Here we are just twelve days before Christmas (and it’s the first day of Hanukkah), and gift buying is at its height!
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.
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. Aberlour A’bunadh
53 batches strong, 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. While the batches are all good, some are better than others. Specifically, the current batch, batch 53, is said to be particularly good.
2. Big Peat Christmas Edition 2015
Big Peat is a favorite blended malt, and I reviewed this particular expression here.
In short, when you think of a cold night with a fire roaring in the fireplace, this is what you want in your glass. Young and fresh, there’s something soft in it like the smell of a new log cabin, with the pine resin still faintly noticeable.
Another option: Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster. Fabulous malt blend, of which I can only wish it was also available in cask strength.
3. Aultmore 12
One of the big surprises for me last year was this expression. Released at 46% ABV and at natural color, this is a beautiful dram (reviewed here)
When Dewar’s announced that alongside the long standing bottlings from Aberfeldy they’ll be bottling single malts from all their distilleries (Aultmore, Royal Brackla, McDuff AKA Deveron and Craigellachie) and doing so at 46% without chill filtration, I rejoiced. The Craigellachie 13 was a little less to my taste, but the Aultmore hit it right on the head.
Sadly, the new Deveron and Brackla expressions were released at 40%.
4. Bunnahabhain 12
Definitely one of my all time favorite entry level whiskies, and my go-to dram at home.
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.
5. Clynelish 14
Despite being chill filtered and colored, this is still a great dram. Waxy, dry, floral and citrusy, this is a staple whisky in any collection.
This is a classic every day dram. It won’t blow you off your chair, but it will also never disappoint you, and you can see my review of it here.
I had a hard time deciding if I wanted to recommend this whisky or the Lagavulin 16, which is equally dependable, just on the peated side. Since the Laga will make an appearance in the next bracket, I chose the Clynelish.
6. 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.
Category II – £50-£100 (Also €120 or $140)
7. Lagavulin 12
This is a regular part of the Diageo Special Releases, with the 2015 edition being the 15th release.
Bottled at cask strength out of great ex bourbon casks, this is a perennial favorite. There is some variance from year to year, but overall this is a great expression with a lot of consistency.
8. GlenDronach 21 Parliament
Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez aged GlenDronach spirit, from the time that the stills were direct fired. This gives a coal smoke quality to the whisky, which is a pleasure to pick out from under the sherry.
This expression takes the term ‘heavily sherried’ to new heights. The PX imparts a very heavy sweetness, and it’s a real sipper for those long winter nights.
Why is it called “Parliament”? You can find the answer in my full review here.
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 as they don’t “do” finishes. This is mine…
10. Laphraoig 18
This is probably the last year that you’ll be able to get this expression as it’s, sadly, designated for discontinuation.
Milder and deeper than the 10 year old, and somewhat different than the 15 year old, this is, nevertheless, a modern Laphroaig.
If the recipient of your gift likes peat, they’ll love this expression.
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 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. Talisker 30
Originally, both the 25 and the 30 year old Taliskers were part of Diageo’s annual Special Releases series, and at that point they were released at cask strength.
Both were taken off “special release” status in 2011 and reduced to 45.8% ABV, now part of the core range of the distillery.
You can find my full review here. As far as core range whiskies go, this one is right up there at the pinnacle, and a bottle I would love owning.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this selection in the comments!