Here we are at the beginning of the holiday shopping season again, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday so gift buying is about to kick into high gear! Should we perhaps institute Whisky Wednesday for crazy sales on amber joy? I’ll start with this post!
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.
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!
Small tip: The Kilkerran 12 will do just as well with a nice bow around the tube 🙂
2. Big Peat Christmas Edition 2017*
I have a small disclaimer here: during 2017 I was appointed to serve as Douglas Laing’s brand ambassador in Israel. Having disclosed that, I will still go on to recommend Big Peat Christmas Edition, as it made the list for the past two years, and did not become any less of a great gift because of my appointment.
This is a fun expression, that will leave your loved one ashy mouthed and smiling 🙂
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 60 (released just this week), 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, and while there are some variations, they’re pretty small.
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. Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
Islay’s other 1881 distillery (with Bunnahabhain) makes unpeated whisky under the Bruichladdich label, and heavily peated whisky under the Port Charlotte label (and, of course super peated whisky under the Octomore label).
I’m especially fond of the Port Charlotte, as peat works quite well for Bruichladdich, and the whisky lacks that signature lactic notes the unpeated whisky has.
If your recipient is a peathead, this is the whisky to get them…
Category II – £50-£125 (Also €115 or $130)
7. Balblair 1990 (2nd Release)
Balblair’s somewhat weird labeling system uses vintages rather than age statements. On its own, that wouldn’t be that weird, only that they release different batches of the same vintage without saying anything but bottling year. Thus, you’ll have identical Balblair 1990 that are 24 and 26 years old, which you’ll know only if you look at the label.
Either way, this is a lovely to express your love…
8. Balvenie Peat Week 2002
This is Balvenie’s first foray into real peated whisky (I’m discounting their use of peated casks in some older 17 year old expressions as a finish). Since 2002 (but not in 2007, for some reason), Balvenie spends one week each year distilling their home malted peated malt.
What’s it like? Well, for starters, it’s really nothing like Islay peat. The Highland peat is heathery and non maritime, and has none of the medicinal qualities you’d expect from an Islay malt.
In fact, it will remind you of the Glen Garioch of old, when the distillery still used its own malt, way back before 1993. I’ll just say that those who know this blog, know exactly what the last sentence means in terms of a recommendation…..
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…
Category III – Going All Out (Over £100)
10. Diageo Collectivum XXVIII
This is the first blended malt (“vatted malt” of old) in the Diageo Special Releases, and has been blended by a very deft hand. It’s not only special, it’s really good too, and while being NAS, it gives the impression that thought was given to the final product, presented at 57.3%.
This bottle includes malt from each of the 28 working Diageo distilleries (hence the XXVIII): Auchroisk, Benrinnes, Blair Athol, Caol Ila, Cardhu, Clynelish, Cragganmore, Dailuaine, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glen Elgin, Glenkinchie, Glenlossie, Glen Ord, Glen Spey, Inchgower, Knockando, Lagavulin, Linkwood, Mannochmore, Mortlach, Oban, Roseisle, Royal Lochnagar, Strathmill, Talisker and Teaninich.
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 Amontillado
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.
Last year, Kavalan also released editions matured in other sherry casks, namely Pedro Ximenez, Amontillado, Manzanilla sherry as well as Moscatel and rum. Having tasted all those, I can tell you that I’d love to have a Kavalan Amontillado under my tree (or menorah).
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this selection in the comments!