The following originally appeared on Food Digital on December 15, 2011:
It’s that time of year again when the whisky lover in your life is looking for you to show your love with a bottle shaped package. That’s a tricky proposition since you know little to nothing about whisky and you shut down every time that special someone starts droning on about “toffee notes” and “hints of tropical fruit.” I receive a lot of requests for whisky buying advice at this time of year so in order to help you out I’m going to make a few recommendations that would put a smile on the face of any whisky lover (and maybe lead to them demonstrating their love for you!).
In making these recommendations I’m going to steer clear of the traditional Scotch path. Don’t get me wrong, I love the traditional Scotch path but anyone can walk into a liquor store and pick up a bottle of Lagavulin 16, Laphroaig Cask Strength, or Highland Park 18 (three whiskies I absolutely adore) but you’re going above and beyond this year. Let’s really surprise the whisky lover in your life:
Amrut (am-root) Fusion is distilled in India from a combination of peated Scottish-grown barley and Indian-grown barley. The extremely humid Indian weather causes the whisky to age lightning fast. As a result, this no age statement release is as mature on the nose and palate as any 10 or 12 year old Scotch. It’s also incredibly exuberant and deliciously expressive with dark chocolate, orange marmalade, hazelnuts…HEY! You’re shutting down… While ideal for fans of Dalwhinnie and Bowmore this release rewards any whisky lover. At around $60 a bottle this is a great bargain.
Hakushu (hack-shoe) 12 Year Old was only released into the US market in October but its release led to much rejoicing among whisky lovers. This lightly peated Japanese whisky stands in stark contrast to the more widely available Yamazaki 12 Year Old. There’s a delightful peppery note that threads its way through the entire tasting experience (starting in the nose, moving across the palate and entering into the finish) but with lime and dusty library books serving as delicious counter notes… COME ON! That’s the second time… Perfect if your special someone has a bottle of Talisker in the liquor cabinet. It’s similar in price to the Amrut and well worth hunting down a bottle.
If you’re looking for whiskey produced a little closer to home there are some terrific craft distillers at work in many states: St George Spirits (California); Clear Creek Distillery and House Spirits (Oregon); Dry Fly (Washington); FEW Spirits and Koval (Illinois); and Tuthilltown Spirits (New York), to name just a small handful. Whether it’s white whiskey, bourbon, or rye each of these distilleries offers something unique and exceptionally tasty for your special whisk(e)y lover.
Happy shopping and all the best for the holiday season!