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Ten of the best: whiskies for Christmas 2022

Here's a Christmas top 10 that you won't want to miss. From craft bourbon to Highland malts, whisky expert Richard Woodard picks some of his favourite whiskies for you to enjoy this festive season. Pour a dram or find the perfect gift for family and friends.

Once presents are opened and Christmas lunch 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 increasingly varied. This year there seems to be more choice than ever, with distillers releasing seasonal specials, gift editions and special cask-finishes.

So if you’re looking for something new, here’s a selection to give you inspiration. As well as classic Scotch and Irish bottles, the range also includes craft bourbon, a smoky Tequila-cask finish and a decadent Port-cask bottling from Kavalan in Taiwan for the whisky adventurers.

There are choices for fans of blends, single malts and single cask whiskies. Plus recommendations for anyone who enjoys mixing up their own whisky cocktails at home. Cheers!

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Best whiskies for Christmas

Angel’s Envy Bourbon Port Finish

For decades, bourbon was staid and predictable, but for a generation now a new wave of craft distillers has forced America’s signature whiskey style to up its game. Finishing in ex-Port casks lends this luscious example sweet vinous notes alongside vanilla, nutmeg and (ironically) a Sherry-like nuttiness. Great neat, but ideal for a rich Manhattan or Old Fashioned. Never mix grape and grain? Nonsense. Alcohol 43.3%

Glen Moray 2013 Amontillado Finish Warehouse 1

The latest in an increasingly impressive run of releases from a previously under-appreciated Scotch distillery, this is less than a decade old – but you wouldn’t guess. Where oloroso Sherry casks can sometimes be clumsily flabby, amontillado creates more subtle flavours of blonde tobacco, white chocolate and hazelnut praline. A dash of water opens up orchard fruits from the distillate. Alc 57.5%

Glenmorangie A Tale of the Forest

This new expression is a mildly herbal, eucalyptus-scented take on the classic, high-toned Glenmorangie style. It’s the result of a resurrected barley kilning (drying) technique involving juniper berries, birch bark and heather flowers. There’s the merest whisper of smoke in the background (peat is also involved), and subtle oak influence from refill casks. The genius here is that Glenmorangie’s sprightly distillate is not overpowered, but given space to shine. Alc 46%

Jameson Single Pot Still

If you’re wondering why there hasn’t been a Jameson single pot still Irish whiskey before – well, there has. This is the style that made Jameson famous, before its late-20th-century conversion into the easy-drinking blend we know today. Triple-distilled and combining malted and unmalted barley in true pot still style, it successfully combines Jameson’s smoothness with pot still’s tangy fruit and dry spice. Alc 46%

Kavalan Solist Port Cask Single Cask Strength

A modern classic, matured in ex-Port casks in Taiwan’s subtropical climate. This is one of the single malts that rightly put Kavalan on the whisky map. It’s richly fruited with blackcurrant and wild strawberry, accompanied by spice and toasty notes from quite assertive oak. The finish is silky, lengthy and packed with dark mocha notes. Decadent winter drinking. Note: abv varies from cask to cask. Alc 57.8%

Mossburn Signature Casks Series Bill No 2

This hugely enjoyable whisky has flavours of bruised apple, citrus, pepper and spice – plus heather honey and sherry notes from the cask mix – offering a delicious evocation of the popular perception of the classic Speyside style. But don’t be fooled: Scotland’s premier whisky locale has a lot more diversity than this might suggest. Alc 46%

Nc’nean Organic Single Malt

This highly promising whisky hails from a terrific new distillery on the remote Morvern peninsula. Sustainability is to the fore: the distillery is powered by a biomass boiler fed by locally sourced woodchips, using organic Scottish barley and a 100% recycled bottle. Pre-programmed to create an early-maturing style (distillation began in 2017), it offers an unctuous mix of citrus and tropical fruit with light spice from the cask. Pure drinking pleasure. Alc 46%

Redbreast 12 Year Old Bird Feeder Edition

A win-win for whiskey lovers and birders, this seasonal gift pack combines a bottle of Irish whiskey Redbreast 12 with an eye-catching red copper bird feeder. A proportion of the proceeds from sales go towards funding the work of charity BirdLife International. Inside the bottle is Redbreast’s classic winter warmer: a Sherry cask-matured single pot still whiskey with sumptuous Christmas spices, dried fruit and toasty oak notes. Alc 40%

Smokehead Terminado Tequila Cask

Until a few years ago, you couldn’t mature Scotch whisky in ex-Tequila casks; then the rules changed. A change for the better, if this is anything to go by. It’s an Islay single malt matured in ex-bourbon oak, then finished in casks used to age Mexico’s premier agave spirit. The result is a fierily fruity whisky that marries Islay smoke with black pepper and a bewitching note of charred pineapple. Alc 43%

The Dalmore 2007 Vintage

This is one of two releases from the Highland distillery’s Vintage collection – the result of an annual round of cask inspections in the Dalmore warehouse. A lively, zesty Dalmore that shows a slightly different facet to its typically rich and sumptuous style. Spring blossom, orange zest and light honey combine with ginger and just a pinch of clove. A sweet but balanced dram. Alc 46.5%

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