The Best Scotch Whisky Gifts for Christmas
For us Scotch whisky fans, there’s few better Christmas experience than opening up a fresh bottle of Scotch. Scotch is, almost by definition, a winter’s drink, oozing smoky, wispy, hard to define flavours that are best served from the comforts of your cosy living room chair, its soothing burn best enjoyed over a late-night conversation. To that end, it’s a drink perfectly suited to the wonder of wintertime, fantastic for the release of frenetic wintertime activity.
For those of us that have pensively searched in wonder at names and bottles in supermarkets and shops for that perfect winter dram, the Whisky Ambassador has compiled our festive gift to you: a list that will hopefully ensure you can pick the right dram for you.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Single Malt Highland Whisky
Getting the least ‘fashionable’ single malt out of the way first, this excellent value standby malt is sourced from Iain McLeod Distillers, otherwise known as the owners of the Glengoyne distillery. You can expect rich flavours of vanilla fudge and fruit cake, with dark chocolate and orange notes and a gentle aroma of smoke to finish. This, alongside Aldi’s fantastic Glen Marnoch (Speyside) range, should be the go-to for Christmas supermarket drams.
Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Winter Storm
We’ll get the curveball out of the way early. At the hefty price point of £199, and one of Glenfiddich’s admirable ‘Experimental’ series, Winter Storm is one of the strangest drams on our list. ‘Winter Storm’ is aged in Canadian icewine casks, allowing the whisky to adopt qualities of the product without being overwhelmed by it.
Despite the title, you can expect notes of Turkish delight and tropical fruits, with hints of tropical lychee, to form an extra layer of sweetness from the wine-cask. One of the more interesting developments to come out of Glenfiddich for time, we reckon this would make a beautiful, if pricey Xmas present to that well-loved whisky connoisseur.
Talisker 10 Year Old
Returning to more ‘standard’ fare in terms of flavour and price, but with no reduction in drama or flavour, Skye’s Talisker is one of the most affordable on our list. A thick smokey flavour, combined with Talisker’s infamous sea-side breeze aroma are combined with subtle suggestions of fruits and peppery elements to combine for a long, satisfying finish. A very intimidating blend, and not for the faint of heart.
Bowmore Darkest 15 Year Whisky
Heading further into the darker side of the spectrum, this is a peaty addition from Islay’s Bowmore distillery, with a couple of interesting features added for good measure. Matured in sherry casks to give a nice sherry presence in the nose mixed with exotic spices. Featuring a thick, rich palate, the Bowmore darkest excels at those deep flavours, mixing caramel and syrup with a lighter butterscotch foundation, leading through to a spicey, sherry-flavoured finish.
Glen Scotia Victoriana
From Campbeltown comes Glen Scotia’s Victoriana Edition. A gorgeous oaky aroma is easily detected from the nose, mixed neatly with fruity, sugary flavours of raisins and cherries, along with a hint of orange. When it gets down to taste, we find a nice, smooth palate with consistent vanilla, caramel and raisins. This gives way to a long finish with cherries, vanilla and a touch of leather. Considering its strong ABV of 51.5%, the Victoriana is so smooth as to make it one of the easiest drinkers on this list, one sure to warm the cockles of your heart during the Christmas season.
Highland Park Valkyrie
For those wanting to buy their loved ones something to warm up with on Christmas day, the Highland Park is a well-priced entry into Highland Park’s new viking series. Featuring a sweet and aromatic nose combining aromas of nutmeg, and egg custard with a wisp of sweet spice and stewed fruit, the Valkyrie most expertly excels in matching Scotland’s exotic viking past with its flavours. A good weight and good mouthfeel from the get-go, well balanced by ripe fruit, only further enhanced by nutmeg, clove and ginger flavours. Sweet smoke is kept on the backburner, only occasionally surfacing and never dominating. Its finish is a battleground in which rich fruit and spice vie for domination with neither side winning out.
Bruichladdich Black Art 5.1 24 Year Old
Bruichladdich Distillery, located on the shores of Islay’s Loch Indaal, Bruichladdich have firmly decided to mark their territory on Scotch whisky’s dark side with the Black Art. The Black Art was new owner Adam Hannett’s first chance to wow whisky lovers with a new recipe under his tenure as head distiller. With a strange and dark nose, aromas of baby coconut mixed with dried fruits ala fig, dates and apricots can be detected in a powerful and dark aromatic mix, with vanilla bean, oak ester, dark chocolate, and brown sugar lingering up in the rafters. The palate is rough, mixing bitter oak tannins from European casks with peach, nectarines, mango and lemon. Mixing these yet further, American oak flavours hang back, with tones of honeycomb, marshmallow nougat and baker’s coconut being present to make for a bewildering but beautiful mix of flavours. Although at the pricier end of the spectrum, the Black Art is sure to confound and please any whisky aficionado who it makes it way to this christmas.
Longmorn, The Distiller’s Choice
Aimed at the ‘lower’ end of the market, the Longmorn makes a fantastic choice for the more budget-minded this Christmas. Aged in a wonderful combination of hogsheads, sherry casks and bourbon barrels, this is a whisky that smells like…whisky. Toffee notes abound, dried nuts and oakey and hessian hints. The Longmorn is easy on the palate, with just enough spice so as to keep things exotic enough, with a gorgeous hint of caramelly sweetness and a touch of marmalade for the finish, lingering just long enough to give way to barley/grassy notes.
Glen Elgin 12, 12 Year Old
Continuing our trend of whiskys on the more affordable end of the spectrum, few whiskies can claim to be both wonderful and affordable. The underrepresented, underrated Glen Elgin 12 has consistently stayed under the radar of many whisky connoisseurs, but its affordability makes it an excellent christmas gift, and its flavour a great dram to relax to. The nose is relatively closed at first, with simple sherry and fruits, giving way to honey, butter, pears, apples, bananas and all manner of summery, fruity flavours. The palate is thick, rich, mouth-coating. Tastes of caramel and indistinct sherry dominate, with other flavours of roasted malt, butter, bran and apples coming to the fore at various intervals. These give way to a much more roasted finish, combining elements of latte, butter, rich malt and molasses and honey. You may want to ditch your first impressions of the Glen Elgin 12. It’s not a ‘wow’-er, but it has a Speyside charm, with a thick, juicy texture and a dependable, rich taste far above its price.
Ardbeg are consistently fantastic across the board, with drams such as Uigeadail worthy of credit also. The Corryvreckan is perfect for Winter in that it represents a throat-grabbing, peaty, medicinal taste that remains endlessly evocative of the wet and windy Scottish winter, evoking images of standing on the fog-laden shorelines of the west coast and islands, with only a touch of sweetness lightening the mix. Peat and a sherry sweetness move out first on the nose, with sweet and savoury notes lingering in the background, tasting of vanilla, leather, smoked meat and a touch of baklava. On the palate, peat and a sticky sweetness slide across the tongue, leaving notes of sherry, dates and figs, along with touches of vanilla with a hard-to-place, dark, earthy tone. Water tends to kick up the dram’s spicy side. The finish is a long, slow fade of peat, dark fruit and leather, with touches of cinnamon rising to the fore.
We hope that these entries inspire you to find the perfect gift for the whisky aficionados in your life! As always, you will find our dedicated and accredited Whisky Ambassador courses taking place throughout December and the new year.