Holiday Shopping Guide: Ten Great Whiskies To Buy
It has been a good year for new whiskey expressions, so there is no shortage of options. And I would recommend something new to the market to help the receiver usher in a new year.
Sure, you can buy your Glenmorangie or Glenlivet loving gift recipient a bottle of 12-year old. But put a bit more thought into it, and a bit more brass, and you can turn a grin into a broad smile. For holiday gift-giving, I always thing it's better to give someone a limited edition or otherwise special expression of the brand they prefer. The other route to go is to introduce them to something unique in the category that will capture their interest and sense of curiosity.
These days, almost every brand of Scotch, Irish or American whiskey has a "special," whether it's a single-barrel, cask-strength, extra-aged or barrel-finished.
Here are some gift suggestions of new whiskies Luxist has tried this year and reviewed. Most of these will be found at better whiskey shops in major cities, as well as duty-free travel retail, rather than the corner store.
Gallery: Holiday Shopping: Ten Great Whiskies
Last winter record snowfalls in Scotland blanketed much of the Highland region along the river Spey. The snow covered many of the warehouses where scotch whisky is aged, and even brought down the roofs on several. Distillery workers were left clamoring to dig out the barrels and find alternative housing for them on short notice. Glenfiddich took advantage of the conditions to create a unique single malt. Called the Snow Phoenix, the special bottling marries cask-strength, non-chill-filtered casks of various ages and finishes to create a unique malt with tasting notes of apples, pears and honey. A strictly limited quantity of bottles will hit select markets and duty-free shops around the world at $89.99 per 75cl bottle.
2. Whistle Pig Rye
For the Rye Drinker, and they are a particular bunch, you can try to find a Whistle Pig, a 100% Straight Rye. The whiskey is hand selected by Dave Pickerell, master distiller at this Vermont distillery, and retails for $69.99 for a 750ml bottle. It's aged in new American oak barrels for a minimum of 10 years, and is hand bottled in Vermont's Champlain Valley at WhistlePig Farm.
3. Bowmore Tempest Single Malt
Named after the beating waves of Loch Indaal that have slapped against the Bowmore distillery since its establishment in 1779, Tempest has been aged for ten years, embracing the peaty and smokey flavor while balancing it intricately. It's the second small batch bottling released recently by Bowmore, but the first being made available in North America. Arriving on shelves in December – right on time for the holiday season to the potential delight of the connoisseur among your loved ones – the Bowmore Tempest carries a suggested price of $100.
4. Compass Box Tenth Anniversary Edition
Compass Box is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the brand with a new expression called Flaming Heart blend. Price: $80.00
For Flaming Heart, Glaser says he sought to create an unusual balance among sweet, peat and spice. There are only 4,000 bottles on the market, making it both a special gift and potential collectible.
5. Glenlivet Founders Reserve
With a rich citrus nose and palate of clementines, caramel, cinnamon and raisins, the Founders Reserve is available in strictly limited quantities at $375 per 750ml bottle. Call one of the better whisky shops in your city to see if they stock it, or can obtain it in time for gift giving.
6. Ballantine's 17-Year Old Blended Scotch Whiskey
Not a new release, but it was named #1 whisky in the world in the 2010 edition of The Whisky Bible by author and influential whisky rater Jim Murray. That makes it eminently worth giving to not only the Ballantine's fan, but just about any blended scotch drinker with a nose for quality. Priced around $86.00, it is a steal if you can find it at this price. Balantine's has also issued a Christmas Reserve, which is excellent and obviously captures the holiday spirit.
7. Maker's Mark #46
The first non-limited expression from the Kentucky Bourbon house. A slightly higher proof Bourbon expression that has been finished in barrels containing toasted oak staves for several extra months of aging. The staves, in fact, are seared on the outside. The result: a Maker's Mark Bourbon with slightly less sweetness and vanilla, and a bit more earthy cinnamon. And while I have read other reviewers comment that they thought #46 was hotter on the tongue than standard Maker's Mark, I had the opposite reaction. #46, to me, is a bit quieter on the tongue and has a smoother finish than regular Maker's despite the higher alcohol content. Price $37.00. For the Bourbon lover and Rye lover, I also still recommend introducing your recipient to Bulleit Bourbon, a delicious expression, priced about $30.00 that is still gaining distribution but is still unknown to many.
8. Glenmorangie Finealta
Glenmorangie has recently launched this new whisky in its Private Edition line.
The word "Finealta" translates as "elegant" from the Scottish Gaelic. It is a recipe with historic significance as it is a recreation of a Glenmorangie recipe dating back to 1903. The century-old recipe was uncovered in the distillery's archives. Price: 85.00.
9. Jim Beam Six Grain Signature
Bourbon maker Jim Beam has introduced a new six-grain expression. Available only through travel retail (duty-free), Jim Beam Signature comes from mingling spirits distilled from corn, rye, barley, wheat, triticale and brown rice. Price 29.99 Euros.
if your gift recipient is pen to new tastes and whisky experiences, consider buying a bottle of Amrut from India. Available now at better whiskey shops, see if you can get Amrut Fusion, which was named third best whisky in the world in 2009. But there are a few other expressions. All are interesting and worthwhile. And it will be sure to create conversation, and possibly a tasting party. Price $60.00