Whisky makes for a fantastic gift during the holidays. It's easy to shop for, there are options at any given price range, and, chances are your friend will share a drink with you whenever you come over.
The following is a list of bottles that any whisky lover would appreciate. If you’re looking for some cheaper options that make a great alternative to wine as a host gift, there is a bonus list of a few $30 whiskies as well.
Bruichladdich 2001 Resurrection – The perfect introduction to Scotch
Available: LCBO 250449
Bruichladdich has been a favourite distillery of mine, and the LCBO brought in a lot of product in 2012. They have an excellent range of Scotches for just about anyone; from casual drinkers to the serious collector. The Bruichladdich 2001 Resurrection is a tribute to the reopening of the distillery, taking on more traditional Islay flavours (smoky, salty, spicy). As the baby blue bottle suggests, this is a milder drink, but definitely with character and a nice long finish. This is a good Scotch to buy that has range; it's mild enough for a beginner, but it also has depth and character that a long-time Scotch drinker will appreciate. Your mileage may vary on the baby blue bottle, but in my mind it’s perfect for the holidays and a fantastic value at 67 bucks.
Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old – Scotland married with the Caribbean
Available: LCBO 221200
This has been my favourite go-to recommendation for Scotch drinkers looking to expand to more interesting and creative Scotches. The name Caribbean Cask comes from the rum influences in the drink. In making the Scotch, barrels are first filled with a blend of 50 rums and left to sit for several months. The wood soaks up the rum characteristics, so when the rum is poured out and the 14 year old whisky is poured in, the whisky takes on new flavours. If you like the spicy sweetness of rum but prefer the complexity of Scotch, this is an ideal drink. For more about this offering, check out my review.
Tullibardine Coume Del Mas Banyuls Finish – Ideal for the scotch connoisseur
Available: LCBO 265173
I developed a soft spot for Tullibardine after touring their distillery while on vacation a few years ago, but my admiration of their product is purely for the spirit in the bottle. Tullibardine is primarily bourbon-barrel-aged Scotch, and their speciality comes with finishing their products (aging them an extra several months) in unique barrels. In this case the Scotch is finished in ex-fortified port barrels. The Coume Del Mas Banyuls Finish will take you on a wild ride, starting with strong sweet flavours coming from the fortified port (cherry sweet) and finishing with the more traditional spice and citrus flavours of primarily bourbon aged Scotch. At 46%, the casual Scotch drinker might find it harsh, but for a regular Scotch drinker, this will make for a unique and cherished gift.
Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams – For the collector
Available: LCBO 286641
Earlier in the year the Glenfiddich team did something kind of crazy: they travelled with twenty barrels across Canada and rolled them through major city centres with ceremonial fanfare in a celebration of Scotch. Those in attendance were asked to write their dream on the barrels. These barrels were then sent back to Scotland and used to finish a Scotch already aged in other barrels. The end result, the Cask of Dreams. Canada was one of a few countries selected for the Cask of Dreams series, and this is due to the long history (and great sales!) that Glenfiddich and Canada enjoy. Like the Snow Phoenix of last year, this will be a good collectors edition and comes in a great gift-giving box.
The Macallan Cask Strength – Dessert Scotch that brings some pain
Available: LCBO 608604
I have it from a good source that The Macallan Cask Strength is in its final year of production. If you're not familiar with this drink, it is sherry barrel aged whisky that's poured straight from the cask without filtering or adding water. At just under 60% alcohol, this is a powerful drink that has a lot of flavour; the perfect dessert Scotch to bring out for those special occasions. It is quite the memorable drink, though certainly not something you'd reach for often. The fact that supplies are going to start to dwindle means it's a good time to stock-up!
Whisky At The $30 Price Point
As an alternative to wine, consider bringing a bottle of whisky to that next holiday party you’re attending. For around $30 there are some good options for sipping whisky that can also be used as mixers.
Canadian whisky is hitting a nice sweet spot in this price range. I'd start with Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve. It's a blend of rye, corn and barley whisky that's deliciously balanced and with a long complex finish. You can read about our coverage of the distillery.
Another popular choice is Alberta Premium Dark Horse Whisky. This is made from 100% aged rye, later mixed with a little bourbon and sherry. Some might suggest the additives are 'cheating' the system, but considering its only $30, one can't argue with the results.
If you're looking for blended scotch, Grant & Sons has recently released the Grant's Sherry Cask Reserve which is nicely mild and would go perfectly as a sipping scotch or with a little ice (if needed).
For those that prefer a smokier scotch, The Black Grouse is just under $35. You'll get just enough peat to satisfy the senses.
Bonus Bourbon Recommendation from Mike Di Caro
Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon
Availability: LCBO 600338
There's still quite a bit of this excellent and highly regarded bourbon in the LCBO from a release earlier this year, but you might have to go a little out of you way to get it.I promise that the effort will be well worth it in the gratitude and thanks you receive from the whisky lover on your list. It's named after the retired Buffalo Trace master distiller who has a hand in selecting special barrels from a sweet spot in the distillery's warehouse based not on age, but rather when they taste just right. Like any great bourbon, it's sweet and a little forward. But taking its cues from another famous southern tradition, the Southern belle, this one's a little more demure in its approach. Its greatest asset is the layers which slowly reveal themselves over the course of the glass. Expect flavours and aromas of vanilla, caramel, burnt orange, cookie spices like cinnamon and clove, floral stone fruit, heather honey and a touch of smoky earthy depth. It's beautifully rich on the palate, but never feels overwhelming or too much. Just like a great meal finished with a plate of satisfying but light petit fours, it finishes on an appropriately sweet and elegant note.