The 2017 Gift Buyer's Guide to Whisky

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With the holidays upon us it's time for our yearly Gift Buyer's Guide to Whisky to help take some of the confusion out of shopping for the right bottle for the whisky enthusiast on your list. Whether you're looking for a hosting gift, a celebratory bottle, a gift for a new drammer or a seasoned enthusiast, this year's list has something for every taste. As always, this guide is written to give you a short-list of the best valued whiskies currently on LCBO shelves with high availability province-wide. With a price limit of $100, you are sure to find a gift suggestion in this list that's bound to delight your recipient. 

Prior to embarking on your shopping trip, there are a couple of steps one should take in advance whenever possible:

Examine your intended recipient's existing collection as I will do my best to provide you with some flavour profiles to provide a frame of reference for determining to which palates a particular whisky will likely appeal. 

For Ontario readers, make use of the embedded links to check stock before heading out to your local store. It is important to remember that the LCBO does provide inter-store transfers of bottles, though delivery times will vary from 3 to 7 days depending on distance between your store and the store of origin. Lastly, for any locations showing one bottle of something, be sure to phone the store to confirm availability. 

Finally, each whisky listed below is available in the LCBO at the time of publication. The title link navigates to the LCBO page while the links in the description will direct you to one of our reviews of the whisky - if available - so if you'd like more detail, the full notes are a click away.


Whiskies

Recently awarded "Best Canadian Rye" at the 2017 World Whiskies Awards and a Silver medal at the 2017 Canadian Whisky Awards, J.P. Wiser's Triple Barrel Rye is light on the pocketbook and huge on flavour. Released just this year, Triple Barrel is a "rye-forward" Canadian whisky that's been aged in 3 different barrel types for maximum flavour and smoothness. Using a combination of virgin American White Oak to bring out vanilla and caramel flavours, first-fill Bourbon casks to emphasize dried fruit notes and Canadian whisky barrels to further express the grain characteristics, Triple Barrel is an easy-drinking dram at a very affordable price. Showing big Rye flavours with loads of zesty spice alongside green apples, raisins, and rosewater all wrapped in mouth-coating vanilla and toffee notes; this whisky is delicious on its own or in a cocktail. 

In search of a hosting gift for a whisky-loving recipient? Dewar's 12 Year Old Blended Scotch whisky is a sure bet when shopping for bottle that's likely to be opened in your presence and shared with a variety of guests. Well-balanced with a decent amount of malt in the mix, the Ancestor is a food-friendly and versatile dram. Watch as your host enjoys their first whiff from the glass; a heady aroma of red apples, raisins and vanilla before enjoying rich, full-bodied flavours of dark chocolate, dried fruits and caramel, and rest assured you've chosen wisely.  

Show off your scotch savvy by giving your recipient a gift with some serious cache by helping them get a jump on one of the most festive dates on the Scottish calendar, January 25th. Burns Night, as its called, is a celebration of the life and works of Scotland's National Bard, Robert Burns. Poetry, dancing, haggis, and whisky are essential components for any Burns Night and Arran's light-bodied NAS single malt would be a welcome companion at any celebration. Aperitif in style, this straw coloured malt has delicate flavours of vanilla, apples, pears, and honeyed malty sweetness with a twist of lemon.  
 

Clocking in at a muscular 58.4% ABV, Wild Turkey Rare Breed is a bourbon-lover's bourbon. Showing slight variations in alcohol content and flavours between batches, Rare Breed is prized by fans as both a sippin' bourbon and as a limited edition collectible. Wonderfully smooth and balanced, the whisky slowly evolves over the course of the glass and has just enough dryness on the finish to keep you coming back for more. Packed full of dessert-like flavours of caramel, candied fruits, vanilla and nuts, Rare Breed is a great after dinner dram and should appeal to bourbon connoisseurs and newcomers alike. Sure, there might be higher proof cask strength bourbons on the market but I defy you to find one this good for the price! 

Bowmore 12 Year Old - $65.25 on sale now for $58.25
Bowmore 12 year old is a common sighting at most whisky bars and liquor stores for good reason: it's a moderately peated whisky with broad appeal. Priced for a limited time at it's 2014 value, this is a great value-buy in the LCBO for the peat lover on your list. Bowmore masterfully balances pungent aromas of smoke, rubber, and beeswax with enticing flavours of heather honey, vanilla, and tropical fruit before fading into a long, peaty finish with notes of new leather, iodine and seaweed.

 
JW sometimes get a bad rap from whisky enthusiasts due to it's high price and appeal to conspicuous consumption, but this blend is worth pushing past the haters. Yes, it's a blend but it's a blend with a key difference: it's all malt. Aged 15 years and containing only malt whisky from Diageo's Talisker, Cragganmore, Caol Ila and Linkwood distilleries, Johnnie Walker Green Label strikes a delicious balance of smoke, salted caramel, stewed fruits and warming spice. Smooth with layers upon layers of flavour, this might be my new favourite from the core range. Perfect for fans of the brand, newcomers, and has enough oomph to appeal to the seasoned enthusiast as well.


Benromach's signature flavour is "classic Speyside" and the distllery goes to great lengths to achieve that traditional profile. Every aspect of production is done in-house and it's the only Speyside distillery that continues to use local peat to dry its maltings. Unlike peat from Islay with its distinctive vegetative and medicinal notes, Highland peat is lighter in flavour; with more earthy and grassy tones. Inviting aromas of beeswax, vanilla and a subtle smoke are followed by juicy apricot and mandarin orange flavours that lead into a long and deliciously smokey fade out. Peated to 67ppm, the current 10 year old expression of Benromach Peat Smoke is smokier than earlier releases but still shows plenty of fruitiness. A superb dram for those with a lot of "Speysides" on their shelf or those who enjoy smoke more than peat.


It's a rare sight to see single malt from Scotland's Campbeltown region on LCBO shelves. Once "the whisky capital of the world," Campbeltown had 34 distilleries in operation but now that number has dwindled to merely three. Kilkerran 12 year old has the oily and slightly briney texture you'd expect in a whisky from this region but somehow lighter with honey and floral tones as well. Lightly peated and matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, the dram packs in a lot of flavour with loads of butterscotch, vanilla, biscuits, and citrus on the palate with a gently smoky finish. Considering this is the first release from Glengyle distillery to appear in Ontario, it's unlikely your recipient will have ever encountered whisky from this lesser known distillery. With this gift, you may have just opened up your recipient to a whole new distillery to discover. 

Glenfarclas 105  - $89.95
Finally back in stock in the LCBO, Glenfarclas 105 is a cask strength beauty from Speyside's masters of sherry matured whisky. At a hefty 60% ABV, this whisky is loaded with flavour and is ideal for this time of year. Full-bodied with warming spices, nutty Christmas cake studded with candied cherries, and a long evolving finish, this dessert dram also plays nicely with cigars. It's seemingly high price tag may appear a bit off-putting until you realize that its considerable potency means that it should be consumed with a splash of water, which translates into a bottle that will have staying power on the shelf. Rivalled only by the Aberlour A'bunadh ($99.95 in the LCBO), Glenfarclas 105 is a magnificent sherry bomb that will please even the boldest of palates. 


For the whisky lover on your list who's got a fully loaded collection, Glenfiddich' IPA Experiment release is sure to rouse your recipient's curiosity and interest. A relatively recent release from the iconic Speyside distillery, this NAS single malt was aged for six months in a cask, seasoned with a local India Pale Ale. Sounds risky perhaps, in the hands of another, but leave it to Master Blender Brian Kinsman and team to create a vibrant and fruity dram bursting with aromatic citrus zest, fresh green apple, brioche and vanilla sweetness with a rich, almost oily, texture that leads to notes of cocoa, damp leaves and herbs. Still on the fence? This is not a beer-flavoured whisky nor does it approach any where near the level of bitterness common with IPAs and, it's from Glenfiddich - have they ever made anything undelicious?!

The Dalmore 12 Year Old - $99.95 on sale now for $89.95
Chances are your recipient has encountered this refined, lightly sherried, Highland malt before but, with prices for the Dalmore becoming increasingly unattainable in recent years, it has probably been some time since they last held a bottle of their own. Rich and full-bodied with flavours of Christmas cake, dark chocolate and oranges, the Dalmore 12 year old is a perfect after dinner dram on a cold night. Grab a bottle while it's on sale and help remind your recipient how much they missed this whisky!


Whisky Gear Stocking Stuffers

The Glencairn Glass - Available online: Canada 1 Glass/$9.68 US/Int'l 1 Glass/$8.99

A perennial favourite, this is the international standard for discerning palates when nosing any type of whisky. The Glencairn glass has a unique tulip-shaped design based on the nosing copitas used by Master Blenders in the whisky industry. Unlike the oft-used tumbler, the Glencairn glass provides a more focused olfactory experience allowing for a more nuanced appreciation of all the aromas in the whisky. Designed with the input of Master Blenders in the Scotch whisky industry, the Glencairn glass was the first - and for many - the best glass with which to appreciate a dram. Chances are your recipient could always use an extra one or two!

Amber Glass Boston Round Sample Bottles - Available online: SKS Bottle & Packaging Inc.SaffireBlue Inc. and Amazon.com
NOTE: on some sites you need to buy the caps seperately from the bottles! 

Yes, you read that correctly, for the ultra-enthusiastic connoisseur the gift of 12, 24, or 48 amber glass Boston round bottles with black phenolic cone lined caps might just be the BEST on-the-cheap gift money can buy. Let's break it down: your recipient likely has several bottles on the go at varying fill levels and a number of bottles on their last legs. Step in like a hero and help de-clutter their life by giving them amber glass Boston round bottles with black phenolic cone lined caps. Now they can pour off the bottoms of all those bottles they have laying around that they just can't bear the thought of finishing "right now." Trust, the anxiety about finishing a treasured, rare or exclusive bottle is a real thing. In addition to helping clear the shelves for new whisky, your recipient can now trade samples with their other whisky geek friends without resorting to carrying around clunky glass, or worse, plastic bottles. Should you decide to go this route it's critically important to remember that you need to buy these specific sample bottles: amber glass Boston round bottles with black phenolic cone lined caps. Amber will prevent damaging UV rays from oxidizing the whisky while the black phenolic cone lined caps will ensure that none of the precious liquid seeps out. In our experience, 2oz is a good size for most applications though sizes vary from 1/2oz all the way up to a guargantuan 32oz bottle.

Hopefully this has helped provide you with some direction on what to get your whisky loving recipient, but if you find yourself struggling and short on time, please do reach out via email, Twitter, or Instagram along with a quick snap of the recipient's whisky shelf, or the bottles you have in mind as a gift or, simply ask "what should I get this person?" is all we need to start working with you to help guide your gift-giving in real time! 

Thank you for reading and on behalf of everyone at ScotchBlog.ca, I wish you all the very best for the holiday season and the year to come.

Slainte!

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