Here we are at the beginning of the holiday shopping season and gift buying is about to kick into high gear!
I’ll give you my top 12 bottles that would make a great holiday gift. Obviously, they are all bottles I’ve tasted, and many of them adorn my own whisky cabinet. A small note on exchange rates is in order: Post BREXIT, the exchange rates on the price categories have changed. However, stocks in stores were paid for before the Pound’s freefall, and thus relative pricing in stores has not actually changed, keeping our relative price bracket the same as they were in the 2015 edition.
I’ve put stars next to recommendations from last year that made the list again. I guess you could call them my house favorites by now 🙂
The rules? Easy:
- It has to be mass produced and widely available
- It has to be a bottle I’d be happy to get (hey, it’s my list….)
- It can be a limited edition if it fulfills conditions 1+2
Note that bottles are listed in a completely random order!
Category I – Up to £50 (Also €50-60 or $70)
1. Springbank 10
Springbank is Capmpeltown’s primary distillery, with every single aspect of the operation done manually, as it was done 100 years ago. The distillery employs some 70 staff, and takes pride in being a source of employment and contribution to the community.
This expression is a mixture of whisky matured in both bourbon and sherry casks, is mildly peated and is presented at 46% ABV in its natural color with no chill filtration. Simply great whisky!
2. Big Peat Christmas Edition 2016*
Big Peat is a favorite blended malt, and I reviewed this particular expression here. The 2016 edition gets a star for making the list again, though obviously last year’s recommendation was for last year’s edition 🙂
The 2016 edition is an “all Islay” edition, with whisky from all eight operational Islay distilleries, as well as from Port Ellen. This edition is somewhat softer than previous editions and seems to have some first fill ex bourbon casks adding some vanilla and coconut.
3. Bunnahabhain 12*
The Bunnahabhain 12 is definitely one of my all time favorite entry level whiskies, and serves as my go-to dram at home. You can probably expect this dram on next year’s list as well 😉
In conclusion of my review on this whisky, I wrote: “This is, to me, one of those bottles you can always go back to. Complex and layered, it’s not really a beginner’s dram, but one that will hold your interest regardless of how advanced you are in your whisky journey. It’s also a whisky that delivers one of the better value for money deals out there.”
4. Aberlour A’bunadh*
Now up to batch 56 (released just two weeks ago), this young but yummy cask strength whisky aged in first fill Oloroso sherry casks is a favorite.
Each batch has a different ABV, and is non chill filtered and is non colored. Any of the batches is a good choice, but I’ve heard that the current batch, 55, is one of the steller ones. I have only tasted up to batch 54 at the time of this writing.
5. Benromach 10 Year Old 100 Proof*
To me this is the highlight of the Benromach core range.
The sherry is rubust and vibrant on the nose, the peat owns the palate and the spice dominates the finish. It’s like each of the elements owns a part of the dram, and the higher ABV takes a great dram and elevates it to a whole new level.
6. Lagavulin 16
Despite being chill filtered and colored, this is still a great dram. The sherry and the peat work very well together and there’s a good reason this Islay dram is a staple in every whisky cabinet.
Another option is to try the Distiller’s Edition, which is the Lagavulin 16 with an extra finish in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, although that puts it in the next price bracket.
Category II – £50-£100 (Also €120 or $140)
7. Caol Ila “Unpeated Style”
This is a regular part of the Diageo Special Releases, with the 2016 edition being a 15 year old, but you can get the 2015 release, a 17 year old, still within this price bracket.
Bottled at cask strength, this bottling represents a lesser known face of Islay’s biggest distillery. Despite being unpeated, there’s an unmistakable smoky signature, placing the whisky pretty much at home on Islay.
8. Glen Garioch Renaissance Chapter 2 – 16 Year Old
I’m really hoping this one actually hits the stores in time for your holiday shopping. It was released in mid September, and I tasted it at the distillery in mid October. This is a 16 year old version of spirit that represents the Glen Garioch’s distillery character, and is the second in a series of four whiskies designed to express the house style of one of my favorite distilleries.
This expression was matured in both bourbon and sherry casks. At the distillery it costs £85, so it should be squarely in this price bracket when it hits the stores.
9. Glenfarclas 21*
The Glenfarclas 21 is a great value, and is definitely my favorite of the range (even more than the higher ups, barring perhaps the 40 year old).
This staunchly independent distillery is exteremely traditional in its approach to whisky making. On one hand, that creates a very consistent line of whiskys. On the other hand, most will find the one expression they favor and stick with it, as the variation between the expressions is relatively limited and they don’t “do” finishes. This is mine…
10. Deanston 18
Matured in bourbon casks, then finished in first fill bourbon casks, you get the best of both worlds. A soft spirit matured gently in refill bourbon casks with the vanilla and sweet honey punch of first fill bourbon casks. you can read my full review here.
Category III – Going All Out
11. Glengoyne 25*
If your Christmas gift budget includes bottles in this price range, this bottle is sure to get your intended recipient excited.
One of my alltime favorite sherry bombs, this whisky is well made and is truly a majestic dram, sitting right on the border between a sherry bomb and the old dusty sherry style.
12. Kavalan Solist Fino
Taiwan has become quite the whisky powerhouse, with Kavalan gaining more and more appreciation and recognition from single malt aficionados the world over. The Solist line – which is the distillery’s cask strength offerings – has included a bourbon, sherry, vihno and fino lineup for a long time. The sherry is a classic sherry bomb and the bourbon is one of the best specimens in the market for a clean bourbon matured whisky, while the fino was at the top of the range price wise.
This year, Kavalan released also editions matured in other sherry casks, namely Pedro Ximenez, Amontillado and Manzanilla sherry. Those I have yet to taste, so obviously, I can’t recommend any of them.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this selection in the comments!