Christmas time, so the song goes, is all about mistletoe and wine – well, not in my book. ‘Tis the season for very good whisky. Sure, wine in all forms – from red, white and sparkling through to the mulled variety – flows readily during the festive period, but when the season of goodwill and gifting comes around each year, for me, it’s all about the grain, not the grape.
If you’re seeking out gifts for someone of a similar mindset this Christmas – or compiling your own whisky-based wish list for Santa – you’ve come to the right place. We’ve not only gathered a selection of limited releases and festive whisky bottlings, but there’s also gift ideas beyond the bottle – from hip flasks to whisky stones and even Scotch-scented candles. In the list below, find gift inspiration for aficionados of all levels and gifting for all budgets. All are options I’d proudly see in my stocking this year.
Please note, that all items in this whisky gift guide include prices and stockists for those based in the UK – but should hopefully provide inspiration for whisky lovers around the world this Christmas.
Top Christmas gifts for the whisky lover in your life
World Whisky Advent Calendar, Drinks by the Dram
In the lead-up to Christmas you might want to surprise someone (or even treat yourself) with an advent calendar with a twist. The premise is simple: hidden behind each door is not a tasty chocolate treat, nor a traditional Christmas icon, but a dram of whisky from around the world. What’s not to love? Each of the doors hides an individual measures from one of 21 distillers scattered across 14 different countries. If they’ve been especially good this year, the Old and Rare version comes in at £999.95 and contains whiskies from Scotland, Japan, Ireland and the USA.
Bob’s Winter Bitters (10cl)
The Old Fashioned is one of the most versatile whiskey cocktails. Traditionally a mix of sugar, Angostura bitters and bourbon, this drink can be given a Christmas twist by switching up the usual white sugar for a darker muscovado (which dissolves more easily, too) and swapping the Angostura for Bob’s Winter Bitters. These bitters bring Christmas spices to a classic cold-weather cocktail. Pair with a brilliant bourbon, and you have an excellent winter warmer.
Drinks Rocks (set of four), Runa Klock
The big debate between whisky drinkers is the addition of water, ice or nothing at all. Some folk prefer to drink their whisky chilled, but with no dilution from ice – and the ideal way to do so is by using whisky stones. Simply put them in the freezer then pop them in with your dram. Most on the market resemble small paving stones, but for the design conscious, this set from Runa Klock is made with natural materials and finished by hand. Not just cooling, but utterly cool themselves.
A full-size bottle of whisky makes for a great one-off gift (see below), but you can also reward a loved one with a range of different drams across the year. Whisky-Me is the place to go, with the brand’s clever little pouches popping through letter boxes once a month, and with the option to try a range of styles, from traditional single malts to whiskies of the world. So far, the service has featured some of the world’s best distilleries, from The Macallan in Scotland to Bulleit in America.
From £7 a month, www.whisky-me.com
If you want to enjoy a good whisky properly, the right glassware is key. The choice for many drinkers is the Glencairn, a small, fluted vessel whose shape has become synonymous with whisky itself. Indeed, more than four million of these are sold each year, and you can even buy pin badges in the shape of the glass, such is its popularity. Take the drinking experience up a further notch, with a hand-blown and hand-cut version that’s great for gifting.
From £6, www.glencairn.co.uk
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2022
There are a number of great whisky books on the market, but the one essential read that will add to the shelf of any enthusiast is the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2022. The adult equivalent of The Beano Annual, each yearly edition comes packed with the latest information from the world of whisky, with articles, interviews and distillery profiles. Once they’ve read one edition, it’ll become an annual fixture.
The Bowmore x Aston Martin 21 Year Old
If you have a cool £220,000 lying around, and you are a fan of high-class engineering and smoky Scotch, you could indulge in the ultimate whisky gift of all time: a limited-edition Aston Martin DBX, designed in partnership with Bowmore single malt whisky. The car features copper-coloured inlays to mirror the distillery’s pot stills, and the bodywork is finished in Bowmore Blue, a unique colour specific to the car. If you don’t have that sort of money to splash, you can buy into the collaboration with a series of Bowmore x Aston Martin whiskies, with a 10, 15 and 18 Year Old available in duty-free stores, and a recently released limited edition 21 Year Old available at specialist retailers around the world.
£300, www.masterofmalt.com (release date in late November)
Whisky & Water Scented Candle, Noble Isle
The aroma of whisky is a key element to the overall experience, and the folk at luxury British brand Noble Isle have created an homage to the scent of the spirit, with its Whisky & Water candle. With a 45-hour burn time, whisky lovers should have more than enough moments to relax and enjoy this alongside their chosen Christmas malt.
Bow Street Experience, Jameson Whiskey
The ultimate for any whisky drinker is a distillery visit, and there are plenty of places around the world that accommodate fans of their drams, be it Woodford Reserve in Kentucky, Kavalan in Taiwan, or the brilliant new Johnnie Walker Experience in Edinburgh. The real pick of the bunch is the newly renovated Jameson Distillery Bow Street in Dublin, where you can combine an interactive and fun tour with lessons in whiskey-making and Jameson cocktails at the bar. It’ll be the highlight of a wonderful break in one of Europe’s best culinary cities.
From €25 (£21), www.jamesonwhiskey.com
Batch & Bottle Glenfiddich Scotch Whisky Manhattan Cocktail (50cl)
Making cocktails with whisky is a great way to build on and expand the wide flavours of the drink. But if you’re a little rusty with a shaker or simply don’t want to get your kitchen messy, you can still treat the whisky fan in your life with a cocktail concoction. For great cocktails, the key is to start with a great base spirit. The new range from Batch & Bottle does just that. The Scotch Manhattan (an ‘Edinburgh’, surely?) is made using Glenfiddich Single Malt and comes in a generous 50cl bottle – which is also enough to share on Christmas Day.
Double 6oz Leather Hip Flask, Aspinal of London
A hip flask is a brilliant piece of kit that allows drinkers to dram wherever they are, from a forest walk to a ferry crossing. Choosing which particular whisky you put into it is the challenge, however. However, the good people at Aspinal of London have designed a cute little number that combines two small flasks in one, allowing the owner to take a couple of options with them when they’re on the go.
Johnnie Walker/Bang & Olufsen gift set
The winning pairing of whisky and music has been taken to a new level by blended Scotch maker Johnnie Walker, which has partnered with luxury audio brand Bang & Olufsen to create a limited run of 100 Christmas gift sets. Each one includes a 70cl bottle of Walker’s iconic Blue Label Scotch whisky and Beoplay EQ adaptive noise-cancelling wireless earphones, so that you can immerse yourself in pure sound and blended whisky harmonies. On sale exclusively at the Knightsbridge branch of Harvey Nichols.
£495, Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge from 29 November (or available for pre-order from 29 November at www.malts.com)
The Whisky Collector’s Hamper, Fortnum & Mason
The masters of the hamper, London’s Fortnum & Mason has turned its hand to whisky this Christmas. A journey in a wicker basket, it comes with some really top-end bottlings including offerings from Glenfarclas, The Macallan and Bruichladdich in Scotland, Waterford and Green Spot in Ireland, plus the brand’s own English single malt made at the Cotswolds Distillery. If you know a clan of whisky lovers – or one very deserving person – what could be better to send their way?
A Fine Christmas Malt, Highland Park
There are key notes in certain whisky releases that reflect the festival flavours found at this time of year. Notes of Christmas cake are often found in sherried whiskies, along with candied orange peel, dark chocolate, spices and nuts. Some distillers and bottlers have worked to capture these in Christmas or winter-specific release. The Whisky Exchange has launched its annual Christmas bottling, this year a 16-year-old Highland Park, described as ‘a softly smoky rollercoaster through festive flavours’.
Tale of Winter, Glenmorangie
In a similar vein, Glenmorangie distillery has released a Tale of Winter edition, a sweet and spicy offering made for the festive period.
Penderyn Whisky Gift Box, The Cheese Works
Whisky and cheese form a surprisingly brilliant union. Both full of flavour, the two can combine to be one of the ultimate food and drink parings. This has been spotted by The Cheese Works, which has worked with celebrated Welsh whisky distillery Penderyn to put together a whisky-and-cheese extravaganza. Expect three cheeses – including an Isle of Mull cheddar – one single malt, and plenty of exciting flavours.
Club Oenologique magazine
We couldn’t go without mentioning a subscription to our flagship quarterly print publication, Club Oenologique. Each issue covers the very best in fine wine and spirits, food and travel, which includes plenty of insights into the very best Scotch and world whisky. Pick up a single issue for the glossiest stocking filler, or gift them a subscription that includes all four issues of the magazine throughout the year and at a preferential rate.
From £14 for a single issue, click here.