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Ten of the best whiskies for Christmas 2021

Here is a Christmas top 10 that you won't want to miss... From small batch bourbon to Highland malts, whisky expert Richard Woodard picks some of his favourite whiskies for you, or Father Christmas, to enjoy this festive season.

Once the meal and family games are over, there’s nothing better than relaxing with a dram or two of special festive whisky. Of course, you may already have your favourite bottles, but the world of whisky is so varied that there’s always something new to try and buy.

Whether you’re a fan of blends, single malts, single cask, a classic Scotch or Irish or American whiskeys, this selection of 10 best whiskies for Christmas offers something for everyone.

Best whiskies for Christmas

Five bottles of whiskyagainst a white background

Black Bottle Island Smoke – Alchemy Series

Fans of Black Bottle’s smoky, Islay-heavy flavour profile are going to love this new limited-edition, one of a pair in the blend’s new Alchemy Series. Master Distiller Brendan McCarron has dialled up the peat, bringing a kippery, faintly medicinal extra dimension from a mix of Islay malts and soft, sweet grain. A blend of real character. Alc 46.3%

The Boston Bakers Irish Whiskey

At once innovative and classically Irish, this blend of whiskies distilled at the Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk uses sweet, soft grain and single malt aged in both stout and Sherry casks, then finished in American oak. There’s a touch of peat, but that’s just to season the notes of ripe orchard fruits, butterscotch and a prickle of black pepper. Alc 40%

Bruichladdich The Biodynamic Project

Scotland’s first biodynamic whisky, this 10-year-old malt uses biodynamically grown Wiltshire barley. That’s a departure from Laddie’s usual sourcing policy – but the team couldn’t find any biodynamic barley growers in Scotland. It’s worth it, both from a sustainability viewpoint and in the glass, where the distillery’s bright fruit and florals are matched with light toffee and vanilla. Only available from Bruichladdich’s website. Alc 50%

Fettercairn 16 Year Old, 2021 Edition

A successor to 2020’s inaugural Fettercairn 16, this year’s model marries oloroso and palo cortado Sherry casks to bring deep, rich notes of hazelnut, dry spice and liquorice to enhance the distillery’s bright tropical fruit character. What could have been a flavour clash is instead a perfectly pitched, hugely enjoyable whisky that is also – in today’s market – great value for money. Alc 46.4%

Four Roses Small Batch Select

Complexity is the watchword at the consistently excellent Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, which uses two mashbills and five yeast strains to create 10 separate recipes – six of them combined in this gloriously aromatic and richly fruited bourbon. The palate features classic notes of baking spices, vanilla and toasty oak, all underpinned by a pinch of anis. Alc 52%

Glen Scotia 12 Year Old Seasonal Release

This distillery in the historic whisky hotspot of Campbeltown has released some superb whiskies recently, including this slightly uncharacteristic but delightful expression, which has seen a mix of American oak, ex-bourbon and ex-Sherry casks. It combines festive flavours of dried fruit, allspice and nutmeg alongside mouth-clinging caramel and a savoury maritime character that speaks clearly of its origins. Alc 54.7%

Glenmorangie Lighthouse 12 Year Old

Glenmorangie’s new Lighthouse micro-distillery is a hotbed of innovation and experimentation, and this bottling was matured, unusually for Glenmo, in an 80/20 mix of ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks. This adds rich layers of hazelnut and a little astringency to the distillery’s classic mingling of high-toned fruit and florals. Officially only available at the distillery, but you’ll also find the odd bottle online. Alc 48%

Kavalan Triple Sherry Cask

This is a cracker of a winter whisky: a Taiwanese single malt matured in three different ex-Sherry casks – oloroso, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel – delivering classic dried fruit and roasted nut flavours with waves of Demerara sugar on top. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love this, although UK whisky fans will have to wait until January to buy it (it’s already on sale in France and across Asia-Pacific). Alc 40%

Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival 2021

This year’s annual release to mark the Islay Jazz Festival is the first Lagavulin to be ‘finished’ in ex-mezcal casks, which adds even more layers of billowing smoke to Laga’s famously peaty profile. It also takes the distillery’s trademark maritime flavours into meatier, spicier barbecue territory, but without sacrificing its essential character. Available at the distillery and online. Alc 54.8%

Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach Kylebeg Wood Tree No 5

Dair Ghaelach = Irish oak, and this fascinating project links flavour with sustainability, finishing mature single pot still Irish whiskey in casks constructed from seven trees felled in Kylebeg Wood, Co Laois. They’re all terrific, they’re all different, but this was my pick: an intensely powerful combination of stewed dark fruits, allspice, ground coffee and treacle. Alc 56%

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Whisky: your Christmas buying guide

Understanding whisky styles

Best new whisky releases: eight to try

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