The Angel’s Share: Holiday Gift Guide For Scotch

I don’t normally centre out products on this blog but it’s christmas and what is more appropriate for the celebration of the birth of a jewish kid in a barn than me telling you what kind of scotch you should buy for your boss to impress him.

Scotch over Wine:

Whenever someone asks me what kind of wine they should buy their husband/boss/brother/barber. I always say, get them a bottle of scotch instead.  Why is scotch a better present than wine?

You need to really know the person you are buying for when it comes to wine. People are particular about what they like when it comes to wine.  If you are not clear on what the person you are buying for likes in a wine, you may be buying something they totally hate. The same is true for scotch, there are always ones people dislike, but unlike wine scotch is something you don’t need to drink the entire bottle of once it is opened. Scotch can be hidden away and given ounce by ounce to guests who may enjoy that style. If you are going to spend $50 on a gift choose scotch it’s a safer bet.

Scotch is something that if you collect it*, after a few years through some personal purchases and maybe a gift or two you have a range of stuff that will please anyone who comes over. It’s a great thing to have a range of different scotches, something for before dinner, something for after dinner, something you want to pour a glass of after shovelling the driveway**.  Also there are different social grades of scotches. Brother in Law scotch is just as valuable to a collection as the scotch you serve to the person who bought you your first good bottle. You want something in your collection that you can serve to the guy in a mock turtle neck who is the husband of one of your wife’s friends, without wasting your 1966 Tullibardine.

What To Buy This Christmas:

Under $50

Te Bheag, $36: Blended whisky either gets not nearly enough credit or way too much credit depending on who you come across. Te Bheag*** is one of the most well made blended scotch whiskies on the market and for it’s rock bottom price point it will blow your mind. Produced on the Isle of Skye this whiskey is rich, sweet and just a little bit peaty.

Under $75

Auchentoshan 12, $52: Auchentoshan is known by many scotch drinkers as breakfast whisky. A triple distilled single malt delivers a very light bodied spirit packed with lots of big flavours of dried fruit and spice. With super cool modern packaging this whiskey looks as great as it tastes. It will not fail to impress the beginner or the veteran alike. And the price is great.

AnCnoc 12, $65: AnCnoc is a product from the Knockdhu distillery in the highlands near Inverness. With notes of citrus and vanilla this pale coloured whiskey delivers tons of bang for the buck. The mouthfeel is heavy on this one but it also has some great liveliness left in it. I am a huge fan of this one.

Under $100:

Bowmore Tempest 10, $77: Bowmore is one of my favourite Islay whiskies because of it’s interplay between smokey peat and beautiful chocolate and citrus notes. The Tempest 10 takes all of those things and offers it in a cask strength offering. Coming in at over 55% alcohol this scotch will deliver but I would recommend putting a little distilled water in just to smooth it out.

Glenfarclas 105, $90: Glenfarclas is one of my all time favourites and this offering is one of the best values in all of scotch. The 105 is a cask strength whisky that comes in at 60% alcohol. It needs to be diluted because it will make you mouth go numb but when you find the right level of dilution it is an explosion of flavour. From carmel apple to sour cherry to almost a cigar box smokiness. This whisky is one of the most complex i’ve ever tasted.

Under $200

Highland Park 18, $150: This whisky is all about balance. Highland park gives you a little bit of everything. Sweetness, spice, smokey peat and elegant mouthfeel. Aged in sherry casks this whiskey from the Isle of Orkney is one of the best examples of an 18 year old whisky actually being worth its price tag.

Bunnahabhain 18, $160: This Islay malt isn’t over the top with peat but instead plays a beautiful game of balancing a sweet creme brûlée front end with a smoky and earthy peat back end. If you are unsure about your first foray into a peaty whisky this is a winner. It will give you an idea of what Islay can do but with a rewarding, warm sweet front palate.

Price is No Object

Gordon and McPhail 1958 Glen Grant, $650: Gordon and McPhail are one of the most renown independent bottlers of all time and their 1958 vintage of Glen Grant is a mind blower. Toffee and Christmas spice are the big notes on this gem, but they fade into mellow pear and malt flavours. I had this one at a tasting in Calgary, traded jackets with my boss and went up again to get another sample. It’s a stunner and at $650 a bottle it’s actually kind of a deal.

The Skyline, Masters of Photography, The Macallan, $????: This super limited edition of The Macallan features famed photographer Annie Lebowitz shooting scottish actor Kevin McKidd in different settings. This 1996 vintage scotch is 15 years old and included a limited edition Annie Lebowitz print. Previous Masters Of Photography series bottles went for upwards of $5,000. Check out the link.

Overall you can get great value in scotch at any price point. It’s all about having a balanced collection so that in a pinch you’re not pouring the good stuff for someone who doesn’t deserve it.

*And you don’t just plow through every bottle in your possession compulsively.

**i.e something peaty and warming.

***Pronounced “Che Veck” not “Tea Bag”.