A gift of whisky is not just about the pleasure it brings to the recipient with its aroma and taste but also about the enjoyment to be had from sharing it with friends or from those evenings when it makes a philosopher of you as you sit and ponder the meaning of life with a dram in your hand. So, with Christmas approaching this might be the time to sit down and compile your own whisky wish list or to think about what you might treat someone else to. If you are buying for someone else you might also like to check out our handy guide on how to select the right whisky and also browse our general Christmas gift guide for a selection of whiskies, brandies, liqueurs, gin, rums, vodka, champagne & stocking fillers that are ideal for Christmas Gifts.
Our recent new arrivals are a great place to look for Christmas present inspiration and include something among them for all tastes. One of the most exciting is perhaps the first generally available bottling of the Cotswolds Distillery single malt, and as we were both born and bred in Warwickshire it’s a real thrill to be able to sell a whisky made in our home county. We’ve made several trips up to the distillery, both before and since it began producing, and have been impressed by the extremely talented team up there – and when you see the knowledge and passion that has gone into creating this you know it’s going to be good. This early Batch is from the first year of production and would make an ideal (and very affordable!) present for any whisky lover or as a treat to yourself. Stocks are very limited at the moment though so you’ll need to be quick to bag a bottle for Christmas! We can also thoroughly recommend the extremely moreish Cotswold Cream Liqueur…
If you’re looking for a good all rounder then you can’t go wrong with a whisky from the Tomatin range. Always well respected as a constituent of blends, in recent years the focus at Tomatin has been on growing the range of single malts. It is a great example of a Highland whisky – rich, fruity and full of character but with a delightful softness, with differing ages and cask types being used to enhance various aspects of the spirit. For example, the 12 year old is matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, which give sweet, ripe apple and pear flavours, while the 14 year old has been in a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-tawny port casks, resulting in red berry, honey and toffee notes. Most recently, the new limited series called the Five Virtues has displayed the interplay of the five different elements with the Tomatin spirit, and the current two releases featuring Fire (matured in heavily charred oak) and Earth (a peated whisky) have proved extremely popular.
For something a little lighter in style there is the new triple distilled Benromach. This is a real departure for Benromach as not only is it the first triple distilled whisky they’ve produced but it has also been matured in ex-bourbon casks rather than the sherry casks more usual for the distillery. Described as having notes of strawberry, elderflower and vanilla on the nose, and being smooth, sweet and fruity on the palate, finishing with the trademark Benromach whiff of smoke, this is an elegant whisky.
Of course, this is the ideal time of year for a warming, peaty whisky and they don’t always have to be of the heavy, medicinal Islay style. Tomatin’s 2006 Cu Bocan is one of these more lightly peated expressions, with light, earthy smoke and warm winter spice flavours. It is a limited edition bottling and comes complete with a free whisky glass. Moving up a gear is the very first Balvenie Peat Week release, a single vintage expression that is produced during the one week a year that Balvenie use peat to dry their barley. Despite the high peating level (30ppm) the Speyside nature of the whisky, the use of Highland peat as opposed to Islay peat, and maturation in American oak all combine to produce a well rounded, smooth whisky that Balvenie describe as ‘peat smoke balancing citrus flavours, oaky vanilla and blossom honey’.
Of the big hitters on the peated front we can thoroughly recommend the wonderful new release from Compass Box called No Name (so that the whisky may speak for itself. Don’t you just love it when your dram’s name is an oxymoron…). We have become addicted to this fabulous blended malt, whose main constituent is from the distillery that is situated along Pier Road in the Southeast of Islay, and peat lovers who have tried it in the shop have bought it immediately. Compass Box’s description of this whisky as ‘massive in terms of the intensity and complexity of flavour; a whisky brimming with complex peatiness, but tempered with hints of fruit character and an underlying sweetness’ is bang on and this may be one where you don’t want to follow the CB ethos of ‘Share and Enjoy’!
With so many whisky expressions available then giving or receiving a tasting pack of 5cl miniatures can help to narrow down choices for future purchases. It can also demonstrate how the age of a whisky and the cask it’s matured in can produce varying flavours and aromas, even within whiskies from a single distillery. A great example of this is the Tomatin pack of three drams as the whiskies not only differ in age but also the The Legacy has been matured in Bourbon and Virgin Oak casks, the 12 year old in Bourbon and Sherry casks, and the 14 year old in Port casks. They are all delightful but each one is distinctly different. Or for a straight forward comparison of the influence of age, Arran Distilleries Gift Tin contains the 10, 12 and 14 year old versions of this always popular whisky but the joker in the pack is the 12 year old, which is a cask strength expression (53.9%) that gives the chance to experience the whisky exactly as it came from the cask.
Perennial favourites for gift giving are the 20cl and 35cl size bottles and gift packs. These give whisky lovers an excellent opportunity to sample drams from distilleries both large and small to see if the style of whisky is to their taste, or to try a different version of their usual favourite. From the smooth and refined Edradour 10 year old to the ‘knock your socks off’ (in a good way!) Glenfarclas 105, there’s something for everyone. There’s also a chance to impress with bottles of premium whiskies that would normally break the budget at Christmas time but in these smaller bottles become a lot more affordable, so whether it’s a Glenfiddich 21 year old or the famous Johnnie Walker Blue Label giving one of these could make you the recipient’s favourite person! These may not be full sized bottles but there’s certainly enough to share so if you’re a fellow whisky lover try and be around when they open them…
Finally, we have the perfect gift for a whisky loving ornithologist – a selection of Royal Doulton decanters modelled as owls and falcons and filled with Whyte and Mackay whisky.
If you need any help with selecting whiskies, brandies, liqueurs, gin, rums, wine or champagne for Christmas then contact us or call in to the shop and we’ll be pleased to assist you.
Fran and Ken