The Captain’s annual Christmas buying guide and yearly review.

Another year draws to a close and here I am wondering what I can suggest you might like to pick up for Christmas, whether it be for yourself or for loved ones, or even me if you’re feeling generous, this is my guide of what to buy.

I’ll split this into sections and this isn’t some awards ceremony, it’s just good drams I’ve had over 2017, some reviewed, some not, but all ones which I think merit checking out, ones I might pick up over Christmas.

My final point is that I’m suggesting a mixture of easy to find whiskies as well as things which have sold out or limited edition, some are cheap and some are reasonably expensive but nothing is more than one hundred pounds.

This list isn’t in a particular order, it’s not a 1st or 2nd place thing, it’s just some suggestions, okay? Okay.

Shall we begin?

The catergories are as follows;

Blends.

Premium Blends.

Blended Malts.

Premium Blended Malt.

Single Malts.

Premium Single Malts.

1. Blends.

I’m a huge fan of blends, it’s where most of us, certainly people over forty, started their whisky journey and people who dismiss them don’t know what they are missing.

Mitchell’s Blended Scotch Whisky. All sorts of awesome but one you’ll need to track down at a specialist retailer but it’s around £20 so it’s worth the punt for this fiery peaty blend.

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Grant’s Signature. Simple and straightforward, a very pleasant cheap whisky and available all over the place, watch out for this being on offer though, don’t pay full whack.

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Aldi Highland Earl Smoked Reserve. This is under £15 and is a rival for any under £30 peated blend. And that’s really saying something.

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2. Premium Blends.

Cutty Sark 12 Year Old. Another one you’ll need to look for in specialist shops but worth it, a relaxing and well priced bottle of whisky.

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Cadenhead’s 17 Year Old Creations Light and Creamy Vanilla. Just a very tasty dram, not easy to get hold of but it was one of my top drams of the year so needed a mention.

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Douglas Laing’s Syndicate 58/6 12 Year Old. Was surprised at just how good this is, worth tracking down.

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3. Blended Malts.

Monkey Shoulder. What is not to love about this? I’d maybe wait until you see it on offer as it’s nearly £30 and I’d say a fair price is £25. Also try and track down the Smokey monkey in bars, you’ll love it. (This is currently on offer for £23 in Asda, so fill your boots.

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Naked Grouse. Used to be a blend now a blended malt and full of flavour, dunno if it’s any better but it’s certainly decent, again, wait until you see this on offer, £30 is too much but you’ll find it for as low as £20 and that is a bargain.

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Johnnie Walker Green Label. A new version, and very decent but try and get it on offer.

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4. Premium Blended Malts.

Compass Box No Name. Wonderful, yeah it’s expensive but this is an excellent dram. A real powerful and striking dram. Maybe one to try in a bar if you don’t want to spend this much on a bottle of whisky.

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North Star Spirits Vega 23 Year Old. Just brilliant, £50 for a 23 year old whisky, perfection.

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Weymss Malts Spice King Cask Strength. That little bit of a kick gives you so much more, worth hunting down in specialist retailers.

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5. Single Malts

Paul John Excellence, perhaps not the pick of the bunch but one you can get hold of without too much bother and the full range is excellent.

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Lidl Ben Bracken Islay Single Malt Whisky, a £17.99 Islay Single Malt which is very decent. I think this dram might draw a lot more people into drinking peaty whisky.

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Aldi Glen Marnoch 29 Year Old Single Malt. What is not to love about the annual release of an aged whisky for under forty quid from Aldi? I’ll even forgive them for the silly box.

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6. Premium Single Malts.

Balvenie 17 Year Old Doublewood. Just a wonderful glass of whisky, not an everyday dram but worth every penny you’ll spend on this.

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Glen Moray 1994 Sherry Cask Finish. Stunning distillery only bottles which you’ll probably never try but oh my what a selection.

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Highland Park 2018 18 Year Old. New bottle, new batch and wonderful dram, a luxury dram for most of us but if you’re going to have a special occasion bottle of whisky in the cabinet you’d do a lot worse than this.

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Edinburgh Whisky Ben Nevis 20 Year Old. A little bit quiet this year in terms of bottle releases as they expand into new territories.

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And now a few honourable mentions.

Tomatin Water, not until next year but is superb, I will buy all of this when it comes out.

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Eden Mill Oak aged gin, excellent, for a gin, I mean I’m not getting carried away here, this was a joy though, went well with a few different mixers and even straight with an ice ball.

They are also doing a Hibs gin and the quicker they get a bottle of this to me the better, I just can’t throw money at them quick enough. They have also brought out some collaborations with Aldi which are such good value it’s almost embarrassing.

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Bimber Distillery New Make, buy a mini of this, you just need too, this distillery will change things and this new make is possibly the most interesting thing I’ve tasted this year, it’s just so so interesting.

Bimber also produce a range of vodkas and gin which I’ll try and get hold of for next year and there whiskies hit the shelves in 2019.

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Ironroot Republic, doing good things with some weird looking corn.

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La Maison, Fontaine, French Absinthe, this is lovely, a beautiful Absinthe and I’ll try and bring a few more to you next year. Absinthe is a drink you need to try, but at the end of the evening.

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My final non whisky mention has to go to Mascaro Narciso Unusual Blend. A random holiday purchase bought because I liked the bottle and fancied a change and it just blew me away, I can’t wait to get back over and stock up on a few bottles.

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It’s been a really interesting 2017 for me, I’ve launched a proper website which I’ll admit I really need to tart up but I’m hoping to do that next year, it’s been a steep learning curve I’ve struggled with at times moving to Word Press but at least I’m here and the site is very slowly starting to pick up numbers, I’m still miles down on what I was with the old blog but fingers crossed Christmas will help me pick up.

Absinthe and gin have been my new discoveries this year, I’m still not convinced that gin won’t sink without a trace in a few years and Absinthe will always be low key but I’ve loved exploring the differences in available bottles and I would like to see a few more artisan or craft or whatever distilleries producing a few more to run alongside their gins and vodkas.

Natural, Organic and Orange wines have been a thing for me too, loving this more pure approach to wine making, and using old techniques to, maybe, let us try wines which haven’t been available for hundreds of years.

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I still yearn for less packaging and I still yearn for less bullshit and I’m going to remain cynical over the re launch of Brora and Port Ellen, Rosebank I’m a little bit more positive about due to communication from them but we’ll see.

And of course there’s been the Natural, Orange and Organic wine thing. I’ve loved exploring these and I’ll try and review a few more as there really aren’t that many people focusing on them, and they offer a whole new angle to wine.

Next year I think I’m going to slow down a bit, I’m going to try putting out one opinion piece and three reviews per month and release them on a Monday morning but again, we’ll see how that pans out.

I was thinking about one supermarket offering and two others but obviously it all depends on what gets released. I will also attempt to leave the house more often and attend a few events.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year when it comes.

The Captain.

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