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The 12 Bottles of Christmas

Wassail! With just six weeks to go, here is the first of our Christmas gift guides to get you in the festive sprit
Scallywag Boulevardier Cask-Aged Cocktail
Scallywag Boulevardier Cask-Aged Cocktail

Cocktails’ Little Helpers



1. For those with a home bar


The Peerless family’s first bourbon went into a barrel in 1889. They have since revived the craft in their own distillery in bourbon hub Louisville, where the grain is milled, cooked, fermented, double-distilled and barrelled as bourbon and rye, all under one roof. Peerless whiskey is available in two expressions in the UK: Small Batch Rye and Single Barrel Rye. The distillery says Small Batch offers its trademark depth and balance, with notes of toasted oak, citrus zest, rye pepper, and sweet botanicals, while Single Barrel intentionally deviates from the consistency of batched product. Those who take pride in their home bar will appreciate the gift of Peerless’ unique, understated bottle design.

ABV: 54.7–56.4%
RRP: £80
Availability: Native Spirits, Whisky Exchange, Master Of Malt

2. For fans of classic rye cocktails


Virginia-based Catoctin Creek Distilling Company describes its Roundstone Rye as possessing a delicious woody taste, with notes of caramel, rich butter toffee, with a hint of lemon in the nose. Ageing in new charred white oak casks, this is a traditional American rye whisky, which is great in Manhattans or your favourite rye whisky cocktails, as well as superb for sipping.

ABV: 40%
RRP: £37
Availability: Native Spirits, Whisky Exchange, Master Of Malt, Southport Whisky

3. For bourbon lovers who want to embrace home cocktail making


For those looking to gift bourbon connoisseurs with something special this year, the Woodford Reserve Holiday limited edition is back. This means Woodford Reserve has been dressed up in a limited-edition festive bottle design, and each purchase is accompanied by exclusive access to a virtual cocktail masterclass in the new year, where the Woodford Reserve brand ambassador will impart delicious twists on the Old Fashioned cocktail.

ABV: 45.2%
RRP: £23-32
Availability: Tesco, Hard to Find Whisky and other retailers


Best of Bushmills



4. For whiskey aficionados


The Bushmills 21 Years Old single malt is in scarce supply at Ireland’s oldest licensed distillery, and the top of its regular range. Matured for 19 years in ex-oloroso sherry and bourbon-seasoned barrels, then married for two years in Madeira casks, the distillery says this whiskey is reminiscent of Christmas cake and dried fruit, with a spicy, aromatic maltiness, subtle nutty raisin notes and a long, rich finish with a mint-like burst — one to savour neat in front of the Christmas tree.

ABV: 40%
RRP: £160
Availability: The Whisky Exchange

5. For those new to Irish whiskey


Bushmills 10 Years Old is a great starting point for those eager to start their exploration of the world of Irish whiskey. Triple-distilled from 100% malted barley and matured for a minimum of 10 years in bourbon-seasoned barrels, the distillery describes this single malt as fresh and zesty, with aromas of honey, vanilla and milk chocolate. Serve it near, over ice or mixed into a range of classic and modern cocktails – ideal for welcome drinks at the Christmas party!

ABV: 40%
RRP: £35
Availability: The Whisky Exchange

6. For those with a sweet tooth


Bushmills 16 Years Old is a single malt aged in a combination of ex-oloroso sherry and bourbon-seasoned barrels, before going through a final finishing period in port wine casks. Billed as possessing complex notes of juicy fruits, nuts and spice, this 16-year-old whiskey is best enjoyed neat or with a small ice cube to open up the flavours – perfect for indulging after your Christmas dinner.

ABV: 40%
RRP: £80
Availability: The Whisky Exchange


Something a little bit different



7. For those with a jaunty air


Douglas Laing, a distiller, blender and bottler specialising in the release of single-cask and small-batch expressions, has released Scallywag Winter Limited Edition, the second warming release of the Scallywag brand. A blend of single-cask Speyside malts, the whisky is offered at a cask strength and without colouring or chill filtration. It is described as possessing bold notes of juicy dates, rich toffee sauce and warming spices, and was aged in ex-oloroso and Pedro Ximenéz sherry casks. The seasonal release is strictly limited to just 4,200 bottles globally, each presented with a mini Santa-like woollen hat.

ABV: 53.1%
RRP: £49.99/€55
Availability: specialist spirit retailers and online

8. For those who want to capture a moment in time


Suffolk-based distillery Adnams has launched a limited-edition sherried cask-strength single malt in time for Christmas: Adnams Distiller’s Choice First Fill Sherry Cask. The special release is the first in a new range of limited-edition spirits crafted by Adnams head distiller, John McCarthy. Specially selected from different spirits of various ages, matured in a variety of casks, this is described as a wonderfully warming 6-year-old whisky perfect for the festive season, which blends aromas of sultanas and subtle dried fruit peels with an almond nuttiness, baking spices, and gentle fresh hints of herbs and fennel – McCarthy said that the whisky’s character “inspired the most comprehensive tasting notes [he had] ever written”. Just 300 hand-numbered bottles of this spirit have been released, making it a true whisky snapshot.

ABV: 63.9%
RRP: £89
Availability: At Adnams' website and retail stores

9. For peat lovers


A blend of whisky from Celtic-region distilleries aged in Brittany, France, Celtic Whisky Distillerie’s Gwalarn (Breton for ‘northwest wind’) is the distillery’s first new release in 20 years. The distillery says the nose is rich and opulent, with the first powerful notes of grain and slight peat giving way to an aromatic combination of vanilla, leather, tobacco and honey, before saline notes combine with gingerbread and candied fruit.

ABV: 40%
RRP: £35.99
Availability: La Maison du Whisky


Not-quite-whisky



10. For the (new-to-whisky) sweeth tooth


Just in time for winter, Elixir Distillers has entered the liqueur category with Highland Nectar, a Scotch whisky liqueur infused with cinnamon, ginger, bitter orange, lemon oil and vanilla. Whether you’re looking for an entry into whisky, or simply an indulgent liquid treat, Highland Nectar is a warming winter serve that will also work well over ice when the days get longer again.

ABV: 35%
RRP: £24.95
Availability: The Whisky Exchange and other UK retailers

11. For the curious convenience-seeker


Professional mixologist Michael Cecconi of M Squared Spirits makes handcrafted, shelf-stable ready-to-drink cocktails, bottled in generous servings for two, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The cocktails, which make an ideal gift for the spirits lover looking to try something different, will soon be available to be shipped to almost every US state. Choose from the Chamomile Old Fashioned (bourbon whiskey, bitters, honey and chamomile), the Maple Whiskey Sour (bourbon, bitters, lime and maple syrup), and the Hibiscus Gimlet (fragrant gin, lime cordial and essence of hibiscus flowers) – or try all three! Cecconi also offers virtual mixology classes and corporate team-building events.

ABV: 32% (Chamomile Old Fashioned), 24% (Maple Whiskey Sour), 26% (Hibiscus Gimlet)
RRP: US$12 each or US$33 for the ‘Cocktail Pack’
Availability: M Squared Spirits website, shipping to 39 US states

12. For those in search of one-of-a-kind coziness


The Boulevardier is the Negroni’s whiskey cousin, and is traditionally made with bourbon. However, Speyside whisky blender Scallywag have put their own spin on the cocktail by marrying together 1 part Scallywag Speyside Malt Scotch Whisky with 1 part Campari bitters and 1 part Agora vermouth in an Oloroso sherry butt. The tiny batch of 350 50cl bottles of Scallywag Boulevardier Cask-Aged Cocktail was then bottled by hand. To serve the ready-to-drink aged cocktail, which Scallywag describes as robust yet smooth, bitter yet sweet, simply pour over ice and garnish with orange peel.

ABV: 29.5%
RRP: £28.99
Availability: Scallywag website