Monday, December 21, 2009
When neighbours' stoops, yards, and windows become aglow in white, red and green, when mangers appear in churches, local parks, and Catholic school playgrounds, when you can hear 15 versions of Silent Night in a single visit to Macy's, you know it's that time again.
Perhaps I will do 8 Drams of Hannukah next year but for now, welcome to the third installment of Dr. Whisky's Christmas Picks (2007, 2008).
In the past, this annual prescription had a consistent UK slant (as that was where I called home), focusing on supermarket discounts, UK specialist retailers, etc. This year my recommendations will still use my most trusted UK retailers but that UK bias will be slightly diminished as I live in the USA now and spend less time in Sainsbury and Tesco. This year I have been joined in this tradition of whiskevangelism by new arrivals in the whikyverse who can flush out my Christmas casebook:
Jeff at The Scotch Hobbyist recommends stuff HERE.
Matt and Karen at Whisky For Everyone do a great job of recommending by flavour HERE.
Lucas and Chris at Edinburgh Whisky blog provide an "ultimate" guide HERE.
John Hansell solicited recommendations from What Does John Know?'s cadre of prolific communicators HERE.
Or if you happen to be reading this from your gold encrusted, diamond studded iPhone from a Virgin Galactic flight, THESE Christmas whiskies might be more up your alley.
My Christmas whisky recommendations have always included best offers and sales, so I will try to do that again.
These guys ship nearly everywhere in the world:
The Whisky Exchange
Ardmore Traditional £20 (from £27)
Benromach 10 £24.50 (from £28.50)
Balvenie 12 DoubleWood £25 (from £29.50)
Dalmore 15 £39.50(from £44)
Glenfarclas 25 £82 (from £87)
Royal Mile Whiskies
Ardmore Traditional £20 (from £26)
Glenfiddich 12 Caoran £25 (from £30)
Glenrothes Select Reserve £27 (from £31)
Tamdhu 18 £35 (from £40)
Glenmorangie Signet £100 (from £110)
Binny's (Chicago but ship nationwide)
Balvenie 17 Madeira Cask $110 (from $130)
Glenfiddich 15 Distillery Edition $45 (from $50)
Glenmorangie Astar $75 (from $80)
Imperial 1994, Gordon & Macphail $64 (from $70)
Sheep Dip 1990 $70 (not money-off deals, but you want this stuff)
and if you can, try to grab Compass Box's Orangerie. It is beautifully packaged and will appeal to those who love OR loathe whisky. Think Drambuie without the sticky.
Whisky Gift Packs
Glenfiddich 15yo ($40/$45USD) - You really can't beat the value on this one. Comes with a 50ml of 18yo and a Glencairn glass (value $12 minimum)
Glenfarclas 15yo (£44) - comes with minis of 'Farclas 21 and 25! Win win!
BEST WHISKY CHRISTMAS GIFTS
Scotch Malt Whisky Society Membership
Joining the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is worthwhile for any malt drinker and would make a wonderful gift that keeps on giving as newletters, bottling lists, and tasting event listings arrive by mail year round. In the UK, there are members rooms in Edinburgh [Leith Vaults (mentioned in a past Dr. Whisky post HERE) and Queen St.] and London (Greville St.) and they are absolutely stunning venues and great spots to entertain guests... or just yourself.
In the USA, the SMWSA is equally wonderful but operates slightly differently. You still reveive mail and have access to an exclusive list of soctiety bottlings, but it is much more a network of friends, bottles, and events that come to you! Twice a year, the SMWSA tours the country hitting larger cities with the best consumer whisky fairs in the country. They never oversell tickets so there is always room to move, good food to eat, and the Shayne family and friends do such a great job (and are such wonderful people), paying membership to be invited to their tasting events is worth every single penny
The Malt Whisky Yearbook 2010
The most recent edition of the annual must-have from Ingvar Ronde, a book full of enough basics to educate the new whisky enthusiast, enough info entertain the casual whisky drinker, and enough detail to satisfy the real whisky nerds among us. Adn once again, it is so up to date it is baffling. Perhaps in Sweden you can publish from the future? As usual, the book includes detailed bios on all operating (and many closed) distilleries, stats and commentary on the year that was, info on websites (including this one), and an absolutely brilliant section of articles with contributions from the usual suspects. Add to that increasingly in-depth coverage of new Scottish distilleries and single malt distilleries from all corners of this whisky-soaked earth.
This easy to transport and easy to read softcover is part magazine, part book, part distillery guide, part industry report and ALL amazing reading with brilliant new additions every year. In an time when we all believe the internet exists to answer our every inquiry, when a quick search on our phones can help us instantly settle arguments and win pub quizzes (cheaters!), one book renews our faith in the value of the printed page in the digital age. If I could carry Charlie Maclean around in my pocket then I probably would, but until then, The Malt Whisky Yearbook is the only crib a whisky enthusiast needs.
Whisky and Philosophy: A Small Batch of Spirited Ideas
Not for the casual whisky lover, this collection of essays engages those most deeply engaged with the water of life in all its forms. While that is not to say there might not be a little something for everyone, Whiskey for Everyone is about as geeky as a collection of essays about the epistemology of unicorns or the aesthetics of Klingon language, arts and culture. All that being said, this collection was right up my alley and almost every essay managed to be simultaneously fun, interesting, and academic without taking itself too seriously. In fact, the most obnoxiously earnest pieces in the whole collection were the historical or "what is whisk(e)y" sections rather than the articles entitled "The Phenomenology of Spirits: How Do Whiskeys win Prizes" or, "Women, Whiskey, and Libationary Liberation." As if sticking our noses in glasses with friends and discussing the intricacies of recipe, flavour and history of each dram wasn't nerdy enough, here is a book that takes our boozing habits to the most white collar ivory tower of levels. And what fun it is.
99 Drams of Whiskey: The Accidental Hedonist's Quest for the Perfect Shot and The History of the Drink
A very different read than the above, but by no means less entertaining. Written by a celebrated food columnist and blogger (Accidental Hedonist) Kate Hopkins, 99 Drams is a whirlwind trip through the varied world of whisk(e)y (Irish, Canadian, American, and Scottish). The narrative follows a literal trip to varied countries and distilleries and Hopkins somehow manages to fill every vignette with background facts that never bog down the flow or sacrifice her voice from being anything but one of the excited explorer. Perhaps a bit long-winded at times (just look at the title), 99 Drams does manage to keep your attention as an often laugh out loud travelogue love story between a truly relatable narrator and a spirit that intoxicates protagonist, companion, and reader.
Hope this has been of use.
If you have any whisky questions, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Whisky for a prescription.
And hey, have a safe happy merry.