Christmas Gift Guide:
There’s no better time to indulge in a few wee drams than over the festive season. A warming dram had in front of the fire, shared with friends and family can be one of life’s simple pleasures. Buying Christmas presents for the whiskey lover can be daunting. Unfortunately for the gift giver, yet fortunately for the recipient, there is such choice and such a variety of bottles out there that it can be a difficult world for the uninitiated to navigate. Luckily for your good self, I’ve assembled a small list of my choices for the whiskey lover on your Christmas list:
Bottle under €60:
Powers Three Swallows: Powers often gets overlooked when it comes to Irish whiskey – an absolute travesty in my opinion. The Powers Three Swallows is a cracking pot still which harks back to that old style Irish pot still. Aged in ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks it has some really interesting fruity notes and a particular banana element I’m very fond of. Fantastic value at around €45, this one is freely available in all off licences and Tesco stores nationwide.
Bottle over €60:
Redbreast 12 Cask Strength: This is one of my absolute favourite whiskies. Similar to the 12 year old Redbreast but that little bit more intense, with less evidence of the sherry cask influence. Tropical fruit notes, with those quintessential spicy redbreast notes and some fantastic length. Cask Strength means it’s bottled at around 58% and has the advantage of being bottled exactly as the masters intended since all whiskey is blended at cask strength and then watered down to 40% later. Available at the Celtic whiskey shop and most good off-licences, I always keep a bottle in my cupboard. Retails for about €90.
Sometimes I neglect Scotch when I’m writing, not because I dislike it but because there’s a wealth of information already out there. The industry worldwide for Scotch is more than ten times bigger than the Irish whiskey industry and there are more than 100 distilleries! That means there’s an immense choice available for those willing to look beyond our shores. My Scotch of choice has to be a Benromach 10 year old. A combination of Bourbon and Sherry is used to create this absolute gem from the Scottish Speyside distillery, owned by one of Scotland’s largest independent family owned distillers, Gordon and MacPhail. Nice ginger notes and the grassy essence you’d expect from Speyside malt. Tastes like something aged well beyond its 10 years and boasts exceptional value at around €40 a bottle. Available from mastersofmalt.com.
Something for the adventurous whiskey lover:
Scottish whiskey has a quintessentially smoky taste which is absent from all but a couple of Irish bottles. Douglas Laing is a creator of Scotch whiskey that focuses on small release artisan bottles which often accentuate regional characteristics. One of my favourite, ‘Big Peat’ has been released in a special edition for Christmas – Big Peat Blended Malt Christmas 2016 Edition. As I write this my own bottle of this special edition Christmas release is winging its way towards me, a composition of whiskies from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and Port Ellen. It’s big, extremely peaty (as the name suggests) and, even better, it’s bottled at cask strength. This is the 6th edition of the Christmas bottle and that big, smoky, campfire taste is one I’ll always relish in the depths of winter. Available online from thewhiskyexchange.com, it’ll cost around €60 with delivery from mastersofmalt.com
The one for under the bed:
Teeling 24 year old. Limited to just 5,000 bottles, this whiskey first distilled in 1991 is aged in Bourbon and Sauternes wine casks. Unusually for Irish whiskey it contains a small portion of peated malt in the composition. Each bottle comes with its own decanter and a certificate of authenticity. It’s available from the Celtic Whiskey Shop for €325, but with that rarity and at that price it’s guaranteed to appreciate in value. Teeling are also releasing a 33 year old if you’re feeling particularly flush for €3300…. Hopefully my short list makes the festive season a little easier for you and helps to guide you in the right direction so you can really enjoy those hard earned drinks over Christmas. Sláinte mhaith and happy holidays!
Knappogue castle 14