow. This is 12 year old and 86 proof. It tries to be an excellent Scotch, but falls somewhat short.
T *** S *** J *** G ***

Johnnie Walker Blue Label:
It's expensive! It's good! Smells pretty nifty, predominantly smoky. It's nice, eminently respectable (both socially and in flavour), flawlessly easy to drink. Perhaps lacking in memorable character and power. For me, it's not worth the formidable price tag, but YMMV. If it was (a lot) cheaper, it'd be one of the great quaffing whiskies.
T **** S ***

Johnnie Walker Red Label:
A good basic blended Scotch, one of the bottom-end classics. A good mixer and good for cooking, too.
J ** G ***

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: 50 ml bottle
100 proof and nine years old. With a strong distinctive flavour, it's a real bourbon drinker's bourbon. Tastes like a good quality product, but we don't really like it.
T ** G **

Kolme Leijona Finest Blended Scotch Whisky:
Three Lions Scotch, bottled in Helsinki, is a not-too-bad well-balanced blend. Very smooth, this is one of the better cheaper blends I've tried. 40% alcohol.
T ***

Lagavulin: 700 ml bottle box
This 16 year old Islay single malt Scotch whisky has the robust smoky flavour one expects from an Islay malt. It is warm and well-balanced, somewhat like an older and frailer brother of Laphroaig. Bottled at 43% alcohol. Jocelyn: ``A great single malt but a little rough.''
T ***** J ****

Langs Select Scotch Whisky: 50 ml bottle
A 12 year old blended Scotch, this is fairly comparable with Chivas. We didn't like the Chivas, but this is slightly better. On the other hand, if you like Chivas ...
T ** G **

Laphroaig: 750 ml bottle tube
A 10 year old single Islay malt Scotch whisky, this is considered by many to be one of the finest of all Scotch whiskies. Certainly, it is one of the most powerful. It's smooth with a rich pungent flavour dominated by a peat smoke aftertaste that lingers for hours. It's good and it's got character, and plenty of it. Far too strongly flavoured for many. Bottled at 43% alcohol. Glen prefers the gentle blandness of Johnnie Walker. Graeme - "It has a certain horrific ascination."
T ***** G *

Macallan (12 years old):
The Macallan 12. Well-balanced, peat and sherry predominant. Peatier and less smooth than the 18. Nice, though lacking the power of it's older sibling, and disappointing in comparison.
T ****

Macallan (18 years old):
The Macallan 18, "the Rolls-Royce of whiskies," I'm assured is what God keeps a bottle of for special occasions. It's robust in flavour and very refined and mellow in character. A little bit smoky, a little bit sherry, and quite a bit woody. This whisky deserves its fine reputation. Both the taste and the memory of the taste will stay with you for a long time. Faultless! (and 86 proof.)
T ***** S ***

Maker's Mark: 50 ml bottle
This Kentucky straight bourbon whisky (with no e) is mellow and well-aged. This is a fine 90 proof easy-drinking whisky, slightly woody, and very warm and mellow, without a trace of harshness. This, with a deep and well-rounded flavour, has to be close to the pinnacle of the bourbon maker's art. Distilled to a rather low 60-65% alcohol, from a mash of 70% corn, 16% wheat and 14% barley malt.
T ***** S ***

14 year old single malt from the Western Highlands, peaty/smoky, but not overpoweringly so, balanced with a too-strong dash (for me) of cat piss I dislike about many highland whiskies. It's a well crafted and balanced fine whisky, fairly smooth for a highland whisky. Not my preferred style, but if it matches your taste, you might well find this to be an almost perfect Scotch (just ask Jocelyn). 43% alcohol.
T *** J *****

Paddy Old Irish Whiskey:
Lightly smoky, quite mild, starts with an ugly hit at first, but settles down into a rather pleasant finish. Smells okay, too. 40% alcohol, from Cork.
T *** Arne ****

Port Ellen 1980:
An ultra-smooth, almost ethereal whisky that glides down the throat with the greatest of ease. Peaty, of course, as one would expect from an Islay malt, but it carries it very lightly. And a nice fresh floral touch to the aftertaste. A superb whisky. 15 years old.
T *****

Rebel Yell Straight Bourbon Whiskey:
From Old Kentucky, especially for the Deep South,; in fact, this was originally only sold in the Deep South. It's cheap, it's a bit harsh, and it's quite tasty and drinkable. Dry and woody. Distilled from maize and wheat. Glen says it's very easy drinking, and not a hangover problem either. 80 proof.
T ** G ****

Sang Thip Royal Thai Liquor: 300 ml bottle
Very nice Thai rice whiskey. If you're in Thailand, try it out. 80 proof, smooth and mellow. I've heard that a lot of countries don't allow its importation due to certain additives, which might explain why I've not seen it around here in Australia. Drink too much and you might stay awake all night.
T ****

Seagram's Five Star Rye Whisky:
Similar in flavour to Seagram's V.O., so given that I liked V.O., I'd have expected to like this, but it was not so. Smooth enough, rather bland, hits the tongue OK , but has an unsettling aftertaste (perhaps just the PET bottle). The worst whisky I've seen labelled as rye. Drinkable, swillable, and mixable. 40% alcohol.
T **

Seagram's V.O. Candian Whisky: 750 ml bottle
A 6 year old blended Canadian whisky, this is malty and smooth. This is good! Well-rounded and mellow, with a full-bodied flavour. Very tasty for a blended whisky. 80 proof.
T ***

Singha Chaophraya Royal Thai Whiskey: 375 ml bottle
Are all Royal Thai whiskies this good? This one's just as good as the Sang Thip, tastes pretty much the same. Recommended.
T ****

Southern Comfort (Kentucky version): 200 ml bottle
Well, it's Southern Comfort. It's famous, and sweet, and tasty. The same up-front flavour as the US Virgin Islands product, but with a distinctive whiskey aftertaste lacking in the latter version. We can't tell what kind of whiskey is used, but tastes like it could be bourbon. Or maybe it's just neutral spirit. Jocelyn: ``Too brutal in flavour for me. Good for mixing but that's it.''
T *** J ** G ****

Southern Comfort (USA and Ireland version): 50 ml bottle
This seems smoother and sweeter than the Kentucky product, but is otherwise very similar to it. This is a combined effort from the USA and Ireland, and we're not sure what parts come from where.
T *** G **** S ****

Sullivans Cove:
"The Original Classic Sullivans Cove Single Malt Premium Whisky" is one of the few Australian whiskies, and easily a contender for the best - very much a case of the biggest fish in a small pond. From Tasmania, this single malt is pot distilled, oak-aged, and bottled at 40%. This whiskey bears no age statement; I'm told it's bottled at a rather juvenile 3 years. It has a quite distinctive flavour and aroma, which loses a little more appeal every time I have some. Grossly overpriced for the quality.
T ** S ****

Suntory Yamazaki:
This is a Japanese pure malt whisky, 12 years old. All of the hype on the bottle is in Japanese, so I don't know what claims are made for it. Certainly, it's a good, well-made whisky, but I found it very characterless, lacking the individuality of a good single malt. Reminded me a lot of blends like Johnnie Walker Black. 86 proof.
T *** S **

Thai whiskey, can't read the label other than the name and the proof (70), so I can't give too much detail. Smooth, mellow and fairly light. Reminds me very much of a good Canadian blended whisky, though with a different (and I think, better) flavour.
T ****

Talisker: 700 ml bottle box
A 10 year old single malt Scotch whisky, the only one made on Skye. This is bottled at 45.8% alcohol. It has a warm smokey aroma, and a bright and peppery, almost floral, minty taste, leaving a gentle lingering of peat smoke. Very approachable compared to some of the heavy-weight malts out there.
T *****

Tom Cobb:
Genuine Tom Cobb Australian Spirit is often sold as whiskey (despite the labelling) - at least it's whiskey coloured. But a whiskey it isn't. Might be made on a base of cane spirit. Smells sweet and lightly vanilla flavoured - definitely a case of artificial colouring (and probably flavouring too). Drinkable enough, quite smooth, and a decently pleasant flavour which would mix well woth coke. Claims to be based on an old style saddlebag whiskey - Australian goldfields moonshine - and named after a legendary outback moonshiner. Bottled at 40%, with a plastic Ned Kelly helmet on the lid.
T *** S ***

Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye:
``From Pappy Van Winkle's Private Stock'' comes this most tasty 13 year old rye. It's smooth and rich and very good. A refined and gentlemanly rye, without being soft and flabby. 47.8% alcohol, from a mash of 51% rye, 38% maize, and 11% barley malt. dins says ``Yum!''
T ***** dins *****

White Heather Blended Scotch Whisky: 50 ml bottle
Rather light in flavour for a cheap Scotch, this is probably a good thing, and makes it relatively inoffensive (for a cheap Scotch). It's drinkable, barely, and coming from us, that's better than a lot of others.
T ** G *

Wild Turkey Old No. 8 (86 proof):
Glen liked this one. It's the milder brother of the one below.
G ****

Wild Turkey Old No. 8 (101 proof): 375 ml bottle
This is Kentucky straight bourbon. For a 101 proof whiskey, it's rather mild and easy-drinking. Still, it's a good bourbon, it's smooth, and tastes good. Distilled from a mash of 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% barley malt.
T *** J *** G ****

Wild Turkey Rare Breed: 750 ml bottle
A Kentucky straight bourbon, barrel proof (108.8). Very good for bourbon. Expensive, and a bit strong for some. Good stuff, it's hard to get better without paying a lot of money. Glen - Cough, Choke, Splutter, it's f---en rocket fuel.
T **** G **

Wild Turkey 101 Proof Straight Rye Whiskey: One of the world's great whiskies. Intense, almost floral flavour. Bright in colour, bright in flavour. Superb, and flawless. Drink some today! Made from a mash of 65% rye, 23% maize, and 12% barley malt, with a 33% sour mash component.
T ***** G *****