And not a one over $100—how's that for festive?
The Naked Grouse $43
The Famous Grouse is one of Scotland's best selling blended whiskies, and the peated version—The Black Grouse—is one of the best deals around. But this bottle, new-ish to our market one ups both those two. For starters, its minimal design is simply gorgeous to look at (never discount presentation when giving gifts). But most people don't know that owners of the Grouse—The Edrington Group—own two other smallish distilleries called The Macallan and Highland Park and a good portion of what finds its way into this bottle come from those two whisky luminaries. Add that it's finished in Sherry casks, à la old-school The Macallan, and you have a dram that punches way above its weight class.
The Glenlivet Captain's Reserve $75
Classic is the word that comes to mind when thinking about The Glenlivet, so when they do something like a cognac finish—thanks to the expense, a very rare finish—it's newsworthy. But thankfully it's still classic Glenlivet with nice sherry notes, but the cognac does give an interesting shot of dark fruits and raisins. It's pretty unexpected, and that's what makes it exciting for a whisky nerd (and you don't have to pay through the teeth for it).
Glennfiddich Fire and Cane $85
Unlike their rival The Glenlivet, Glennfiddich have been going wild with their experimental series. The bottles are striking, and while they have the brand's classic shape, the graphic designers have really let loose and there's no mistaking them on a back bar, And that's the sweet spot here: last year's experimental offering, Winer Storm, clocked in at cool $300. But this year's Fire and Cane? Less than 1/3 of that. You're getting some prestige on the cheap here. Inside, it's the perfect whisky give in that it's crazy unique—the base whisky is much peatier (that's the Fire) than your standard Glennfiddich, but then there's a finish in South American rum casks (that's the Cane) and a sweetness lays right over the smoke. Not for the stodgy, because there's a lot going on here.
The Macallan Double Cask 12 $86
In the world of whisky, there are few things more special than putting the words Macallan and 12 side-by-side. The original The Macallan 12 remains one of the foundational whiskies ever produced, bringing the idea of sherry casks into the Scotch equation and kicking off a boom in Single Malt whisky that hasn't let up in three decades. Original bottles from the 1980s now sell for thousands of dollars. A little less princely, but sharing the same DNA is this bottle, which hangs out in both American and European oak casks that have been seasoned with Oloroso sherry. When the occasion calls for the gold standard but you only have $100 worth of said gold, this is your choice.