2012 Holiday Whisky Gift Guide

Around this time of year I get a lot of emails from people asking for gift suggestions. So, I’ve worked up a handy little chart for anyone who wants to gift something “slightly better” than last year’s gift.

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Ardbeg Galileo

This is a particularly sweet, aromatic whisky with a very muted peat profile. If someone handed me a glass, I can honestly say I would enjoy drinking it. Alas, this whisky is not worth the (exceptional) effort required to secure a bottle.

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Kilchoman Machir Bay

Subtle and accomplished, if light. The peat is masterfully understated, and plays beautifully with the naturally sweet lemon, honey, and floral elements. Don’t let the ‘light’ moniker distract from the fact that this is very highly peated malt, with far more subtlety than, say, Laphroaig, but a lot more power and sinus-burning peat than Highland Park. It does very much stand alone among the Islay malts, though, being light and playful, but also masterful and persuasive.

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Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition (1995)

Okay. Yeah, it’s aged in PX sherry, which is a big deal, but… this particular expression falls short with me. I’d stick to the 16, and get my sherry kick elsewhere.

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Arran Machrie Moor

It’s moderately well-balanced, but it’s neither particularly complex nor particularly exciting. It’s also been bottled far too young. Arran die-hard fans would be interested to see what smoking does to their favorite malt, but the rest of us shouldn’t offer more than a shrug.

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McCarthy’s Oregon Single-Malt

Amazing that a three year-old whisky distilled on a tiny brandy still in Oregon can smell and taste like an 8 or 10 year-old Islay single malt scotch. Sure, the imported barley has a lot to do with that, but Steve McCarthy’s attention to detail, careful (and economical) use of oak, and small slowly-running stills all come through in the product, which somehow tastes handcrafted.

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Lagavulin (12 year)

The 12 has a clearer, cleaner flavor than Lagavulin 16, more bright and more powerful. It shows Islay peat, pure and without excess wood or the sweetness inherent in the use of European oak.

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This is Why Independent Bottlers Matter – an Anecdote

Independent bottlers. Are you paying more and getting less for distillery throwaways? Or will you get lucky and pay bargain dollars for something fantastic that will be gone forever once the last drop is consumed? For some (including me), that’s a lot of gamble for upwards of $50 to $80. On this particular day, I got lucky.

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Highland Park (12 year)

While it has a lovely lemony nose full of that Orkney peat, the bitterness on the tongue and the burned notes in the finish relegate this to the 30-dollar bin. Still, another sip covers up the sins of the previous, and it’s a sight better than drinking most blends.

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Amrut Peated

The youth of the malt means all of the complexity is in the peat, which delivers a lot of intense flavor, but not a lot of secondary notes. The alcohol burn is a bit rough – likely because of the quick maturation – but nevertheless, this is a powerful, peaty kick in the head that any true peat-head should take a look at.

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