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Buying Guide

How to Choose Your Perfect Dram

One of the most exciting things about Scotch whisky is the abundance of different flavours that can be experienced and the huge number if different bottles to choose from. Of course the sheer volume of whisky choices can make finding your perfect dram or choosing a gift a bit overwhelming. 

We want you to feel happy and confident with your choice, so we've designed this page to help you make the right selection.

Remember if you're looking for a particular distillery or brand you can just enter it into the search box, top right or use the A-Z of single malts page to locate it.

If after using our buying guide you're still unsure, please call us for advice on 0800 4 94475 or email us

Let's get started.  Choose the closest match from the list below.

I am buying a gift

I am new to whisky and want to learn while I'm tasting

I know what sort of flavours I enjoy and want help to narrow down the choice.

I'm stuck in a rut and want to step up to the next level, but want to try something different without too much risk




 Help Section

I am buying a gift

Choose one of the following:

I would like a gift pack or a non-whisky gift, i.e. glassware, whisky stones, whisky art

I know the brand/distillery that  the person I'm gifting usually drinks and I want to buy that

I know the brand/distillery that  the person I'm gifting usually drinks, but I'd like to buy something different that they will still enjoy.

I have no idea what the person I'm gifting normally drinks




I know what sort of flavours I enjoy and want help to narrow down the choice.

Select to "Choose by Style" and pick the flavours that you are looking for







I'm stuck in a rut and want to step up to the next level, without too much risk

OK, so you keep buying and drinking the same whisky, but suspect  that there are other delicious options out there. Welcome to the quest for the perfect dram.

You can approach this in three different ways:

Either try a different whisky from the same region, (Use our "Choose by Region" option)


Follow the advice we give to whisky newbies on how to map out a learning experience. Take the region that you are used to sampling and move up or down a level. 


Identify the type of flavours you enjoy and select something different that fits the same profile. 



Find a particular whisky.

If you know the brand or distillery you are after, simply enter it into the search box top right




Whisky Alternative Chart


Whisky Alternative Chart

Usual Dram

Try one of these


Stronachie 10 and 18 yo

Dun Bheagan Speyside



Arran 14 yo







Stronachie 10 yo

Dun Bheagan Highland

JW Black label


Royal Brackla

Fat trout



Dun Bheagan Highland


Famous grouse

Dun Bheagan Speyside

Arran 10 yo

Fat trout

Stronachie 10 yo




Arran 12 yo


Coal Ila

Magilligan ‘peated’



Arran Machrie moor


‘As we get it’

Coal Ila

Dun Bheagan Islay 8yr

Cask Islay


Arran 14 yo






Buying for someone when you don't know what they like

If you're buying a gift for someone and you have no idea what their taste in whisky is it is safest to stick to the Speyside and Highland region. These whiskies fall into the centre of the whisky flavour profile, neither too light nor too smoky.

Here are some suggestions that have proved popular gifts in the past:

Under $100

Bank Note 5 yo Blended Scotch  A premium blend with a high single malt content

Stronachie 10 yo This whisky has a story attached about the lost distillery

Glengoyne 10 yo A pure expression from the Highlands

Glenmorangie  A well known brand with plenty of variety and excellent pricing. Choose a flavour from different cask finishes.

Something with a little age $100 - $200

Arran 14 yo single malt.  Sweet and salty from the Isle of Arran

Stronachie 18 yo Slightly spicy, full bodied

Glenmorangie 18 yo Extremely Rare Well priced and balanced, vanilla, spice and nuts

Arran Smugglers Vol II: "The High Seas"  A bottle hidden within a book. A limited edition whisky for someone really special. Fruity, spicy, with a salty note and a faint whiff of smoke on the finish. Good drinking, but if kept will become collectable.

Johnnie Walker Platinum Stewed fruit, malty cereal, smooth creamy vanilla, fragrant, almonds and tangerines, with the faintest whiff of smoke

Old, Rare or collectable

If you really want to push the boat out, check out our old and rare collection





I am new to whisky and want to learn while I'm tasting

If you're a whisky newbie or you just want to learn more about whisky, a good way to go about it is to staircase through the different regions.

Here's a breakdown of the regions ordered in a way that will help you appreciate the differences.

Make sure that you keep some whisky in each bottle, so that when you have a full set you can sit down and compare them all. 

If you haven't already, why not sign up to our newsletter and get The Whisky Shop Top Secret Fact File FREE. This will give you the information you need to start appreciating whisky, plus we'll send you other tips and information

The Lowlands

The Lowlands region is mainly covered in carboniferous rock. This tends to give the whisky crisp, dry flavours. Unusually for Scotland they are often triple distilled which adds a smoothness and lightness to the whisky. Examples of Lowland whiskies are Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie. For a slightly cheaper alternative start with the Dun Bheagan Lowland Malt

The Highlands

The Highlands are covered with a variety of rock including granite, sandstone and limestone. Snow melt seeps into the rock and emerges in the mountain springs, running through the heather covered ground. Common flavours are floral and heathery with low or no peat content. Culturally peat is not commonly used, although there are always exceptions, i.e. Clynelish is mildly smoky. For a really classic Highland Malt try Glengoyne, Glenmorangie or Dun Bheagan Highland Malt.

 The Speyside Region

Here, most distilleries began as illicit stills, hidden in isolated locations, drawing water from the mountain springs that feed the river Spey. It is commonly held that the perfect factors exist to make the perfect dram. Hard granite rock, reluctant to release minerals into the water and hillsides covered in peat and heather contribute to soft acidic water, perfect for making whisky. Try the sherried Glenfarclas or Aberlour or for something spicier the Craigellachie. On a budget? go for the Dun Bheagan Speyside Malt


This region lies on the Mull of Kintyre. It is small but not insignificant in style and was a major producer in the Victorian era. Whiskies tend to exhibit a mix of characteristics from both the Highlands and Islands Fine examples include Springbank and the slightly softer Glen Scotia.

 The Islands

Surrounded by sea, briny, seaweedy winds add saltiness to the peaty soils. Heather completes the picture. Try sweet and salty Arran, smoky Talisker from the Isle of Skye or Highland Park from Orkney.


Here lays the oldest rock in Scotland and from it runs water to the distilleries of Bowmore and Bruichladdich. Culturally whiskies from this region are malty and peaty, peat being the traditional and plentiful fuel used in the kilning process. Seaweed lends a medicinal quality to Laphroaig and bog myrtle gives the whiskies a sweet nose and a bitter flavour. Also definitely worth trying are the Cask Islay and the Dun Bheagan Islay Malt.

Other Whiskies.

Once you've worked you way through the Scottish regions, why not expand your experience and try some whisky from other countries. Check out our International Selection here.