I am often asked for advice about buying whisky as a present for a friend or a relative. I am in no way a whisky expert but I end up answering this question often enough that I thought it merited a blog post.
If you are buying whisky for someone in the UK or Europe then you should consider using The Whisky Exchange http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/. I’ve used them to buy whisky presents for people in the UK and France and I have found them to be very reliable. In the United States I suggest you check out the website of The Whisky Shop http://www.whiskyshopusa.com/ which also ships; their physical store is in the center of San Francisco. There are many other options in the UK and in the USA.
My first recommendation is Mannochmore and below is a picture the Flora & Fauna bottling which is available in the UK for £42.15 plus tax (from The Whisky Exchange). This Speyside whisky is “delicate and fragrant” which should be more approachable to whisky newcomers than very peaty, smokey and pungent whiskies from Islay like Lagavulin or Laphroaig. This is also one of my personal favourites. I think this is a safe bet when you don’t know what kind of whisky the recipient likes (or perhaps they might not like whisky at all).
Americans can find a Blackadder bottling of Mannochmore (around $90 from the Liquor Barn or order from The Whisky Shop) and a Connoisseur’s Choice bottling (around $85) which may also be available at The Whisky Shop.
If you are buying a present for someone you know likes smokey and peaty whiskies (perhaps from Islay) then you should consider one of the modern Bruichladdich whiskies from Islay. This would be a good choice for someone that typically drinks something like Lagavulin or Laphroaig. For example, one of the Port Charlotte whiskies e.g. PC7, PC8, PC9, PC10 or (shown below) PC11.
Personally, I don’t think it matters much exactly which PC you get and I would suggest buying the cheapest one you can get since the price varies a lot from one version to the next. You can get PC10 for £48.95 from The Whisky Exchange and for $62 from The Whisky Shop.These are very intense and quite unsubtle whiskies and they are very lovely with a cigar. They are probably a poor choice for a novice whisky drinker.
If you want to buy a very special whisky for someone that likes super smokey Islay style whiskies like Ardberg and if you are wiling to spend big bucks then you should consider one of the Bruichladdich Octomore whiskies.
The Octomore whiskies vary in price depending on the specific batch. You can get an Edition 0.61 for £94.95 from The Whisky Exchange and you can get a batch 5 bottle for $215 from The Whisky Shop. With such a price difference, Americans may want to pay the shipping and buy from The Whisky Exchange. This would be a great choice for a younger drinker who has just IPO-ed his or her tech company.
For sophisticated whisky drinkers that prefer a little more refinement I recommend Caperdonich (Speyside) and below you will see a picture of a bottle that I drank. You can get a 1982 Director’s Cut for £169.95 from Royal Mile Whiskies and you can get a 20 year old for $245 from The Whisky Shop.
Nose: Fresh & spicy – carrying a hard boiled sweets style with macerated oranges, bees wax & polished wood.
Palate: Mouth coating – richly spiced character developing to a gentle oak quality with a touch of dry smoke.
Finish: Long, still spicy – now running drier – still oaky with dried orange pith and dark chocolate.
This would be a great present for a self-professed whisky expert.
Finally, if you suspect the recipient is likely to add ice or Coca Cola to your present then I recommend the 10 year old Jura which is very cheap. You can get it for £26.25 from The Whisky Exchange or for $45.50 from The Whisky Shop.
This whisky is so unremarkable that adding ice or Coca Cola to it may actually improve the taste (I can’t bring myself to do either even to a Jura). This is a great choice for anyone that does not like the taste of whisky.
Please do let me know if you find any of this useful (or the opposite).