Guide to the best luxury spirits for Christmas
While a pair of Falke Vicuña could be a nice touch, socks remain a Christmas-gift cliche. Giving a luxurious bottle is a better choice. When trying to raise some festive spirit this year, I suggest you take the sentiment literally: bestow the very best in whisky, brandy or gin.
If you’re on the hunt for something special then whisky, and indeed whiskey, offers a glut of global gifts. For those looking to raise the bar, Gordon & MacPhail has two new additions to its ‘Private Collection’ range, one being a spectacular 50-year old Caol Ila, the oldest single malt ever released from this legendary distillery.
Matured in a refill Sherry hogshead and bottled at a cask strength of 52.5% ABV, it’ll retail for £7,500 and only 199 decanters are available in specialist whisky shops.
For Irish I’m keeping things classic with Jameson, and suggesting The Jameson 18 year old Bow Street, (£170, Whisky Exchange), a fine blend that has the added oomph of a 55.4% abv. Distilled at Midleton in Cork, it enjoys a spell of finishing in the old Bow Street distillery in the centre of Dublin.
For American whiskey, I’m staying in London, and recommend the East London Liquor Company Rye Whiskey. It seems incongruous to avoid American shores here, but this spicy, assertive, yet balanced spirit is a proper rye whiskey and further evidence of the East London Liquor Company’s distilling prowess.
At £85, it’s worth adding that there are only 269 bottles available and it needs to be purchased on location at the East London Liquor Company.
If it’s eyebrows you want to raise, then try the New Zealand Malt Whisky Company's 29 year-old, which, considering its age, is very competitively priced (£475, Whisky Exchange).
But one of my whisky experiences of the year was with the first of the Talisker Bodega Series (£2,750 for 70cl, Whisky Exchange). Matured in Delgado Zuleta's award-winning Quo Vadis amontillado sherry Delgado house, this also satisfies any sherry fans over Christmas.
In the world of brandy the traditional luxury favourite is Cognac; I suggest you steer clear of splashing any of the follow suggestions onto a Christmas pudding. With the recent and sad departure of Alain Chevalier, co-founder of LVMH, you’d be right to raise a glass of Hennessy. Its Hennessy Paradis Imperial (£1,950 for 70cl, Clos 19) is a true statement of affection.
I’ve also been dipping into the Cognac supplies of the family-owned Francois Voyer, reminding myself of the excellent independent bottling Through The Grapevine (£160 for 70cl, Whisky Exchange). And for something a little different, cigar fans will love the Frapin Cigar Blend (£99 for 70cl, Whisky Exchange)
This has also been a fantastic year for Armagnac, an oft-overlooked brandy, but only because the sneaky French tend to keep it secret. This is one to gift any connoisseurs in your family, and one of Armagnac’s strengths is you don’t need to invest in an ancient or rare spirit to present something luxurious.
That said, the Chateau Du Tariquet has spirit in the bottle that is up to 30 years old and still beautifully light and fruity and far from over-oaked. It’s also splendidly presented (£205 for 70cl, Master of Malt ).
And do consider Calvados; the Dupont 1977 Pays d’Auge vintage is bottled at cask strength and not filtered so will give you the most explosive and assertive of apple flavours (£241 for 70cl, Whisky Exchange).
One of the gins of the year for me has been the Australian Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz (£40.95 for 70cl, Whisky Exchange). This rich and red spirit wouldn’t be out of place paired with Christmas dinner and makes an ideal mulling gin.
Then there’s the exquisitely packaged 44°N Gin (£66, buy direct from the distillery), from Comte de Grasse in France. When it comes to gin gifts, this is a proper cracker, and actually, if you’re unsure of whether to go with spirits or a luxury scent as a present, this bridges the two.
44°N has been inspired by the perfume region of Grasse and adopts the techniques of the craft, infusing bitter orange peel with mimosa, immortelle, lavender and local honey using a series of techniques including ultrasonic maceration, vacuum distillation and CO2 supercritical extraction.
Gin is the gift of the moment, so it could be the year to also add the excellent Kyoto Distillery Ki No Tea (£53.95 for 70cl, Whisky Exchange) to the cabinet. The botanical bill includes a luxurious blend of teas from the Uji region of Japan to deliver an intensely aromatic and flavoursome spirit.
And since it’s Christmas, you should consider a moderately novelty angle, in the lovely 2018 Christmas Malt (£74.95 for 70cl, Whisky Exchange). I’ve already got mine on the go, it’s a bold but sweet 17-year-old Speyside single malt with massive sherry and spice cask flavour; it's perfect with a mince pie.