Whisky, the nectar of the gods
Whisky, the nectar of the gods
Image: 123RF / Donato Fiorentino

Whisky, often called the nectar of the gods (and understandably so), originated in Ireland and Scotland, where it evolved over centuries from humble beginnings to the globally popular drink it is today. We browsed through the whisky portfolios of these two countries to find the best of the best.

1. The Glenlivet, Founder’s Reserve

Nose: Citrus fruit, sweet orange

Palate: Zesty orange, pear, toffee apples

Finish: Long, creamy, smooth

History: The Glenlivet, Scotland’s first licensed distillery and industry ground breaker, is synonymous with Scotch whisky and its history. “The Glenlivet is the original,” says South African brand ambassador Isaac Pooe. “It’s been the Original Speyside Single Malt since 1824, setting the benchmark in taste, heritage, and exploration ever since.” Master distiller Alan Winchester, at the helm since 2009, has helped to entrench the brand as one of the world’s leading single malts. The inception of Founder’s Reserve has been the most compelling development of recent years: a multi-vintage whisky that triumphs with its ambitious trifecta of affordability, accessibility, and interest.

Wanted Says: Fruit compote in silky porridge.

The Glenlivet, Founder’s Reserve
The Glenlivet, Founder’s Reserve
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2. Midleton, Redbreast

Nose: Spicy, fruity aroma, with toasted wood notes

Palate: Spicy, creamy, fruity, sherry, and toasted notes

Finish: The complex flavours linger on the palate

History: Single-pot stills preside across Ireland. This once-dominant style, made from both malted and unmalted barley, is staging a rousing comeback, led by the Midleton Distillery. Midleton’s muscular pot-still portfolio — crafted by a team under various masters, including Billy Leighton (blending) and Brian Nation (distilling) — is making the rich, fruity, and spicy band of the flavour spectrum its own. Redbreast, the backbone of the style, is now the world’s best-selling single-pot still. The range numbers five delicious, aged expressions, but the 12-year-old remains the paterfamilias, exercising authority over both its stable and style through sheer force of character.

Wanted Says: Every day is Christmas with this baked melange of dark fruits.

Midleton, Redbreast
Midleton, Redbreast
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3. Aberlour, A’bunadh

Nose: Soft and rounded, with fruity notes of red apple

Palate: A fine, sherried character, with ginger spice.

Finish: Warming and lingering — sweet and slightly spicy.

History: Aberlour (pronounced Aber-lauer) has a special place among the country’s gems. This distillery, founded by James Fleming in 1879, boasts a culture of continuity and tradition.

The acclaimed A’bunadh, a mouthful in every sense, was recreated from a bottle dating back to 1898. And distilling chief Douglas Cruickshank, along with most of his team, has been forging these exceptionally balanced whiskies for about 25 years, notably including the metronomic 12-year-old.

Wanted Says: A ripe plum of a whisky that’ll never let you down.

Aberlour, A’bunadh
Aberlour, A’bunadh
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4. Powers, Signature Release

Nose: Crisp, herbal notes with nutmeg, fig, and pepper

Palate: Vanilla with black liquorice and cinnamon

Finish: Long, wonderfully complex honey and spice

History: James Power established a distillery at John’s Lane in Dublin in 1791, and Powers whiskey holds the distinction of being the first bottled whiskey in the world. Since then it’s built a reputation for bold to bursting, flavoursome whiskeys, one of latest examples of which is its Signature Release.

Wanted Says: A punchy combination of orchard fruits and sweet spices

Powers, Signature Release
Powers, Signature Release
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5. Spot Whiskeys, Yellow Spot

Nose: Honey and peaches from the Malaga casks

Palate: Honey sweetness with pot still spices

Finish: A mix of red grape and dry barley on exit

Powers: The Spot Whiskeys were named after the method of identifying the age of the casks used for their maturation — that is by daubing them with a spot of coloured paint. Yellow Spot, with its unusual mix of bourbon, sherry, and Malaga cask influences, delivers a succulent sweetness is that is uniquely special.

Wanted Says: A dripping honey pot infused with fruit and spice.

Spot Whiskeys, Yellow Spot
Spot Whiskeys, Yellow Spot
Image: Supplied

6. Midleton, Midleton

Nose: Elegant aroma of vanilla and toasted oak

Palate: Light pepper carries onto fresh citrus sweetness

Finish: The full spectrum of flavours lasts into the finish

History: Its eponymous whiskey is also the distillery’s most premium, with good reason. Whereas the others are overtly demonstrative, Midleton runs to subtlety, complexity, and refinement. The Barry Crockett Legacy takes its name from the distillery’s long-serving, now retired master distiller, a pivotal figure in the resurgence of Irish whiskey.

Wanted Says: Sweet creaminess and autumn leaves one moment, treacly honey, tart fruits, and tangy candy the next. It reveals one delight after the next — drink it in slow reflection of time well spent.

Midleton, Midleton
Midleton, Midleton
Image: Supplied
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