Top five whiskies

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We’ve picked five classic drams if you fancy a last-minute bottle for tonight.

1 Talisker 10-year-old

It may be the youngest of our picks, but don’t be fooled: Talisker packs a punch. Skye’s only distillery is famed for its “maritime” whiskies, influenced by the wild winds, sea mists and rugged climate of the island. (And the intense smokiness of a dram certainly calls for a snug fireside while storms rage elsewhere…) Occasionally described as “challenging” we think the sweet/savoury/peppery maltiness is a appetite sharpener well worthy of inclusion in any Burn’s night. £35 at www.thedrinkshop.com

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2 Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Characterised by a medicinal/TCP type flavour, Laphroaig falls into the Marmite love/hate category. We love it. At a recent tasting, the bottle which really stood out for us was the Quarter Cask, a whisky – as the name suggests – matured in a smaller than usual barrel. The peatiness (and TCP-notes) are softened by rich vanilla, orange, and over-ripe fruit. Heart-warming, delicious drinking. www.royalmilewhiskies.com

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3 Glenmorangie 18-year-old

This Highland producer is constantly pioneering new expressions of its whisky, packaged in ever shinier bottles. Sometimes, though, it’s good to revisit the age expressions on which Glenmo has built its deservedly excellent reputation, such as this 18-year-old. It’s a dram worth taking some time over: when pondering the flavours, we thought it was reminiscent of marmalade, nuts and caramel. £73 at www.thewhiskyexchange.com

4 Glenfiddich Solera Reserve 15-year-old

This best-selling Speyside brand has long been an Esquire favourite (a fact only slightly influenced by the fact we’re trying the extremely rare 40-year-old at a Burn’s supper tonight). The 12-year-old baby of the range makes excellent, elegant drinking. But for something a little more unusual (yet still crowd-pleasing) opt for the Solera Reserve, which, after its 15 years’ ageing, is transferred into a solera vatting system. Flavour-wise, think delicate spice, vanilla, pear and honey combining into a silky mouthful. £36 at www.thedrinkshop.com

5 The Macallan 12-year-old

Described by whisky-tasting legend Michael Jackson as “The Rolls-Royce of single malts”, this is a distillery worth getting to grips with. Produced near Easter Elchies house in Speyside, The Macallan has been making sherry-matured whiskies since its inception in 1824, though 2004 saw the introduction of the Fine Oak range matured in bourbon barrels. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the two, but for the purposes of this 25 January, we’re opting for the latter: a light, toasty, creamy dram, that’s best served neat. Address the haggis, toast the lassies — in fact, find any excuse possible to pour another dram. £25 at www.royalmilewhiskies.com