When we think about holiday gift giving, we’re over wrapping up socks and sweaters for our friends and family members. Instead, we opt for a gift they’ll actually want: a bottle of booze, specifically some nice Scotch whisky. In our opinion, there are few gifts that say “happy holidays” quite like a bottle of single malt or blended Scotch whisky. As a bonus, it’s a great way to get a loved one excited about a distillery or expression that you enjoy.
Before you just randomly go out and purchase the first pricy bottle you run across at your local liquor store, you should at least think a little bit about what the person receiving the gift might enjoy. Do you think they’ll enjoy smoky, peaty whiskies? Well, look for bottles from Islay. How about softer whiskies with notes of honey and heather? Grab a bottle of whisky from the Highlands. Do you think they have a bit of a sherried sweet tooth? Speyside whiskies should fit that bill.
Still need a little help? Don’t worry. The experts are here to help. We asked a few distillers and spirits professionals to tell us the Scotch whiskies they’ll be gifting this holiday season. Please keep reading to see all of their answers. Maybe you’ll get some inspiration for your brother or sister-in-law who seems to have everything.
Glenmorangie The Nectar d’Or
Daniel Nguyen, founder of Sông Cái Distillery in Đông Dư, Gia Lâm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Average Price: $75
Glenmorangie The Nectar d’Or makes a terrific gift. I love Sauternes so a Sauternes cask-finished scotch immediately appealed to me. The expressive, creamy honey notes layered on the malt base are so indicative of Glenmorangie and did not disappoint. It’s great in cocktails or served neat and has a particularly abundant feel that fits quite well into the holiday season.
A lot is going on with this whisky’s palate. Honey, dried fruits, brown sugar, vanilla beans, candied orange peel, and light spices are highlights.
Dylan Carney, head distiller at Savage and Cooke in Vallejo, California
Average Price: $99
Longrow Peated from Springbank has been a favorite since the year and a half I spent living in Scotland. I find it has the intensity of peat smoke I like without bullying out the other flavors in the whisky. Every couple of months, my partner and I will go to Tomales Bay, buy a dozen oysters each, and have a picnic on the water. The contents of the picnic basket shift seasonally, but Longrow is always a must.
The balanced peat smoke and rich body make a fantastic pair with oysters. Or if you aren’t enjoying oysters, it makes for a great, smoky, complex giftable single malt.
Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie
Caley Shoemaker, co-founder and master distiller at Altar Spirits in Santa Fe, Mexico
Average Price: $65
Bruichladdich creates some really fantastic expressions focused on the flavors of the barley used to make it. I love sharing these, especially with beer enthusiasts or other distillers, because they showcase the grain in such an elegant way. One of its best and most giftable is Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie.
Flavors include candy apples, cinnamon sugar, vanilla beans, honey, and gentle baking spices. The finish is sweet, spicy, and highly memorable.
Jason Barrett, founder and master Distiller of Black Button Distilling in Rochester, New York
Average Price: $67
Dalwhinnie 15-Year is a great Scotch whisky to give a friend or loved one as a gift. It’s just easy and approachable. Part of Diageo’s Classic Malts range, it’s known for its mellow, soft, and highly complex flavor profile.
The palate is a complex mix of honey-roasted nuts, toasted vanilla beans, candied orange peels, caramel, and gentle, rich smoke.
Ardbeg Wee Beastie
Meghan Ireland, head blender at WhistlePig in Shoreham, Vermont
Average Price: $49
Ardbeg’s Wee Beastie is a great single malt whisky for gifting this and every year. For those who love big and bold whiskies, this is a great choice. This five-year-old whisky is peat-smoked and aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso sherry casks.
This highly complex whisky mixes sweetness, richness, and smokiness very well. Aromas and flavors include herbaceous, smoked meat, anise, and a soft creamy finish.
Matt Chavez, a brand representative for Beefeater Gin and beverage director of Ci Siamo in New York City
Average Price: $46
I think the key to gifting scotch is to not gift something completely polarizing. I like heavily peated smoky whisky, though your friends may be on the entry-level side of tasting scotch. I go with something I love that is also approachable. Aberfeldy 12 fits that bill well.
Aberfeldy 12 is a wonderful Scotch whisky with beautiful warm notes of honey, cocoa, Graham cracker, and the lightest touch of smoke. It’s perfect for holiday sipping.
Old Pulteney 15-Year
Max Hames, distillery operations manager at Sagamore Spirit in Baltimore
Average Price: $115
The briny coastal lineup of Old Pulteney, out of the northern town of Wick, will always be my standard as it brings me right back to my previous career as a commercial salmon gillnetter. Giving away a bottle of their 15-year-old scotch is like giving away a part of my past.
Salted caramel, candy apples, vanilla beans, and gentle wintry spices round out this classic expression’s flavor profile.
Katy O’Donnell, national brand ambassador at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, Kentucky
Average Price: $125
This is a mic drop of a bottle. The whisky landed in the Guinness Book of World Records in the 1970s as “the world’s strongest Scotch whisky.” The iconic spirit paved the way for Scotch expressions to be high-octane. This is the perfect gift as it is wrapped in history and garnished with impeccable flavor. This is an impressive scotch that will not break the bank but will impress a crowd. Best gift ever.
The high proof allows an explosion of flavor from this whisky yet it stays true to the DNA of the brand with heavy flavors of sherry, stone fruit, and bitter orange.
Aberlour 12-Year Double Cask Matured
Robert Cassell, founder and master distiller of New Liberty Distillery in Philadelphia
Average Price: $53
Aberlour 12-Year Double Cask Matured is a great single malt whisky to give as a gift. It has a great balance with a very slight hint of sherry. Between the flavor profile and the price, it’s been my personal go-to at home for the last seven to eight years.
Flavors of dried cherries, sweet sherry, vanilla, candied orange peels, and vanilla swirl throughout this whisky.
The Dalmore Cigar Malt
Julian Flores Torres, bar manager at PALENQUE Kitchen in Costa Mesa, California
Average Price: $190
The Dalmore Cigar Malt would be the gift of choice here. I have quite a few friends who smoke cigars and the flavors found in this single malt scotch are made to go fantastically well with a cigar.
The sherry notes both in the nose and palate bring out even more from your cigar as you sip along.
The Balvenie 14-Year Caribbean Cask
Beau Gaultier, bartender at Bay 6 in Nashville
Average Price: $90
This popular single malt whiskey was first matured in traditional oak barrels for fourteen years before being finished in casks that previously held Caribbean rum. It’s a great gift for the whisky fan in your life.
It’s balanced with a bit of sweet funk to win over inexperienced scotch drinkers the way it won me over when I was first learning about the category.
Andrew Hueston, bartender at El Vez in Philadelphia
Average Price: $60
If you want a textbook, no messing around scotch that is valuable, and a great shelf trophy, I always go with Mortlach 12-Year “Wee Witchie”. For around $50 it’s probably the most approachable and interesting Scotch out there.
A tiny bit sweet with some banana, butter, and raisin notes, Mortlach makes the perfect gift even if only for yourself.
Liz Rhoades, head of whiskey development at Whistlepig in Shoreham, Vermont
Average Price: $59
Cardhu 12-Year is one of my go-to scotches, so naturally would share the joy with others this holiday season. This popular Speyside single malt is not only a great beginner Scotch whisky but the kind of bottle you’ll buy (or gift) again and again.
This is a great gift because it’s an easy-going Scotch with notes of malt, honey, leather, and pear drop.