Gift Guide: What To Give The Whisk(e)y Lover

Something a little bit special for the Holiday season, Sir/Madam?

The holidays are fast approaching and I am finding myself having more and more conversations with customers looking for something a bit special. It could be that they are looking for something as a gift for that “Whiskey Buddy”, something for their father visiting from out of state, or just that they are feeling like treating themselves. Luckily enough for you, Reader, I get that “treat myself” feeling a little too often, and am in a position to share my favorite finds with you all. Specifically, I wanted to explore some incredible spirits in the $100-$200 range that I believe are something special because they: (1) taste exceptional; (2) are wonderful examples of their own regions or spheres; and (3) most importantly, they are not just flashy, over-corporate items that attract a price above and beyond what I really think they are worth.

Firstly, I can’t start this topic without talking about the unique, rare, and incredibly sought-after gem that is the cask-strength (57.8% ABV) Single Cask Astor Selection from the Glen Garioch distillery. This whisky was distilled in 1997 and bottled at an age of 14 years. What I love about this bottle is the beautiful flavor profile that shows just how great a Highland Malt (that hasn’t seen heaps of Sherry cask) can be. Beautiful toasted grain notes are in abundance, with fruit, citrus, and a lovely cinnamon spice element towards the finish, which is warm and buttery. When you add a few drops of water, producing that wonderful moment when you are in control, making the first cut of your wee dram, an amazing floral sweetness is revealed. This is a really well-priced Scotch that will not disappoint.

I have a love of cask-strength Single Malts because I find them so rewarding to drink and I love to experience the evolution taking place in the glass right in front of me. The next whiskey I wanted to mention is the Highland Auchroisk (“auck-roysk” or “ath-rask”) 20-year-old cask-strength Single Malt. See how to pronounce it here. Not a single-barrel, but a gem of a Scotch from within the Diageo family of distilleries. This bottle is sublime. The nose has an intriguing array of warm attic and hay-loft aromas. The palate starts with a baked-apple element but really develops when you cut the whisky with a few drops of water. This brings on heaps of rich, intense, pudding-like malt. Graceful fruit notes also start to evolve and dance around your palate.

My last Single Malt choice is also my favorite whiskey of the year. While I can still get hold of this, it will always be part of my personal collection, because it is that special and, simply put, amazing. The Black Art 22 Year from Bruichladdich on Islay: a work of genius? A work of pure alchemy? Whatever Jim McEwan did when finishing and crafting this whisky, he came up with something totally out of this world. The precise recipe – i.e., the types of barrels he used – is a secret. The color is a very different pink-tinged orange. The nose has a wonderful sweet red-grape note, a bit of baked mango, and a well-rounded peaty element. The palate is like nothing I have tasted before; it has great fruit in abundance and a wonderful charred-barrel smokiness on the finish. This the third Black Art, and hopefully not the last, but I do understand that the stocks used to produce this whiskey are limited, so I urge you to get this while we still have it in store. It is something that needs experiencing and is actually a total bargain.

Another superb whiskey that needs mentioning here right now is our Willett 18 Yr. Single Barrel Astor Selection bourbon. Bottled at cask strength and coming in at an awesome 69% ABV, this is truly a rare gem and definitely something for you lovers of fine and rare bourbons out there. The nose and taste of this will evolve and change incredibly; adding a little water and also just letting it sit in the glass for half an hour can have amazing results. This is one of the joys of experimenting with cask-strength spirits. On my first tasting, I got candied pears, buttery apples, creamy vanilla, and great spicy wood notes. But hey, why not come into the store? We may even have a small sample for you to try, of course subject to availability. This is wonderfully priced – see Nima’s review for more detailed information.

Last, but by no means least, do you fancy trying something that finishes off a heavy meal just wonderfully? Something you may not have thought about buying before? How about a grappa? Not just any grappa, mind you – a Grappa di Barolo aged for 12 years.

These very special individually numbered bottles showcase aged grappa at its best. Crafted by Paolo Marolo, who has been distilling grappa for more than 35 years, they are made using the finest Nebbiolo Barolo grape marc. He is the most trusted grappaiolo of Piedmont’s top wine producers.

A bottle of this rounds out a superb festive meal with style and elegance. The nose of this spirit features nutty cream, wood-edged vanilla, and numerous fruit and spice notes. The taste is a sublime mix of dried fruit, prune, and sweet citrus. The 12 years in oak, combined with an unparalleled quality of base fruit, have come together to produce a grappa that is unusual in its power and finesse. This rare treat is something you’ll want to try at your next holiday meal; at its price, it certainly falls into that “something special for the holiday season” category, but as I have said, it is well worth every cent.


Stephen’s Picks:

Glen Garioch 1997 Single Cask Astor Selection – 1997
Highland Auchroisk 20-year-old cask-strength Single Malt (Out of Stock)
Bruichladdich Black Art 22 yr
Willett 18 yr. Single Barrel Astor Selection (Out of Stock)
Grappa di Barolo, Capovilla – 2004