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5 Whiskies to Gift this Christmas

 

2021 has been an eventful socially-distanced year to say the least. Some relationships become difficult to maintain when you are unable to meet in person. So as we around this season of giving and sharing, there’s certainly a little something we could do, to close that emotional distance between ourselves and the important people in our lives.

Here are 5 of the most memorable whiskies we had the privilege to enjoy in 2021. Each has an interesting back story. Each is guaranteed to pass as a thoughtful gift on our part to people who enjoy a good drink - from our better halves, to good friends we haven’t met since last April. 

 

1. For Our Partners: A Hot Chocolate Kiss

 

 

If there’s such a thing as the most “romantic” bottle of whisky, it comes in the form of Macallan’s Rich Cacao expression from its Harmony Collection. Few things speak to passion better than the warm embrace of hot chocolate.

Macallan created the Rich Cacao expression by collaborating with some of the best pastry chefs and chocolatiers in the world. For maturation, a rare type of sherry-seasoned European oak cask was used impart a distinctive bitter dark chocolate note to the whisky.  

 

So how does it taste?

We were pleasantly surprised to learn that this actually comes quite close to hot cocoa. 

 

 

The nose opens with sweet aromas of Hershey’s milk chocolate kisses, before developing more creamy vanilla notes reminiscent of hot fudge sundae. A toasty-buttery pain au chocolat-like note appears towards the middle accompanied by baking spices of cinnamon and light star anise.

 

 

The palate feels equally rich. A slightly oily mouthfeel, opening with notes of dark chocolate, cocoa powder dusted on a hot mocha, and a hazelnut nuttiness. This develops into a slight dryness with a slightly herbaceous fading note of basil leaves.

 

 

This is probably one of Macallan’s most unusual and attractive releases this year at an accessible non-auction house price point. If there’s one person in your life who deserves your warm chocolate embrace, let that be your partner.

Read more about the Rich Cocoa expression here. 

Read about The Macallan Distillery here.

 

 

2. For Our Parents: A Fashionable Vintage Gift

 

(Image Source: Whiskyhobo / M&E Drinks)

 

The greatest gift we can give our parents is our time. If you had fallen far short of the ideal this year, consider putting some time in a bottle as a gift. We’re referring to the Thompson Bros 31 Year Old Islay Single Malt. 31 years is plenty of time.

This has the prettiest label art we’ve seen from the Thompson Brothers. Inspired by batik patterns, an 800-year-old Indonesian textile technique, the label is a mosaic of flowers and concepts found in Singapore and Indonesia. 

The whisky was distilled in Laphroaig distillery in 1989 and matured in a less active refill barrel. And before you worry about the peatiness, this is actually quite unlike most heavily peated Islay whiskies. Instead, a vintage Islay Scotch like this one tends to contain bigger notes of fresh fruits, accompanied by a very refined and mild smokiness. 

 

So how does it taste?

This is one of the most effortless Laphroaigs we’ve sampled, with surprisingly gentle tea-like notes and a brightness that seems closer to Highland style Scotch. 

The nose opens with bright citrusy notes with sweet apples, very light notes of burnt incense and a gentle tea-like character. Much less smoky than typical Laphroaigs.

 

 

The palate has terrific balance and a good oily mouthfeel. Very crisp and bright with honey, pomelos and a gentle smokiness. There is a constant presence of gentle smokiness accompanied a mildly floral note.

 

 

This 31 Year Old expression is a demonstration of how Scotch whiskies used to taste like in its past glory days. Not at all a peatmonster. Drinkers who prefer a more balanced, refined Scotch with elements of the Highland style moderated by the complexity of mild incense-like smokiness and mentholated notes would really enjoy this.

Read our full review of this Laphroaig penned for Malt Review UK.

 

3. For The New Drinker In Our Lives: A Friendly, Approachable Japanese

 

 

Pandemic consumption of alcohol has been on the rise- and there is sure to be some new drinkers within our midst. So rather than tasteless booze, why not guide them towards only the best stuff?

First-time whisky drinkers may have slightly more sensitive palates. We recommend something much more approachable to kick start their whisky adventure.

Friendly and approachable. This blended whisky is created by the owner of Japan’s most well-regarded craft whisky distillery, Chichibu Distillery. This Ichiro’s Malt “Double Distilleries” edition is a blend of two distilleries’ whiskies- younger whisky from Chichibu and rare older whisky from the closed Hanyu Distillery. 

 

So how does it taste?

Sweet, floral and malty. The nose is has a floral, creamy sweetness that is a mix of lavender, honey, honeysuckle and ixora. There’s also a maltiness to it, evoking memories of grandma’s kitchen with lavender earl grey cookies.

 

 

The palate is crisp, succulent and has no alcohol burn at all. Lashings of honey sweetness, bright notes of freshly cut red apples, apricots, peaches. This develops to a satisfying cookie-like maltiness and oaky, vanilla and milk chocolate notes- reminiscent of Tim Tams or Penguin cookies.

 

 

Read our full review of the Ichiro’s Malt Double Distilleries expression.

Grab a sample from our online shop!

 

4. For The Boss Who Already Has Everything: An All-Rounded Indie  

 

(Image Source: Malt, Grain & Cane)

 

What shall we get for our whisky-loving Director who already owns an incredible collection of rare whiskies from the farthest reaches of the planet? Another boring original bottling from a brand name distillery offers diminishing novelty.   

Perhaps a well-matured and well-balanced expression from an up-and-coming independent bottler would excite them a little more! Malt, Grain & Cane (MGC) is a Singaporean independent bottler recently featured on Channel News Asia Luxury, with the goal of bringing to Asia good quality spirits from around the world.

This 24-year-old BenRiach Single Malt is MGC’s inaugural bottling, with complex, well-integrated flavours and a nice harmonious balance that would appeal to any whisky drinker from amateur to devotee.

 

So how does it taste?

Sweet, herbal, malty and fruity all in a syrupy creaminess. The nose opens with fresh florals including gardenias and magnolias, before turning to ripe orchard fruits of apples and cherries. Develops into more malty notes of baked goods with a cohesiveness that comes closer to pain aux raisin.

 

 

On the palate, very creamy and intense with a chewy texture. Ample honey with a subtle herbal character- comparable to Chinese herbal grass jelly layered with sweet syrup. Mild mentholic cooling sensation. This develops to a deep and thick fruitiness of stewed apples and dried mangoes.

 

 

This bottle was well-aged and it clearly shows in its complexity. Rich and round with subtle but harmoniously integrated flavours. Such a versatile all-rounder is guaranteed to please the boss, regardless of their preferences in whisky.

Read our full review of MGC’s Benriach 24 Year Old Single Malt.

Grab a bottle from our online shop!

 

5. For The Good Friend We Haven’t Met In A Year: A Fantastic Conversation Piece

 

(Image Source: Time Out)

 

It hasn’t been an easy time to keep in contact with every friend who mattered to us. So what better bottle to kick start the conversation than Mexico’s first ever whisky?  

Abasolo El Whisky De Mexico is quite likely the most unusual whisky we’ve tasted in 2021. This was distilled in Abasolo Distillery, and made purely from 100% Mexican heirloom corn (an ancient variety of corn beloved for its distinct flavours). Made using nixtamalization- a thousand year old technique originally used by Aztecs to make tortillas and taco shells- causing the spirit to open up with more floral sweetness and warmth of grain.

Just look at the bottle. Regardless of the flavour, this already feels like a must-buy with its unusual design. It is heavy, rectangular, and of dark tinted glass with a slate-like texture. Perfect for displaying the bottle as an ornamental conversation-starter.

 

So how does it taste?

Very memorable fragrance with a distinctive character from nixtamalization. And while American bourbons have rich, woody flavours, the Abasolo is entirely different with a near-complete lack of oak influence.

The nose opens with a clean but substantial solvent-y banana note. This develops to light and estery floral notes with a thin layer of sweet honey.

 

 

The palate is clean, light-bodied but complex. Sweet bananas in whipped cream are the initial notes. This turns savoury with a distinctive note of sweet buttered corn-on-the-cob and freshly popped corn at the movies’. There are also very distinctive notes of dry un-toasted tortillas.

 

 

As the distillery has proudly proclaimed: There is no whisky in the world with a process or taste profile like this. The Abasolo is certainly one of the most unusual-tasting whiskies we have encountered. It also makes for a very memorable first meeting with a long-time friend.

Read our full review of the Abasolo penned for Malt Review UK.

Read all about Pernod Ricard’s interest in Abasolo Distillery here.

 

Have a happy festive season!

And there we have it- 5 memorable whiskies that are guaranteed to lift spirits this festive season. Go forth with your gift-giving! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

@charsiucharlie