Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Scotch Whisky Recommendations!

I receive a lot of email during this holiday time of year from people seeking a good Scotch whisky gift recommendation.  Many of these emails start with bewilderment that I have not already posted a top-ten best whisky list, must-have, desert island, drink-before-you-die list on this blog.

You, the regular reader, can appreciate that Scotch whisky is extremely varied. But, to the holiday shopper folk I correspond with, they just want to know my favorites and don't care about different regions of Scotland and how there can be a dramatic range of flavors.  They want safe bets that hopefully will be well received by the beneficiaries of their holiday generosity.  And you know what?  There is nothing wrong with that.

So, indulge me as I engage in what some of you may regard as bread and circuses to present the following list.

Honey Tasting Scotch Whiskies
To my mind, there are Scotch whiskies that fall into a couple of categories in terms of taste.  I figure everyone likes honey and if I had to buy for someone, not knowing if they like sherry, port or briny/peat/sooty smoke flavors, I would probably play it safe and gift with a single malt or blend from the honey flavor camp.  So, I am going to list some whiskies that I think make excellent gifts because they taste like honey, maybe some wax, lemon zest, and a slight whiff of smoke, but only the slightest. Moreover, I am recommending whiskies that are widely available, affordable, and most importantly: very approachable and not in the least bit offensive.  Smooth yet nuanced.  We want to be as mainstream as say Bob Barker when gift giving for someone else during the holidays.  So, here goes:

(1)  Cragganmore 12 years - Not well known, but one of my all-time favorite single malt Scotch whiskies.  I love this whisky for its' subtlety, the waxiness, the heather, and delicate floral notes.  A wonderful whisky that I just never tire of.

(2)  Glenfiddich 15 years Solera - If you can't find Cragganmore, there is a widely available alternative.  Moreover, it is very affordable.  Please do not confuse this with Glenfiddich 12.  The 15 is much more complex in terms of flavors.  A real treat that everyone likes!

(3)  Glenmorangie 12 years Nectar D'Or - This is an amazing single malt!  This distillery has taken their standard spirit and aged it for two additional years in Sauternes casks, a delightful French wine, and the result is breathtaking!  Honey, lemons and almonds come together with great complexity!  Buy this and whoever is the beneficiary of your generosity will be in your debt forever!

(4) Dalwhinnie 15 years - For some unknown reason, Dalwhinnie never seems to get the respect it so richly deserves.  Why this whisky is not making the lists of must-buy for the holiday season is beyond me.  Dalwhinnie delivers an interesting twist on the honey flavor profile by way of heather and a nice little complexity.  Lovely, lovely, lovely!

I hope this helps all those last minute shoppers of fine Scotch whisky.  Readers, I know there are many other great whiskies, especially in terms of sherry and peat/smoke flavors, but for those not prepared to take risks, I figure the honey flavor profile is the most conservative option.  Chime in with your suggestions for the holidays if you have time.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Jason Debly

P.S.  When I originally posted this list, there was a fifth suggestion: Royal Salute 21.  But, reader JK is my whisky conscience who pointed out it is ridiculously over priced for what you get.  The more I thought about it, I knew he was right.  And so, five suggestions became four.