The Edinburgh Whisky Blog Towers are showing cracks in foundations and are leaning slightly towards east (“always head East, there must be civilisation somewhere there!”). Under the unbearable burden of letters, cards and mail pigeon guano, floors inside the buildings are flexing and trembling. Our Personal Assistants and Office Administrators, as well as seasonal staff, brought in bunk-beds and don’t bother going home these days, someone has to answer all the phone calls. We have just received a message from Google saying they’ll have to seriously expand their server facilities in Mountain View, just to be able to accommodate all the emails flooding our inbox. We even got a fax, bloody hell.
Where is all the attention coming from you may ask. Why oh why, all of a sudden billions of people decided to contact our Edinburgh HQ? Now this may surprise you, but they are all asking the same question:
“What whisky should I give you for Christmas?”
Instead of licking billion+ stamps and posting correspondence to everyone who enquired, we are once and for all settling this issue by posting our Ultimate Guide To Buying Whisky For Christmas. And although it has been created solely to give our dear readers ideas on what to get for us, some of you (those redirected here from search engines for example, poor confused souls) may also use our advice to buy whisky presents (and this is one foolish idea!) for your actual friends and family members.
Under £20. Nice and cheap.
We know that not all of our readers are Saudi Sheiks and Russian oil magnates. As a matter of fact, some of you are on the national minimum in countries where there is no national minimum… what we are trying to say is that some people don’t have much money, because they foolishly choose to do honest work. Here are some low-cost options for you.
1. Malt Whisky Yearbook 2010. At £12.95 this is as low as you can go without actually being offensive. Yet still, at this minuscule budget, The Malt Whisky Yearbook 2010 delivers enough joy and genuine value to a whisky aficionado to be considered a wee treat. It is comprehensive, up-to-date and contains all the information you will ever need. It has a permanent place in our man-bags and Edinburgh Whisky Blog wouldn’t be what it is without it. But our favourite thing about it is that it lists all the cool whisky websites… go figure. Get it from the publisher.
Who? Practically anyone who likes whisky, the perfect all rounder gift.
2. Glenmorangie Original. You can’t go wrong with this whisky. It’s elegant, clean, flavoursome and, above all, Christmassy! Vanilla, citrus and white chocolate dominate and make you want more and more and more (a dangerous session whisky perhaps). But the best thing about it is that you can pick one up from a supermarket just inside £20, we got a bottle last year for £18.99! The packaging is not to everyone’s taste but you can’t deny it is quite classy. The Glenmorangie ticks all the whisky-present boxes. Remember, don’t pay up with online retailers, head to Tesco’s…
Who? Again, practically anyone. But probably suited best to a person who likes it light and sweet.
3. Old Pulteney 12. This is a classic and classics rarely come cheap. But Old Pulteney 12 is a fantastic exception! All the Pulteney house style, assertive citrus and pineapple, fizzyness and saltiness on the palate, great flavour delivery… for £20 exactly, just saw it at this price in Sainsbury’s.
Who? A tricky one. They say everyone likes Pulteney but that’s not true. I think it will suit a person with a fairly educated palate, appreciation for balance and a savoury tooth.
4. A signed copy of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible (update!). Signed and dedicated by the author. Not only it is quite a nice personalised present for someone who cares about what Jim Murray says, but also it comes to you at rather sweet £8.24 (which is 25% off the standard retail price). We know we have not always been nice to Jim, had a few issues with him being totally biased, but hey, it’s Christmas. Even Jim Murray deserves a plug. Thanks a million to Penderyn for the tip-off, the code you need for the check-out is available for everyone on Penderyn’s Facebook page.
Who? Someone who likes rating things out of a hundred or a sucker for signed books. But seriously? Useful for everyone as a reference.
£20 – £50. Why not?
After all it’s Christmas, right? Why not reach that little bit deeper into your pocket… But mind you, if you are on £20k+, better move on straight to the next section. Don’t be a stereotypical tight-fisted Scot, eh?
1. The Spice Tree. This is the most Christmas-present-suited whisky we can think of in this price range, and by some distance! Big and robust yet not overpowering and perfectly balanced, The Spice tree will definitely deliver in terms of the sensory experience. Additionally, the packaging is quite simply gorgeous and will look rather dapper under your Christmas tree! And don’t forget about that fantastic rebellious background! The price is really good for what it is, around £34 plus postage and packaging… worth browsing around for a deal, but if you need it quickly and you want a reliable retailer go to The Whisky Exchange. Read our recent full review of The Spice Tree here.
Who? The whisky itself is big, spicy and sweet so around Christmas it will appeal to many people. The packaging makes it a perfect present for someone with a feel for aesthetics… a female perhaps?
2. Ardbeg Uigeadail. For someone who likes peat smoke aroma, like us, Ardbeg Uigeadail is the jackpot gift this Christmas. And it’s not as picey as it used to be. Bottled at cask strength, it is a vatting of many different vintages of Ardbeg, including some from 1974! Deep, smoky, fruity, chocolaty and diesel-like. A beast of a whisky. Again, worth having a good look around for a deal. The best one we have found is by the Master of Malt, £39.95. Done and dusted.
Who? Not a beginner’s dram? Probably not. It’s cask strength and a smoky-oily behemoth of a whisky. Get it if you know your target is not afraid of flavour. Forget all the lager bhoys…
3. Arran 1996 ‘Peacock’. One of our favourites, if not THE favourite whisky of 2009. It offers very honest, bright nose and spectacular flavour. Strong sweet bourbon cask influence but the distillery style still shining through, one hell of a dram. And it’s a perfectly safe present too, no way your target has it in his/her collection and, quite frankly, everyone likes it! It was a very limited release and only a few places on the web still have it in stock, one of them being the ever-reliable Whisky Exchange. They are currently charging £36.99 which is much more than it originally retailed for, but it proves this wee whisky is spot on. Read what we thought about it when we tasted it some time ago.
Who? An aficionado. Arran is not mainstream and, however the fan-base is growing, it is still not widely recognised. But a person who knows whisky will appreciate this bottling. And if they don’t like the juice, smack them over the head with the bottle.
4. Blanton’s Gold Edition. A single cask bourbon par excellence. We’ve tried it early on this year and we have fallen in love. It’s liquid honey and marzipan, superb stuff bottled at cask strength, no prisoners. It comes in a super pretentious bottle (sorry for poor quality picture, we couldn’t find anything decent we could legally use) and a presentation box, which is the very quintessence of Christmas, right? It will go great with all the Christmas puddings and cakes. Just inside £50 from The Whisky Exchange.
Who? Probably someone who already has no teeth as any more than 25ml will actually dissolve bone tissue, it’s that sweet! The packaging will appeal to someone who plays golf, drives a Jaguar and has a lover.
£50 – £100. For someone special.
Probably the most usual Christmas pressie budget for that special person, right? Or am I just thinking student again? We have selected three treats from three very different places – Japan, America and Scotland. They all have one important thing in common and it’s their stupendous quality.
1. Yamazaki 18. Otherwise known as the Father Christmas of all whiskies. This mature Japanese beauty is worth dying for. People who drink it say it sometimes gives them near-death experience, the tunnel, the light and all the jazz. A truly inspired thick and robust whisky with strong sweet sherry, chocolate and dried fruit aromas. The sleek black packaging and Japanese writing on the box will bring a touch of true Orient class under your Christmas tree. Currently £59.95 from Master of Malt.
Who? Me! Buy one for me!!!
2. Balvenie 17 Madeira Cask. Another limited edition here. But this time offering a very agreeable flavour profile to suit every palate and compliment the all-sweet Christmas madness. We have tried it some time ago, read more here if you have time. Honey, vanilla, fruit compote, dried plums and fresh grapes… sounds good? Don’t think twice. Don’t be shy and get it from the distiller. They’re charging £69.99 and have some sort of a hipflask deal if you dig deeper.
Who? Your dad or granddad perhaps. It’s nice and classy, simple packaging and great flavour. Also, the brand is widely recognised so they’ll know it.
3. Sazerac Straight Rye 18. First and foremost – we haven’t actually tried it. It’s well beyond full time student’s whisky budget and we don’t get samples from America or, far that matter, UK bourbon distributors. But everyone is absolutely raving about it, not least Jim Murray who rated it 97.5% in the newest Whisky Bible and pronounced it the best whisky in the world, even above his beloved Ardbeg Supernova. It’s super hot stuff but Master of Malt have it in stock for £89.95. They also provide tasting notes. Hurry up with this one, you won’t be the only one trying to get it just before Christmas!
Who? A person who cares about what Jim Murray says of course. But seriously, every true whisky drinker knows this is super fashionable now and will appreciate the expenditure.
£100+. What did you say was wrong with the economy?
Ah, feck it. Christmas is only once a year and since the last one we were constantly bombarded with all the economic crisis malarky. But the best thing we can do is apparently try and spend our way out of it. So let the bells jingle, go wild and make you dearest person happy!
1. Glenfarclas 30. We know we will be accused for recommending all the big sherry cask whiskies, but hey-ho, it’s Christmas right? No time for sulphury thoughts. This wee beastie here is a true bung for the buck, one of the best deal super-mature malts on the market. Tastes fantastic, it’s rich and fruity with notes of cocoa and toffee and maybe just lets itself down that tiny bit on the packaging side. Pick it up from them at £114.95, a steal if you ask us!
Who? Quite frankly anyone who cares about whisky more than about a pretty box.
2. Whyte & Mackay 30. It has won awards, it’s widely acclaimed and it’s quite simply stunning. Blended whisky but not how you know it, only the bestest and tastiest stuff goes into it. It’s a raging sherry influence monster but with that much needed balance created skillfully by Master Blender Richard Paterson. Great accompaniment for dark chocolate, that’s the way we drank it. Complete with extra stylish matt black packaging it will set you back £197.95.
Who? A mature gentleman. W&M is still not exactly a brand that appeals to young whisky freaks (we’re all for changing that).
3. Laphroaig 25 CS. No jokes, this is the best whisky I’ve had this year… and probably in my life. It’s expensive but it’s worth it. We have described it thoroughly here, but the bottom line is: bread oven, black olives, hints of peat and tobacco. Now this is a serious whisky and think twice before you buy it. But when you do, expect something spectacular back… certainly not a scarf or a jumper. It will set you back £225 at The Whisky Exchange.
Who? Someone who likes Laphroaig, Lagavulin or even Bowmore. At this age the whisky is no longer very smoky, but this one is still pretty damn robust.
Oil Baron Option
Now, if money is no concern to you, you may want to consider getting this for us (or someone else).
Ardbeg 1974 ‘Double Barrel’. Two bottles of single cask Ardbeg from 1974 presented in a shotgun case together with silver cups and an array of other ‘useful’ accessories. Makes for a nice day out in the woods I guess. £10.000 please. Get one at The Whisky Exchange or, if you live in Edinburgh, go and touch one before you buy at The Scotch Whisky Experience.
Who? Us of course. But alternatively you may consider someone who has pretty much everything, like a local Sheikh or someone equally spoilt. Or someone who is really, really, really into Ardbeg and hunting.