Essential whiskies for the festive season
Before they head off for their festive celebrations, we asked some of the contributors to this year's expert panel articles to name their top Yuletide drams. There's a recommendation here to suit most budgets.
We'd love to hear what you'd choose for your own festive drams...
Starting out in the drinks trade in 1998, Tim has worked for The Whisky Exchange since 2003, and now writes all the creative content and tasting notes for both the TWE website and The Whisky Exchange Blog.
Clynelish 14 year old
For my Christmas pick, I’m going for Clynelish 14 year old. For me every time I have this whisky it’s like slipping into a pair of comfy old slippers.
As a non-religious type, the Christmas spirit for me comes in enacting a series of familiar family rituals and routines that instead of being mundane and irritating somehow become more rewarding and personal each time they are repeated. I don’t necessarily hold that you must have a big sherry monster for Christmas whisky – it can be overkill after Christmas pudding AND Christmas cake – rather it should be something wholesome and reliable that gives you a warm feeling inside, like a big cosy jumper exhumed from the bottom of a drawer every winter.
A healthy belt of Clynelish can make me feel goodwill to all men at any time of year, but it’s particularly welcome over Christmas, ideally in the hipflask on an afternoon walk or accompanied by cigars and chocolate by the fireside after most of the house has gone to bed.
Springbank 21 year old
For me, a "festive dram" is a luscious whisky that I can keep in my glass the whole evening while trying to unfold its mysteries. What I look for is a dram with maturity and complexity - something out of the ordinary yet not too powerful.
Heavy peat doesn't seem to work for me when I'm celebrating (too pushy), but subtle smoke is a plus. Some notes of leather and subtle oak as well - sophistication. While multiple drams fit these requirements, I think Springbank 21 Years old is still an incredible example of a sherried style that is getting hard to find. Especially the versions bottled in the 1980's and 90's are wonderful and unfortunately modern Springbank doesn't seem to have the same charm. Bottles are occasionally finding their ways to stores or auctions. They won't come cheap, but they're worth it and sooner or later they will be gone forever.
Neil & Joel from Caskstrength
Neil & Joel met while working as A&R guys for two different major record labels and now run the excellent www.caskstrength.net.
Ballantines Christmas Reserve
Ballantines new limited edition Christmas blend has a perfect mix of dried fruits, warming spiced notes and dry, oaky sherry notes.
It's so Christmas'y that if you put the glass up to your ear, I'd swear you can even hear the faint muffle of the Queen's Speech and several Corgi's barking in the background. It certainly jingles our bells....
Gavin D Smith
Gavin D Smith, co-author of www.whisky-pages.com, is a freelance journalist and author, specialising in writing about horse racing, beer and whisky.
Glen Grant 1960 by Gordon and MacPhail
For my perfect festive pick, if someone else was paying it would be either the recently released Bowmore 40-year-old or Balvenie 40, both fantastic old whiskies.
I'm actually going to be drinking a bottle of 1960 Gordon & MacPhail-bottled Glen Grant over Christmas. It was my 50th birthday recently so I treated myself. A really lovely, big sherried whisky and great value at around £170.
The WhiskyBoys run one of the friendliest whisky sites in the blogosphere - there are three of them but only two are actually boys which isn't as confusing as it sounds.
Glengoyne 21 year old
The WhiskyBoys enjoyed this fine dram at a recent Glengoyne Whisky tasting in Leslie's Bar, Edinburgh. Ever since then, I have been pestering Whisky Boy Jim to buy a bottle for us to enjoy further - Christmas may well be the perfect opportunity.
Nose: Sweet fragrance of baked apples with an earthy aroma of oak. Taste: Clean fruitiness with a hint of juicy ripe Spanish oranges, giving way to some spice with a heavenly warmth. Finish: A long lingering finish as the clean fruitiness and spice gently fades away, leaving a hint of Christmas.