Six Christmas or whatever you celebrate gift ideas!



We are on the cusp of December. That means we have reached the season of strange perfume adverts, shoppers rampaging for deals and animals in brightly coloured Christmas jumpers.

So I have taken it upon myself to bring you a list of six (slightly off the beaten track) spirit deals which I think may appeal as gifts for the spirit lover in your life….. even if that happens to be yourself…. Click on the description or picture to see where you can buy them!!

1.First on my list is a beautiful sherry cask expression of Benrinnes at 11 years old from The Whisky shop Dufftown! At just over £34 this is an absolute steal!!


2.When I think of Christmas I automatically think of Mexico.. Who doesn’t! Bruxo No.1 from Master of Malt is a fantastic smokey mezcal made with 100% Espadin agave. It’s a little more expensive at £52… it is Christmas though.


3.Sometimes heavy becomes a little over done at Christmas and something a little lighter is needed. and at £37ish I can think of no better vent for that need than the gorgeous Hazelburn 10 year old from The Whisky Exchange! With apple, honey and a little vanilla on the palate what’s not to like!!


4.If you have on the other hand finished the days meal and the cold, wet and windy weather has left you craving something a little more….brash Aberlour’s A’Bunadh is very worth a shot. Especially at the Amazon special offer price of £35.69!!

5.Because it’s Christmas you may want to treat yourself to something pretty! Like it might have been designed by an Italian pretty! This rather attractive very sherry forward bottle of Tamdhu 10 year old might be just the thing to feed your inner hedonist!


6.As my wife has quite rightly pointed out to me in her infinite wisdom. “You want something at Christmas you can’t have the rest of the year”. Having been shot down at the idea of a month of Advocaat… Spirit advent calendars!!! A month of drams from the amazing guys at Master of Malt!


Hopefully this has given you some ideas to make a loved one’s or your own day!



BenRiach 20 Year Old (70cl, 43.0%)

Speyside, whisky


The BenRiach distillery is a single malt Scotch whisky distillery in the Speyside area of Scotland. It is operated independently by the BenRiach Distillery Company Limited, formed by two South African funding partners, Geoff Bell and Wayne Keiswetter, and Scotch whisky expert Billy Walker. In 2008, the company expanded their portfolio with the acquisition of the Glendronach distillery. As well as the Glenglassaugh distillery in March 2013.

The BenRiach Distillery was established by John Duff in 1898, close to the Longmorn Distillery which was also owned by Duff. The distilleries were joined by a private railroad, with a private steam locomotive, the Puggy, to transport coal, barley, peat and barrels between the distilleries. Soon after the railroad was established in 1900 the distillery stopped production in the wake of the bankruptcy of Pattison’s whisky, a major Scotch Whisky purchaser. Only BenRiachs maltings remained in active use, producing malt for Longmorn. It didn’t produce spirit again until 1965 when it was reopened by Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. In 1978 the distillery changed hands, this time to Seagrams. Seagrams became part of Pernod Ricard in 2001 and the BenRiach distillery began operating for just three months of every year. In 2004 the distillery was acquired by an independent consortium, the BenRiach Distillery Company Limited.

It was with delight, while sworn to secrecy, that I witnessed BenRiach gaining its independence, when a team led by the experienced and infectiously enthusiastic Billy Walker acquired the Distillery. This independence will allow BenRiach to unlock its secrets and bring its fine and surprising malts, officially to the market in their natural state for the first time. There cannot be a single true lover of whisky who will not rejoice because of it.


I poured the whisky in to a Copita nosing glass, added a half teaspoon of water and left the whisky covered to develop for ten minutes. The whisky pours a golden colour with a slightly syrupy consistency. On rolling around the glass the whisky leaves long legs on the inside of the glass.

I found the nose to be quite fruit forward with an abundance of soft orange and citrus peel, lemon, raisins and cooking apples coming forward. This moves in to a more smokey and almost resinous note with a little hit of fresh peat and oak coming through.

The taste is unusual for a twenty year old whisky and would almost indicate something a little younger, but this is by no means a bad thing! The flavour is a little spirity but this is followed by more and more dried fruit and raisins. This is followed by a light malt sweetness coming through with more fruit and hints of peat smoke. As the flavour develops more spicy flavours come forward, pepper and cloves on the tongue. This is indeed a very pleasant dram!

The finish is medium long with notes of oak and vanilla followed by a smooth little peat smoke. As the finish starts to fade away an almost a tart jam sweetness comes through.

This whisky is a delight and for the age is as bright and exciting a 20 year old whisky as you’ll find!

This is available from Master of Malt HERE!


Glen Grant 21 Year Old 1992 (cask 55416) – Cask Strength Collection (Signatory) (70cl, 51.2%)

Speyside, whisky


Glen Grant is a distillery founded in 1840 in Rothes, Speyside, that produces single malt Scotch whisky. Previously owned by Chivas Brothers Ltd, best known for their Chivas Regal blended scotch whisky, Glen Grant was purchased by the Italian company Gruppo Campari in December 2005. It is the biggest selling single malt Scotch whisky in Italy.

Glen Grant was founded in 1840, by brothers John and James Grant, two former illegal distillers and smugglers who decided to take out a license. With the sea and port of Garmouth nearby, the River Spey at its feet and barley-growing plains nearby, all the basic ingredients of malt whisky were close at hand. This time the distillery was legal.

By 1872, the founders of Glen Grant Distillery had died. Young James ‘The Major’ Grant, born in 1847, had always taken a keen interest in the distillery and having inherited the business and the title ‘Glengrant’ from his uncle John Grant, he was to prove himself a worthy successor.

Stories about ‘The Major’ abound. A legendary innovator, socialiser and traveller, he lived by his own rules and set his own standards. New ideas fascinated him and he wasn’t afraid to explore them. He was the first man in the Highlands to own a car. Glen Grant was the first distillery to have electric light. And he introduced the tall slender stills and purifiers which created the fresh malty flavour and clear colour that defines Glen Grant whisky to this day.

In 1931, Major Grant, the last Glengrant, died, survived by his three daughters and a distillery that had become one of the most famous in the world. Douglas MacKessack, his grandson, was to become his successor.

In 1972, the Glenlivet and Glen Grant Distilleries Ltd amalgamated with the blending concerns of Hill, Thomson and Co.Ltd and Longmorn Distilleries Ltd to become The Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. The original family interest in the distilleries was maintained, with two substantial outside shareholders: Courage Ltd, the brewing concern and Suntory Ltd, the Japanese distilling company.

In 2006, Campari acquired Glen Grant, its only whisky, when Allied Domecq was acquired by Pernod Ricard. To this day, Glen Grant continues to be one of the biggest selling single malts worldwide.


I poured the whisky in to a Copita nosing glass, added a teaspoon of water and left the whisky covered to develop for ten minutes. The whisky pours a golden colour with a slightly oily consistency. On rolling around the glass the whisky leaves long legs on the inside of the glass.

The nose initially hits with notes of vanilla, red fruit and a slight note of bourbon. These notes are followed by some hints of soft spice and some slightly floral aromas. As the whisky develops notes of salt and almond start to come through in the background.

The flavour is almost heady with spiced apple, this is followed by notes of salt, vanilla and a more pronounced dry oak (bitter wood) note. This is balanced out perfectly by sweet notes of caramel not unlike a bourbon and a soft citrus undercurrent. On the finish there is a slight candy note.

The finish is long with a lingering floral note.

This whisky is another fantastic example of a Signatory bottling! These are always worth searching out and the cask strength variants do not disappoint!

Sadly this bottling is no longer available but this years bottling is available from The Whisky Exchange HERE!


Basil Hayden’s (8 Year old) (75cl, 40.0%)


Basil Hayden’s is the lightest bodied bourbon whiskey in the family of Jim Beam small batch bourbons produced by Beam Suntory. It is 80 proof, in contrast with its three sibling brands of higher alcohol concentration (Knob Creek, Booker’s, and Baker’s).

The Basil Hayden’s bourbon brand was introduced in 1992 and is named in honor of Basil Hayden, Sr. Hayden Sr. was a distiller, and he used a larger amount of rye in his mash than in some other bourbons. Later, Hayden’s grandson Raymond B. Hayden founded a distillery in Nelson County and named his label “Old Grand-Dad” in honor of his grandfather. The picture on the bottle was copied from a rendering of Basil Sr.’s likeness. When Beam Industries introduced their “small batch” collection, among the four was “Basil Hayden’s,” which the company says uses a mash similar to that originally utilized by Hayden in 1792.


I poured the bourbon in to a Glencairn glass and left it to open for ten minutes, I added no water. In colour the bourbon is dark amber, on rolling around the glass the whiskey is a little syrupy leaving long legs on the glass.

The nose is very gentle for a bourbon with an abundance of soft citrus fruits with a little honey and oak coming through.

The taste is again gentle and complex, soft sweet grains coming through with more citrus fruit and hints of honey. The rye comes to the fore with more spicy, cinnamon  toffee and vanilla! The end of the taste is absolutely beautiful!

The finish is long with notes of oak and vanilla. The bourbon is very smooth with a soft note of cinnamon lingering long after drinking.

This whiskey is very good, in fact it is gorgeous , gentle but complex. This is maybe not the whisky that would spring to mind and many may over look this gem. The beautiful flavours really challenging the senses making this a real sipping whiskey!

Being a little bit of a sucker for presentation I picked this up more for looks than it’s £70 price tag.

As a little festive gift to yourself or a loved one at this time of year you can’t go wrong!


Inchmurrin 12 Years Old Island Collection (46%)

Highland, whisky


Over the course of Loch Lomond’s existence, the distillery has released seven different malts. Four of them were destined for blending, the remaining three were intended to be bottled as single malt whiskies, though most have been released as such over the years. Bottlings have been under the names: Inchmurrin, Inchmoan, Inchfad, Crotengea, Glen Douglass, Craiglodge and, naturally, Loch Lomond, each with varying peat levels. The name Loch Lomond is used for single malt releases though it is also used for a blended Scotch produced onsite using both grain and malt whisky.

In 1965 the distillery relocated to its current premises on the site of a disused dyeing plant. It changed hands in 1987 and underwent a renovation by its new owners, acquiring a Coffey still in 1993 in order to produce grain whisky.

In recent times the distillery has become a tourist attraction due to its association with the Tintin comics and features an original whisky tank wagon from the steam age painted in an authentic black and yellow livery derived from the freight train in Hergé’s book. The distillery does not accept visitors or tours and is run by a private equity company who have paid a considerable sum for the company.


I poured the whisky in to a Copita nosing glass, added a teaspoon of water and left the whisky covered to develop for ten minutes.

The whisky is a golden / amber colour and is an oily consistency. On rolling around the glass  the whisky coats the inside of the glass leaving long legs.

The initial nose is one of tropical fruit, cherry and apple. This is followed by notes of soft spice and peach along with light hits of citrus. The end of the nose is more fresh and grassy,

The flavour is a rush of stone fruit at the front heavy with peach and apricot this is followed by notes of stewed apple. The whisky then develops a slightly sweet tone with notes of fruit syrup. As the flavour finishes there are notes of honey, pollen and grass which move in to a slight smokey note.

The finish is very long with notes of sweet fruit and grass.

I picked this whisky up on the advice of the guys at the Whisky Shop Dufftown and was extremely pleased with the result! At the £36 price tag this whisky is an absolute steal and is available from them HERE!!!


Siete Leguas Reposado Tequila (70cl, 38.0%)

Other Spirits, Tequila

The original Patrón Tequila was produced by Casa 7 Leguas, one of the oldest Mexican distilleries. St. Maarten Spirits (owners John Paul DeJoria and Martin Crowley) purchased the brand rights in 1989 and in 2002 production moved to a new distillery.

In 2000, Ed Brown took over as CEO, and began to distance the Patrón brand from the reputation of tequila in the US as a bad-tasting spirit and what people drank for extremely quick intoxication. Following the advertising strategy of Grey Goose, Patrón presented its tequila as “premium” and signalled “taste and sophistication” through individually-numbered glass bottles. The target audience is mostly vodka drinkers in nightclubs and trendy bars. Through persistent references by country music and hip hop singers, and by Lil Jon in particular, Patrón has become a fixture of popular culture.


I poured the Tequila in to a Copita nosing glass, as I am very new to Tequila I didn’t add any water and I left the Tequila covered to develop for ten minutes. The Tequila is quite thin leaving light legs on the inside of the glass.

The tequila pours clear with an almost yellow tinge to it. The nose is initially heavy with notes of wood smoke and hits of roasted grain. Through the middle of the aroma there a hits of dried herb and an almost floral note. The nose finishes with a slight note of spice not unlike dried Ancho (Poblano) Chili.

The flavour is rich with wood smoke, dark chocolate followed by soft floral and herbal flavours. This is followed by a dry earthy and spicy note. There are notes of smoked chilly and an almost resinous note playing off in the background. Ending in a grain sweetness.

The finish is medium long with notes of chocolate and herb.

This is a superbly complex and almost indulgent drink with a broad spectrum of flavours and well worth looking in to if you plan to broaden your horizons!

It’s available from Master Of Malt HERE!


Auchroisk 12 Year Old 2001 (casks 10190+10193) – Provenance (Douglas Laing) (70cl, 46.0%)

Highland, whisky


The Auchroisk distillery is a whisky distillery in Banffshire, speyside Scotland. It was established after Dorie’s Well was discovered and found to have water similar to the water used by the Glen Spey distillery, which was used by Justerini & Brooks to produce malt whisky for their blends. The wells water was used to produce a test batch of whisky at Glen Spey distillery, and was approved, which led to the start of construction of the Auchroisk distillery at the site of the well in 1972 to produce whisky for the J&B blend. Production started in 1974.

The distillery produced its first single malt in 1978. The single malt was rebranded as ‘The Singleton’ in 1986, as the name ‘Auchroisk’ was perceived as too difficult for consumers outside of Scotland. The name changed back to Auchroisk in 2001, when a bottling was released under the name ‘Auchroisk 10 Year Old Flora & Fauna’ in the Diageo Flora & Fauna range. In 2008 the name was changed again, this time to ‘The Singleton of Auchroisk’.

The distillery is used as a hub for vatting Auchroisk with the highland whiskies used in J&B before being shipped off for marrying and bottling.

Auchroisk, the name of the distillery, means shallow ford across the red stream in Gaelic, referring to the nearby Mulben Burn.


I poured the whisky in to a Copita nosing glass, added a teaspoon of water and left the whisky covered to develop for ten minutes.

The whisky is a very light golden / straw colour and is quite thin on rolling around the glass, leaving light legs on the inside of the glass.

The nose is light with hits of malt and white fruit. This is followed by hints of notes of salt caramel and pear. The nose finishes with light pepper and notes of chili.

The flavour is smooth with notes of herb, spice and soft white fruit following. There are notes of caramel and fudge which follow with notes of cardamom and soft pepper spice.

The finish is medium long with a lasting caramel sweetness and soft spice.

For someone who wants to try something a little different this Highland gem would suit any pocket and almost any palate! The whisky is smooth and sweet with a complexity which is enough of a challenge to any whisky drinker!

This whisky is available from Master Of Malt HERE!!


Oak Cross vatted malt by compass Box (70CL, 43.0%)

Vatted malt, whisky



Clynelish Ardmore Caol Ila and the splendid Dailuiane. These are used in their main product line called the Signature range, whilst when Compass Box venture into normal style blends. The Compass Box whisky Company was founded in 2000 by American entrepreneur John Glaser, a former marketing director at Johnnie Walker. It is headquartered in London. Compass Box do not distill any whisky but pick out high grade single malts from Ardmore, Clynelish,  Teaninich, Glen Elgin, Laphroaig, Coal Ila and the splendid Dailuaine. Cameron  Brig and Camus are selected when grain whisky are used.

But now to Oak Cross, the name gives us a wee clue to what is going on here. Compass Box pick out three 10 year old whiskies from Teaninich, Clynelish and I think Dailuiane after they have been aged in American Oak. Then they replace the heads of the barrel with French Oak and let them age further. Hence the cross of the oak!!!!

But let John Glaser explain himself

The whisky pours golden colour, on rolling around the glass it is a touch syrupy and leaves long legs around the glass. I added a teaspoon of water and left the whisky to develop for 10 minutes.

The nose is light but has a beautiful aroma of stewed apples, pears, tart fruit and yet more apples stewed in sugar.

The flavour has notes of red English apples, a little ginger and spice, heather honey but then this gorgeous stewed fruit note becomes stronger again.

The finish is medium long with malt, oak and with a sweet spiciness which reminds one of Christmas pudding. Very smooth indeed!

Truly wonderful whisky and a great advert for Compass Box vatted malts!

This is available from Master of Malt HERE!



Blanton’s Original Single Barrel (46.5%)


Blanton’s is a brand of bourbon whiskey produced and marketed by the Sazerac Company. It is distilled in Frankfort, Kentucky at the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

The Blanton’s brand was launched in 1984 under the guidance of the distillery’s master distiller Elmer T. Lee, as the first modern bourbon brand marketed as a single barrel bourbon. The original brand name was “Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon.” A single barrel bourbon is one for which each bottling batch is produced from the contents of only one particular aging barrel – not mixed with whiskey from any other barrels (and not blended with neutral spirits, colorings, or flavorings). The company says that producing a high quality whiskey using this production method requires constant monitoring of every barrel in the middle of the warehouse by the Master Distiller. The barrels are dumped by hand without using machinery. There are eight different stopper designs, each with a different letter of the alphabet molded into it and topped with a figurine of a racehorse and jockey. When placed in order, spelling “B L A N T O N’ S”, the horse and jockey’s poses display eight different scenes of a horse race, from standing at the gate, to crossing the finish line with a win.

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon is typically aged for 9 years. It’s aged in Warehouse H at Buffalo Trace, which is metal cladded warehouse. It’s the only metal warehouse at Buffalo Trace and Blanton commissioned its construction shortly after the end of prohibition. Being metal, the warehouse transfers heat quicker than brick warehouses, which allows for more rapid aging.

blantons-original-single-barrel-barrel-538-whisky (1)

The bourbon pours a dark amber colour. I added a teaspoon of water to a Glencairn glass and left the bourbon to develop. On rolling around the glass the bourbon is thin and leaves light legs on the inside of the glass.

The nose is quite nutty with notes of toffee and fudge followed by an aroma of dark sugar in the background. There are notes of oak, vanilla and wood spice through the middle of the aroma. The nose finishes with aroma of orange pith.

The flavour starts with notes of toffee, walnut, orange and hints of cinnamon. This is followed by soft notes of pepper, apple and vanilla through the middle of the taste. Toward the end of the taste there are drier notes of oak and vanilla which balance out the sweetness.

The finish is long with notes of vanilla and pepper spiciness which last long after drinking.

This bourbon is more complex and and absolute treat for the sense. With the notes of sweetness, spice and a hint of dryness which work together to create a tremendous dram!

This bourbon is available from Master Of Malt HERE!!



Barbadillo – Oloroso Sherry (18%)



Barbadillo is based in the south of Spain (Cadiz), the winery enjoys high temperatures in the summer and is cooled by a predominantly easterly breeze.

The history dates back to 1821, the year the family began to make manzanilla. With 500 hectares of its own vineyards, 16 ageing cellars in Sanlúcar de Barrameda and a wine-producing plant for both white and red grapes, Bodegas Barbadillo is one of the largest wineries within the Jerez region. The winery has a barrel cellar capable of holding 31800 butts and produces around 13 million liters of wine a year.

This is my first review of a sherry so here goes….


I poured the sherry in to a long necked wine glass and left for five minutes to develop. The sherry is a red/amber colour. On rolling around the glass the sherry is oily and leaves long legs on the inside of the glass.

The nose is heavy with raisin, nuts, vanilla and soft spices. This is followed by fresher citrus hints and notes of dried herbs. It almost reminds me of a Christmas cake.

The flavour arrives with notes of nut, red berry (strawberry & red currant) followed by dried fruit and soft citrus notes. The middle of the taste has hits of spice, vanilla and soft woody bitterness in the background. The end of the taste is dry with notes of fresh herb.

The finish is dry and lingers with notes of dried fruit and citrus.

The sherry is fantastic for beginners, (like me) and would be well worth checking out at under £10 for a bottle.

I picked this up from The Whisky Shop, Dufftown and should you get the chance it’s well worth picking up!