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Top 10 whiskies to buy for Christmas 2023

With Christmas and the New Year quickly approaching, it’s still not too late to get those last-minute gifts for that friend, loved one, special someone, or even just for yourself. So, if you’re still looking for that perfect present, we’ve put together a rundown of ten superb whiskies. There’s something here for everyone, so without further ado, and in no particular order…

#1 Nikka Whisky from the Barrel Silhouette

Getting things started we have an absolutely stellar blended whisky from Nikka in Japan. It was first launched in 1985 with the aim of conveying the intensity and flavour of whisky bottled directly from the barrel. This was a luxury previously only afforded to blenders and distillers. 

It’s made with more than 100 different batches of malt and grain whiskies from the Miyagikyo, Yoichi and other distilleries, aged in bourbon barrels, sherry butts, and refill hogsheads. After blending, the spirit is further married for several months to ensure all the flavours meld together nicely. It’s then bottled at 51.4%, roughly equivalent to the old-fashioned British 90-proof. The specific ABV was chosen after various experiments to determine the ideal strength to match the desired flavour profile. The result is a complex, rich little whisky with a floral, spicy, fruity nose, and a big, punchy palate with notes of toffee, vanilla, spice, and tart fruit. This special edition is packaged in an all-black “silhouette” pack. 

#2 Laphroaig 10 Year Old Sherry Oak Finish

If you’re buying a gift for an enthusiast of peaty whisky, they’ll certainly be a fan of Laphroaig. The distillery is a true mainstay, and not without good reason; it’s a medicinal, smouldering, creamy, spicy, smoky whisky, distilled on Islay and aged in ex-bourbon barrels in the distillery’s dunnage warehouses by the sea. 

The Sherry Oak edition takes all of that but adds in the fabulous effects of a 12-month finish in oloroso sherry casks. It’s also bottled at the higher ABV of 48%, to convey a tad more intensity. The result is an award-winning whisky which took home a Double Gold from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and a Gold at the International Spirits Challenge. But why? Well, pour yourself a dram and you’ll get rich, smoky, almost meaty aromas, with zinging citrus, mochachino, toasted oak, caramel and spice. The palate is a big, muscular affair, with cigar boxes and peat, sticking plasters, cocoa, manuka honey, and sweet creamy vanilla. There’s a really long finish with a charming interplay between the oloroso sherry and the Laphroaig trademark peat smoke.

#3 Speyside Whisky 12 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Anyone into their superb independent bottlings may well be aware of That Boutique-y Whisky Company. They’ve spent the past decade bottling a fantastic award-winning range of small batch, single cask, limited edition whiskies, choosing only the very best, most distinctive examples they can find. Once bottled, each whisky is adorned with a unique graphic novel-style label. The eye-catching packaging typically features pop culture references or hidden easter eggs. 

More recently the company has put together a core range of classic age statement spirits representing the big whisky regions. In this case, it’s from an undisclosed distillery in Speyside. Now, they won’t tell us which distillery it is, but what they will say is it’s been matured for a full 12 years in oloroso sherry casks. 

The result is a wonderfully deep-coloured spirit with a chocolate-driven, nutty, spicy, woody nose with plenty of dried fruit. The palate is juicy and mouth-coating, with thick barley malt, cooked fruits, berries, and spice, all of which culminate in a long, nutty fruitcake of a finish. Excellent stuff!

#4 Big Peat at Christmas 2023

Another one for the peat lover in your life, this is a delicious blended malt (i.e. a blend of single malts from multiple distilleries) from Douglas Laing. The company wanted to put together a spirit which captured the very essence of Islay. In 2009, they did just that, blending six single malts from the island, including Bowmore, Caol Ila, Ardbeg, and the very rare Port Ellen. The result is, as you might have guessed… Big… And peaty. It’s Big Peat, people.

This year they’ve released a very special Christmas edition, and it’s finished in sherry casks. Sherry cask-finished whisky = Christmassy, and this is no exception. The nose is a cornucopia of marmalade, dark chocolate, cherries and cool woodsmoke by the seaside. The palate is all cooked fruits, plums, spices, butterscotch, Christmas pudding and toasty oak, with plumes of peat smoke and a tarry, jammy finish.

#5 The Glenlivet 12 Year Old Licensed Dram

Following on from the Illicit Still, we have the second edition in the Original Stories range from The Glenlivet distillery. Each edition chronicles the history of George Smith, the distillery’s founder, and a key figure in the development of the 19th-century whisky industry. This particular edition is a reference to the 1823 Excise Act, and the fact Glenlivet was one of the first distilleries to legally obtain a licence to distil… Smith, George Smith, licence to distil.

This whisky was aged in a mix of American and European oak for no less than 12 years. It’s a fresh, fruity spirit, with apricots and berries on the nose and a hint of manuka honey. The palate is sweet, malty, and a classic example of the lighter Speyside spirits. It’s got honey, mixed nuts, hints of toasty oak and popcorn, and a lovely spicy finish with ginger and cinnamon.

#6 Darkness 8 Year Old

Darkness is a range of independently bottled whisky with a difference. Each bottling was chosen with one key criterion in mind: it had to be dark. And what makes it dark? Well, it’s the influence of maturation in sherry casks. These can take the form of oloroso, Pedro Ximénez, or moscatel. Many of these are smaller in size, and the result of this is an intensely deep mahogany colour, as well as the gloriously rich, Christmassy flavours imparted by ex-sherry wood. It makes for a perfect festive dram…

This 8 Year Old edition is a highly decorated spirit, having picked up Gold medals at the International Spirits Challenge, the International Wine & Spirit Competition, and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Need we say more? 

Expect aromas of marmalade, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, cherries, candied fruits and spice. The palate is rich and thick, with notes of almond, mince pies, Christmas spices, and toasted oak. This all develops in the finish, which has all that sherry influence, and a faint whisper of smoke.

#7 Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old

From the &Whisky range, “Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire” is quite a mouthful isn’t it? Well, just wait until you try the whisky… What we love about this one is the simplicity of the offering. It’s a no-frills package in a simple green bottle, labelled with a hint as to what’s inside. In this case, it’s a smoky, coastal, rich single malt from a secret distillery on the isle of Islay. It’s 10 years old, and it’s won multiple golds from the IWSC. This is a great gift for those in search of a great-quality whisky gift that may take the recipient by surprise.

Give it a nose and you’ll get punchy sherry notes and thick slabs of Islay peat. The palate is rich, with plenty of juicy sherry, dried fruits, coastal notes and a nicely balanced sweetness. It’s got plenty of smoke, and it all builds to a tart, fruity, sweet, oaky finish.

#8 Benrinnes 11 Year Old (Master of Malt Christmas Bottling)

OK, so we were hardly going to put together this list without a bit of blatant self-promotion, were we? And why shouldn’t we? This is an exquisite Speyside single malt, even if we do say so ourselves. It was distilled at Benrinnes, so you can expect plenty of that approachable biscuity, malty house style.

It’s also a special Christmas edition we’ve bottled just for you. It was aged for 10 years in ex-oloroso sherry casks before a finish in ex-Pedro Ximénez dessert sherry octaves. The smaller size of the octaves really increases the impact on the finished spirit – it’s perfect for the festive season with all that sherry flavour!

Pour out a glass and enjoy the sweet, nutty, jammy, fruity nose. There are aromas of toffee and marmalade, and hints of Christmas cake too. The palate is a Sticky Toffee Pudding, with almonds, dried berries, fruitcake, spice and rich malt. It’s got a long, fruity, chocolatey finish with a touch of mixed nuts and Christmas spice. There are just 541 bottles of this stuff, so get ‘em before they’re gone!

#9 Olorosum 10 Year Old

Another secret distillery here… This list is full of mystery and intrigue! Olorosum is, as you might imagine, a whisky finished in oloroso sherry casks. It was matured for 10 years and bottled at a potent 54.7% ABV, which really lets the sherry notes shine. 

It comes packaged with a very smart black and gold label and a neat black wax-dipped cap, and it’ll look great on any shelf. It also tastes great, too. Big sherry on the nose, caramel, chocolate, toasted nuts and plenty of spice. We get oodles of chocolate fudge, dried fruit, mixed nuts and biscuity malt on the palate, and the finish is rich, long, intense with spice and toasty oak, and more of that sherry on the tail.

This is a classic example of a sherried Speyside single malt. It’s rich, full-bodied, and guaranteed to be a real crowd-pleaser.

#10 The Sassenach Blended Scotch 

If you’re a fan of the hit TV show, Outlander, your mind is about to be blown. This whisky was bottled by Sam Heughan, the actor who plays the lead character, Jamie Fraser. A Scotsman by birth, Sam created the Sassenach in 2020, taking inspiration from the stunning Scottish scenery and celebrating the country’s rich traditions and heritage. The name ‘Sassenach’, meaning outsider, or stranger (literally a Saxon ie. a non-Gaelic speaker), is a nod to Sam’s character in Outlander.

It’s aged in a mix of sherry and bourbon casks, and is a classic blended Scotch. It took home a ‘master’ designation at the 2022 Spirits Business Luxury Masters, as well as multiple gold awards from top competitions. This lovely blend has a fruity, apricot-driven nose, with treacle, marmalade and dry spice. The palate is honeyed, malty, and creamy, with notes of vanilla, toffee, and cinnamon. It all comes to a close with a long, spicy, oily finish.

And if after all that you still haven’t found the perfect gift, head on over to our Christmas page where you’ll find all kinds of whiskies, tasting sets, booze-filled advent calendars, cocktails, and more!

The post Top 10 whiskies to buy for Christmas 2023 appeared first on Master of Malt Blog.

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