From decades-old Scotch to a Mad Men-style spirits server: The best dark-spirit gifts

·6-min read
Cold weather calls for dark spirits  (Aidy Smith/The Three Drinkers)
Cold weather calls for dark spirits (Aidy Smith/The Three Drinkers)

It’s that time of year again where the cold creeps in and we’re all looking for some warming comfort within our glasses.

Fear not, for our dark spirits gift guide is here, rounded up by Aidy Smith, an award-winning drinks expert and presenter of The Three Drinkers TV Series on Amazon Prime.

An abundance of incredible whisk(e)y awaits, with a couple of other treats thrown in for good measure. Happy Holidays!

Balblair 25-Year-Old

“Here we have the oldest working distillery in the heart of the Highlands, who have been crafting whisky since 1790. That’s quite a long time. Tucked away in an ancient Pictish gathering place, the secrets within have been creating a true Scotch nectar for centuries. The 25-Year brings with it a distinct warmth having been aged in both American oak ex-bourbon casks and Spanish oak.”

Tasting Notes: Think baked apricots, dark liquorice, and a silky beeswax texture before an oily chocolate marmalade finish.

Buy now $625, £445

Black Bull 40-Year-Old

“An iconic wonder that is quickly finding its reputation and place in the market. This, the flagship of their treasure trove, is a 40-Year-Old blend from some of Scotland’s most superior Single Malt and Single Grain whiskies. Ranging in age from 40 to 51 years, 86% of which are malt, you’ll find appearances from the likes of Glenlivet, Macallan, Caperdonich, Highland Park and Bunnahabhain. Completely natural and bottled at cask strength, I can quite happily say this is a work of art.”

Tasting Notes: Toffee apples, caramel milk chocolate and banana sundae with toffee popcorn, hazelnuts and vanilla.

Buy now $1,000, £900

Black Art 1992 Edition 09.1: 29-Year-Old

“The 9th release of this series encapsulates a 29-Year-Old wonder from 1992. At its core, an unpeated single malt scotch curated from secret casks with only 12,000 bottles in existence, a recipe sworn to secrecy over the year with only the master distillers being in the know. In fact, this is the oldest release to date and given less than 1% of their remaining stock is pre-renaissance, that’s going to cause quite a lot of excitement.”

Tasting Notes: An abundance of coconut, dried tropical fruits and oaky spice with pine needles and orange zest on the nose. The palate offers buttery shortbread, marmalade, vanilla custard, and stewed raspberries with grilled pineapple. The finish seems to go on and on, think dried apricot, mango caramelized banana and molasses sugar.

Buy now $675, £350

Bushmills Causeway Collection 2000 Port Cask

“There’s something about older vintages of Irish whiskey that are so tantalizing given how rare the stocks have become. The newly released Giant’s Causeway Collection is inspired by the mythical lands of Ireland, each offering its own unique twist on a single malt. The 2000 Port Cask has spent its entire life in rare first-fill ruby port casks, giving it a breathtaking flavour profile. Only 2,322 bottles exist, so you better get in there quick.”

Tasting Notes: Big, bold and luscious. Think meadow berries with salted cameral toffee and a kiss of chili spice on the finish.

Buy now $344, £250

Even more festive delights (Aidy Smith/The Three Drinkers)
Even more festive delights (Aidy Smith/The Three Drinkers)

Craigellachie Exceptional Cask Series - 23-Year-Old

“We do love a rare whisky, and that’s exactly what we’ve got here. The ‘Exceptional Cask Series’ only makes an appearance when Master Distiller, Stephanie Macleod locates casks of such a superior nature, they simply have to be a singular bottling. Distilled in 1995, this wonder was aged in 100% Oloroso Sherry casks, giving it a distinct richness, and burst of flavour.”

Tasting Notes: Cinnamon, dried apricot and creamy vanilla jump out on the nose with pineapple, zingy mint, and a burnt caramel on the palate. The beauty of these releases; once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Buy now $382, £330

Johnnie Walker Blue Gift Set

“Not many people know that only one in every ten thousand casks under the Johnnie Walker name make it into Blue Label. Now, I’m not a rocket scientist, but that sounds quite rare. Deep velvety layers of dried fruits, citrus smoke and sweet spicy honey cross your taste buds as they glide into a long soothing chocolate and smoke finish. If you’re looking for a little gift drinkspiration this festive season, they’ve only gone and teamed up with sound pioneers Bang & Olufsen to release 100 limited-edition gift sets containing state of the art Beoplay EQ adaptive earphones alongside a bottle of the blue stuff. Suffice to say, when the kids are running around screaming on Christmas day, you won’t hear a thing.”

Single Bottle $168, £133

Limited Edition Gift Set $655, £495

The Macallan Harmony Collection: Rich Cacao

“A rich and decadent hot cocoa warming your mittens as you sit by the fireplace on a cold Winter’s night? Gosh, doesn’t that sound dreamy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have that same experience with a whisky? Oh wait, we can. Introducing The Macallan Rich Cacao, part of The Macallan Harmony Collection. This limited annual release is made as a partnership with a luxury hotel and chocolate factory in Girona owned by the Roca brothers. The gift box is even made from discarded cacao pods husks. Oh, and guess what, it goes amazingly with chocolate. Who would have thought?!”

Tasting Notes: Utilising the Macallan’s traditional sherry seasoned European casks with sherry seasoned American oak casks, you’ll explore dark chocolate cake, sticky ginger, vanilla, and honey creme caramel with a long velvety cocoa finish.

Buy now $199, £349

Tobermory 23 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish

“Being the only whisky distillery on the Isle of Mull, and having been established in 1798, Tobermory has had quite some time to find itself. To see how their bounty would stand the test of time, they took their revered 15-year-old liquid, resting it for an additional 8 years in Oloroso casks. The result absolutely worked.”

Tasting Notes: A deep rose-gold hue sits in your glass with wafts of ripe oranges, toasted barley, and fruitcake. Take a sip and salted toffee, candied lemon and caramelized walnuts take over your palate. A work of art.

Buy now $310, £269

Bonus Choices, Just Because it’s the Holiday Season

Some wild-card options (Aidy Smith/The Three Drinkers)
Some wild-card options (Aidy Smith/The Three Drinkers)

Endell Spirits Server

“Now that you’ve got the bottle inspiration sorted, it’s time to get the serve correct. Contemporary design specialists Modloft have you sorted with this bespoke server. Designed to hold a multitude of your favourite bottles alongside 6 rocks glasses, it’s simple yet makes an elegant statement. Reminiscent of old Hollywood glam, the functional conversation piece is built to last in steel and finished in a natural walnut veneer for that final touch of glam.”

Buy now $795, £600

Grand Marnier Quintessence

“It may not be whisky, but it’s one of my most iconic finds of the year and well worth discovering. This incredibly rare cuvée is crafted with exceptionally old vintage cognac from Grande Champagne. Only special reserves from the family’s private cellar are used to offer a stunning 82% cognac 18% orange liqueur combination.”

Tasting Notes: The deep copper colour gives way to almond, Christmas cake and orange marmalade with an orange, nutty and peach palate. There’s only one way to drink this absolute wonder. Neat.

Buy now $800, £700

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