Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Time for Whisky's Last Minute Christmas Whisky Gift Guide 2020

It's been a while, 5 years in fact, since we last did a "Last Minute Christmas Gift Guide". This year I've received so many questions about which whiskies people should buy as gifts for their family/friends/colleagues/other, I figured it was time for the next instalment.

Rather than base it on price range, I've stuck with the same formula as 2015's guide - 5 categories, 5 whiskies, but for 2020, with three new categories.

If you've left it to the last minute to grab the whisky lover(s) in your life a gift, hopefully this is of some help. 

Note: For this guide I've tried to keep the spirits to those that are relatively widely available - ideally in both HK and Australia, so for that reason you won't find esoteric single casks, indies, or other whiskies that you or I might typically enjoy outside OB ranges. This is a "last minute" gift guide, after all!


1) "The recipient is a whisky lover. I'm not, but I want to get them something that shows I did some research."

The whisky: GlenDronach 18 year old

Why: 5 years ago, we chose GlenDronach 15 for this category - a great dram. Since then, it's been discontinued and re-released, and whilst it's still a great dram, it's actually 15 years old now (as opposed to 5 years ago, when it was likely significantly older), and made up of both Oloroso and PX-matured whisky. Whilst that's no bad thing, the Oloroso-matured 18yo is, in my opinion, the sweet spot now, and in today's market is one of the few whiskies I'd still call incredible value. 

Prices are rising, but for now, it's one of the best "bang for your buck" whiskies out there.

Where and how much? $1,050HKD from Dram Good Stuff or £97.94 from Master of Malt. Seemingly out of stock across Australia, unfortunately.

Want to know more?: You can read all our previous thoughts and tasting notes on GlenDronach's whiskies here.





2) "I have no idea what they like. I want something safe and reliable."

The whisky: Balvenie 12yo DoubleWood

Why: 5 years later, The Balvenie (a Speyside favourite from William Grant & Sons) continues to be a fantastic entry-level dram, and still to this day, I've never met anyone who hasn't like it. The Balvenie produce elegant, handcrafted, enjoyable whiskies that at the same time are accessible and won't break the bank. 

Where and how much? $89.90AUD from Cambridge Cellars$550HKD from Dram Good Stuff or £39.95 from Master of Malt

Want to know more?: We've covered plenty of Balvenie stories and tasting notes in the past, but you can read our notes on the 12yo DoubleWood specifically here.

From instagram.com/timeforwhisky




3) "I want to buy a whisky that shows I'm ahead of the curve."

The whisky: Archie Rose Rye Malt Whisky

Why: Australian whisky continues to rise in prominence (increasingly, globally so) and it's hard to not be excited by what Archie Rose are doing in Sydney. We first visited Archie Rose and spent a day making some whisky back in 2015, and whilst they didn't actually have any whisky released back then, they do now - two "core" releases in fact, Rye Malt and Single Malt.

Both are good (and very well-priced at $119AUD), but the Rye Malt we find especially interesting, as Rye whiskies typically aren't made using malted rye. It's also incredibly delicious and complex considering it's young age.

Where and how much? $119AUD. Whilst Archie Rose are sold out of both at the moment, options exist via The Whisky List. Sadly not yet available in HK.

Want to know more?: Read both Hendy and my tasting notes on the Rye Malt here.






4) "I want to get them something slightly left-field, but it still has to be a great whisky."

The whisky: Highland Park Cask Strength

Why: Buying your recipient a regular 12yo Highland Park would show you know good whisky, but played it safe (like the afore-mentioned Balvenie, "HP12" is a widely-loved dram). The Cask Strength shows you took a risk - although not much of one, as it's a delicious whisky, and very refined considering its 63.3% ABV.

Where and how much? $680HKD from King's Wine Cellar or £54.75 from Master of Malt (sold out at the moment)

Want to know more?: See here for our tasting notes.




5) "Money is no object and I want to show the recipient I really like/love/appreciate them by spending a whole stack of money on them."

The whisky: Diageo's "Prima & Ultima" full set

Why: If money is no object, why limit yourself to just one bottle? Diageo's "Prima & Ultima" set contains 8 bottles, ranging in age from 25 to 48 years old, including this 40yo whisky from the closed Port Ellen distillery. I was fortunate enough to taste the whole set recently and there are some great bottles in there...especially the Cragganmore, Caol Ila and Port Ellen.

Where and how much? $223,970 HKD for the full set of 8 bottles, available direct from MHDHK.

Want to know more?: See here for our tasting notes on the 40yo 1979 Port Ellen from the series - arguably the most sought after bottle of the eight.




6) "I want to get them a spirit...but they've got more whisky than they know what to do with. What's a good 'malternative'?"

The spirit: Black Tot Rum.

Why: Good rum is having something of a moment, with several whisky lovers starting to embrace the spirit, and real efforts being made to introduce more legitimacy and structure to the labelling and categorisation of rum. Black Tot is a well-priced blended rum with delicious notes which works equally well neat or in a cocktail.

Where and how much? $660HKD from Timeless & Tasty.

Want to know more?: See our thoughts here.



7) "I'm really not comfortable to buy a bottle of whisky out of fear they'll already have it, or won't enjoy it. What else can I get?"

The gift: Membership to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Why: Stronger than ever after 37 years, "the society" bottle single cask whisky and spirits from a range of distilleries, often showing a unique (and typically delicious) side to a distillery most won't have seen. More than that though, they host fantastic tastings and events, and have built a real (and very welcoming) community amongst whisky lovers and newbies alike.

Where and how much? $800HKD for HK Membership$120AUD for Australian membership.

Want to know more? We've covered plenty of SMWS events over the years - here.





8) "I just want to get them something FUN!"


Why: It's a whisky called "A Tale of Cake"! It's got a fun label, and it's actually very, very tasty.

Where and how much? $1050HKD from Dram Good Stuff, $169.99AUD from Nick's.

Want to know more? Check out my recent tasting notes here.




Cheers and Merry Christmas,
Martin.

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