A fancy bottle of Scotch is the quintessential holiday present. But whether you’re shopping for your boss, father-in-law or even for yourself, finding the perfect bottle can take a while. To help you sort through the dozens of single malts and blends on store shelves we asked Ethan Kelley, who runs New York City’s Brandy Library, which stocks more than 350 Scotches, for his gift suggestions. It’s our gift to you.
For the Boss:
Glenmorangie 18-Year-Old ($99) Glenmorangie produces one of the finest 18-year-old malts out there and it’s also one of the most drinkable. The creamy and smooth whisky has hints of nuts, honey and figs. It’s more than enough to appease any Scotch snob or anyone else willing to give it time to reveal itself.
Laphroaig 18-Year-Old ($100) Typically, smoky and peaty Islay whiskies grow tame with age. But this Laphroaig hasn’t calmed down at all and is still a smoke bomb. (Though there are some subtle nuances of salt, brine, citrus and plenty of vanilla.) This is a bottle meant to be savored one glass at a time and shouldn’t be finished in a night.
For Your Father-In-Law:
Dewar’s 18-Year-Old ($80)
Don’t dismiss blended whisky. This smooth blend is spectacular, full of vanilla and toffee flavors. Dewar’s has a long history in America and your father-in-law has probably had his share of the brand’s ubiquitous White Label. This gift might finally get you into his good graces once and for all.
Macallan 17-Year-Old Fine Oak ($110)
Chances are your father-in-law is not one of your biggest fans. Woo him with a bottle of Macallan’s Fine Oak 17-Year-Old. While the distillery is famous for its Scotch aged in old sherry casks, this whisky is matured in several different types of barrels. It’s smooth, slightly sweet and full of subtle complexities. It should win you some points.
For Your Friend:
Dalmore Gran Reserva ($65)
My friends don’t believe in opening just one bottle. This Dalmore may be the solution. It offers weight, power and intensity while still being approachable. You’ll taste peat as well as notes of spice, citrus and chocolate. This bottle will disappear quickly in the hands of any casual drinker.
Bowmore 15-Year-Old Darkest ($68):
This Bowmore is perfect for your friend who is partial to a bit of smoke in their glass or for your cigar-chomping buddy. It’s full-bodied with an almost savory flavor and a hint of hickory, but the whisky doesn’t overwhelm the palate. It’s the perfect gift—after dinner you can both enjoy a dram.
For a Party:
Old Pulteney 12-Year-Old ($40)
My philosophy is to bring something you like to drink to a party. (A good whisky also does wonders for my social tolerance.) Old Pulteney is a maritime whisky with hints of salt, fruit and vanilla, but it has enough guts to scare off the timid—which makes sure you get a second glass.
Auchentoshan Classic ($30)
During the holidays, I too must make my way to countless parties. For these special occasions, a bottle of Auchentoshan from Southern Scotland will keep me socially lubricated. It’s light and floral with a tangy punch of cinnamon and lemon zest. A Pinot Grigio drinker may even be able to wrap their minds around this bottle.
Glenfarclas Vintage 1974 ($250)
You deserve this special bottle of Glenfarclas, whose complexities will take you at least a year to figure out. It’s full of rich flavors, including seasonally appropriate dried fruits, citrus and even gingerbread, and is bottled at cask strength, which means the distiller wants you to add some water.
Springbank 18-Year-Old ($165)
Spoil yourself with this delicious Springbank 18-Year-Old. It retains the distillery’s trademark heaviness and saltiness but has calmed down enough to reveal spice, honey and plenty of vanilla. It has bright tartness and a long finish with notes of prune and raisin.