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Top 10 whiskies for Christmas

The festive season is well and truly upon us, and with that in mind, our thoughts have naturally turned to listing our top 10 whiskies for Christmas.

Which whisky will you be drinking this Christmas?

Whether you’re looking to buy a gift for a loved one, or treat yourself with a dram of something special, we’ve rounded up the 10 whiskies from around the world that are perfect for this time of year.

Most of our 10 chosen Christmas whiskies contain classic festive flavours like rich fruit cake, vanilla and cinnamon, while others make fantastic gifts.

From experimental bourbons to extravagantly-priced Scotch and everything affordable between, there’s something on this list for everyone.

Have we missed anything? Leave a comment below if your favourite Christmas whisky isn’t on our list.

Glenfiddich 18 Year Old

With baked apples, vanilla and sultanas on the nose, Glenfiddich 18 Year Old certainly evokes a sense of Christmas on smell alone. On the palate, the apples and vanilla give way to candied orange peel and cinnamon, with a hint of hazelnut creeping through. This single malt Scotch whisky is probably the easiest to find, appearing on the shelves of most large supermarkets and specialist drinks stores. At £40 a bottle, it delivers excellent value for money as well.

The Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year Old

Just released in October 2012, The Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year Old is now part of the Speyside distillery’s core range. An older version of The Balvenie’s most popular whisky – The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old – this whisky is an indulgent treat to enjoy during the holidays.

Described as delivering deep vanilla notes with green apple and creamy toffee flavours, and with a golden caramel colour, The Balvenie Doublewood 17 Year Old is a whisky to settle down with on special occasions such as Christmas.

It is available in the UK and the US for £75 a bottle.

Ballantine’s Christmas Reserve

This special edition from the world’s No.2 blended Scotch brand is back on shelves once more to help whisky-lovers see in the festive season.

Specially designed to be drunk at Christmas, Ballantine’s Christmas Reserve displays heavy notes of moist raisin fruitcake, brown sugar and caramalised apples on the nose, with candied orange and a hint of ginger appearing on the tongue.

This year, brand owner Pernod Ricard has made Ballantine’s Christmas Reserve available in more markets than ever before, including Switzerland, France, Mexico, Netherlands, Vietnam, Poland, Denmark, Bulgaria, China, Thailand, Germany, Slovenia, Taiwan, Croatia, Hong Kong and select duty free outlets.

Its snow-white gift box and embossed bottle make this a perfect whisky to treat a loved one, or even yourself.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey

While already old hat in the US, honeyed whiskies are something of a novelty in the UK right now. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey has a big following in the US, where its sweet honey and nut flavours, combined with the unmistakable taste of Jack Daniel’s, have been a big hit. If you’re looking for a whisky gift for someone with a sweet palate, this may be just the thing. Affordable at just £25 per bottle, it’s a whisky to enjoy neat, over ice, or mixed with ginger ale or coffee.

Yamazaki 10 Year Old

This single malt from the Yamazaki distillery in Japan has been aged in bourbon barrels for 10 years, giving the liquid plenty of vanilla, caramel and spice synonymous with Christmas.

A perfect introduction to Japanese whisky, Yamazaki 10 Year Old is an accessible whisky perfect for treating yourself or a loved one on Christmas Day if you’re more accustomed to Scotch. Find it for around £35 in specialist liquor stores.

Penderyn Portwood

Having been finished in ex-port casks, Penderyn Portwood has, as expected, rich berry fruit flavours associated with said wine. On the nose is an abundance of red berries, cocoa and toffee, while the tongue picks up notes of dark chocolate, creamy custard and peppery plum.

Released to mark the festive season this year, Penderyn Portwood is a rich, sumptuous Welsh whisky to enjoy fireside with a platter of cheese.

It can be found at specialist retailers for around £35.

Balblair 1969

Those looking to splash out a little extra this Christmas on an extra-special whisky may want to consider Balblair 1969, although with a hefty US$3,500 price tag it’s likely to be a one-off purchase.

The Scotch distillery – the only one to date its whiskies rather than place an age statement on them – released its 1969 expression this year in select markets, including the US, the UK, France, Russia and South East Asia.

Aged in ex-bourbon, remade hogshead casks, the 43-year-old Balblair 1969 is a special, limited release of just 999 bottles, rich in flavours of bananas, peardrops and toffees.

Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select

This has to be the most anticipated release of the year, and news of its launch was certainly one of The Spirits Businessbiggest-hit articles of 2012.

Whisky matured in ‘Sinatra Barrels’ – barrels with grooves cut into the interiors of the staves to allow the liquid to soak into a higher proportion of the wood – has been blended with original Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Whisky for a more noticeable spicy and smoky flavour. Its release is timed to commemorate the run up to the centenary of Frank Sinatra’s birth.

Those wishing to give Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select as a gift this Christmas will need to be flying in or out of an airport, as until January, this is a travel retail exclusive only in select US locations. It does however come in a gift box with a commemorative book of the famous singer-songwriter’s love affair with Jack Daniel’s, for an RRP of US£150.

George T. Stagg 2012

There’s not a huge amount of bourbon on this list, but George T. Stagg 2012 from Buffal Trace distillery has certainly earned its place. At 71.4% abv, this whiskey – often seen as the pinnacle of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection – is an eye-watering liquid that packs a punch.

Full of burned toffee, rye spice, licourice, tobacco and vanilla oakiness, George T. Stagg is a treat and a half. Add a drop of water to mellow the spiciness and bring out a hint of orange and more oak notes.

It’s available in most specialist liquor stores for around £110 a bottle.

Woodford Reserve Masters Collection – New & Aged Cask Rye

This pair of rye whiskies from the Woodford Reserve Masters Collection are a great gift for a whisky enthusiast looking to discover more about wood’s effect on the whiskey. Both filled with Woodford Reserve Rye whiskey, one 37.5cl bottle contains liquid aged in new American oak casks, while the other contains liquid aged in refill bourbon casks.

The result offers an interesting view of the maturation process, and really shows off the skills of Woodford Reserve’s master distiller.

The new cask rye has a golden brown colour with cinnamon and spiced apple notes, while the aged cask rye has a light straw colour and lighter notes of grass, rye grain and citrus.

The duo are presented in a gift box for around £100.

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