It’s getting closer to Christmas; the shops are full of whisky special editions and gift sets and there are plenty of articles like this online.
All adds up to a multitude of options for Christmas presents, but what if you are looking for something a little different?
We’ve had a think and listed some alternative boozy gifts below.
The big brands dominate the shelves, but there are almost unlimited options if you are prepared to look a little further.
Go into any independent whisky retailer or off-licence and they should be able to advise on options which are beyond the standard names and expressions.
In Edinburgh, we’ve got some great shops, including Royal Mile Whiskies and Villeneuve Wines on Broughton Street.
It doesn’t necessarily mean spending big money either – bottles should be available to fit any budget.
Some suggestions to get you started…
- Springbank 15 year old
- BenRiach 16 year old
- Wemyss Hive, Spice King or Peat Chimney
- Tweeddale Blend, by R&B Distillers
(reviews of the BenRiach and Wemyss whiskies coming soon!)
Bottle your own
A number of distilleries offer a ‘bottle your own’ as part of the tour, typically from a single cask which you hand bottle yourself.
This can make a great unique gift, however it’s not very practical if the distillery isn’t nearby.
The good news is that you can get the same unique bottling in Edinburgh’s city centre at Demijohn or Cadenhead’s.
WM Cadenhead on the Royal Mile have a regular selection of casks from which you can have a bottle filled and labelled, and Demijohn on Victoria Street also offer this, with a cask-strength 7-year old Aultmore being one of the options.
Blended Scotch Whisky can contain up to 80% (or higher) of grain whisky, with the remainder being one or more malts.
It’s pretty straightforward to make your own ‘home blend’ by mixing a few different whiskies, and this gives a great opportunity to create a unique gift which in turns can create almost infinite flavour combinations.
For an already prepared package, Master of Malt will happily sell you a Home Whisky Blending Kit.
It doesn’t require too much effort however to purchase the component parts; there are plenty of Grain Whiskies to choose from as a base and although it’s creeping up in price from a few years ago, Cameron Brig is decent and much better value than it’s fancy-bottled sibling, Haig Club.
Combine the Grain with a smooth Speyside such as Benromach and a small amount of punchy, peated Islay like Lagavulin or Ardbeg and your gift can generate some pretty interesting flavours.
Of course if all of this seems too much trouble, then outsource the whole thing and buy a voucher from Whisky Blender who will do it all for you.
For a gift which may last a little longer than a single bottle (and may cost significantly more!), there are numerous options to buy whisky-based memberships.
The most well-known of these is probably the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), where an annual membership starts from £122 and gives the member access to the monstrous ‘Outturn’; the catalogue of Single Cask bottlings which are released each month.
Several new distilleries offer a scheme where the you can buy into a ‘Founders Club’ which gives you a bottle of whisky each year for n-years in return.
This may to prove be a canny investment if the whisky becomes valuable, but it’s probably safer to look at is as buying into the distillery and supporting their endeavours during the initial years.
A few of these clubs currently on offer are the Founders Club at the Lakes Distillery, The Na Tusairean Club by R&B Distillers and the Founders Club at Kingsbarns Distillery.
If you have a large pile of cash burning a hole in your pocket; Arran, Adelphi and Annandale (amongst many others) will happily sell you a private cask of whisky and store it in their bonded warehouse.
Finally, for some whisky related gifts which don’t actually contain whisky, it might be worth taking a look at these.
Angels’ Share Glass in Bridge of Allan produce some beautiful glassware, including a water dropper and jug and Inverness-based Darach recycle old whisky casks into everything from tealight holders to garden furniture.
So hopefully that gives some ideas for gifts, but we’re sure there are plenty more and if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment below.