Each month we pick out some drams from our 450-strong whisky list that we think you’ll enjoy trying. Each of the whisky regions is represented, and the list will always feature a blended whisky, a whisky liqueur, and even a luxury dram if you fancy splashing out. For December, as the weather sinks to sub-zero temperatures and the temptation to stay indoors by the fire wins out, our team have handpicked a selection of Scotch whiskies with a wintry or festive story behind them. From the Lowlands to the liqueurs, each whisky on the list this month has a tale to tell. Enjoy!
A rare peated whisky that hails from the south west corner of the Lowlands, Ailsa Bay is relatively new on the whisky scene, having had its first release in early 2016. The distillery at Ailsa Bay sits on the site of the closed Ladyburn Distillery, and is named after the distinctive Ailsa Craig island off the coast of South Ayrshire. Ailsa Craig granite – or Ailsite as it’s known – is the preferred material for that essential star of the Winter Olympics, the Curling Stone. Around 70% of all curling stones are made of granite that’s been mined at Ailsa Craig.
Dalwhinnie Distillery sits high up in the mountains of the Highlands, and is currently the highest-placed distillery in Scotland. No surprise then that the distillery itself sees plenty of snow each year, and the characteristically floral, fruity whiskies from the distillery are made using the pure clean meltwater from the snow. This beautiful bottling has become a winter staple at many a whisky bar across the world, and its tagline even says it has been ‘Crafted by the Cold.’
Routinely described the world over as ‘Christmas Cake in a bottle’, the Aberlour 16 had to make the list during December. With a fresh fruit aroma and flavour characteristic of a classic Speyside single malt, there are also notes of oranges, festive spices and a ‘plum fruitiness’, from the whisky’s maturation in a combination of sherry butts and first fill bourbon casks. Together these flavours create that unforgettable aroma and flavour of aged fruitcake.
The Glen Scotia 18 has been aged its whole life in bourbon casks, giving it a delicious vanilla sweetness that make it the perfect dram to go with a bowl of fresh custard, or stirred into an alternative to homemade brandy butter. The Campbeltown peninsula sits just 100 miles west of Edinburgh, but because of its position the journey itself is actually almost double that – a distance that would take the average car driver around 4 hours to reach. However, if the average reindeer runs at 15 miles an hour, this means that the 100 mile journey through the sky would take Santa Claus around 7 hours to complete! Better get cracking, Santa.
One of the icons of the Islay distillery scene, Bruichladdich sits on the water on the western side of the world-famous ‘whisky isle’. The grassy region of Loch Gruinart on Islay is protected by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, as every winter it becomes home to the geese of Greenland, who flock to the fields to graze after a summer’s feeding and breeding in the north. As stunning as Islay is to visit in the summer months, taking a trip to the island during the winter months to see the flocks of these beautiful birds is a serious treat.
The winter of 2017 has seen the release of a new blended malt bottling by Whyte and Mackay that commemorates the life of intrepid explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, who led three expeditions to explore the polar regions of Antarctica in the early 1900s. In 2007, a crate containing 11 bottles of Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky was painstakingly recovered from underneath the floorboards at the party’s base camp. Ernest Shackleton had ordered 25 cases of whisky to bolster the team’s spirit on the expedition; now Master Blender Richard Paterson has created a new blended malt based on the original flavour profiles of the Mackinlay Highland whisky. Best served over ice, naturally.
If you’ve visited the Scotch whisky shop over the past few months and were lucky enough to get to try some of Magnum’s delicious Cream Liqueur, you’ll recognise the sight of that iconic silver bottle, topped with its own teeny tam-o-shanter hat – the perfect Scottish souvenir. For the festive season however, Magnum swap the tam-o-shanters for tiny Santa hats, in the spirit of fun and frolics at Christmas.
Last but certainly not least: Glenfiddich whisky is a truly iconic Scotch that’s loved the world over. But did you know that this beautiful Speyside distillery’s stills had their very first run on Christmas Day of 1887? Ever the family man, William Grant started constructing the distillery on the banks of the Fiddich river with the help of his nine children in 1886, and the whole family were there on Christmas Day to celebrate the first spirit to flow from the still. Now, 130 years later, Glenfiddich has become by far the biggest Scotch whisky distillery in the world, with a 35 hectare site that boasts its own cooperage, a whole complex of warehouses, and no less than 28 stills.
All of these whiskies can be found on both our Amber Restaurant and McIntyre Gallery whisky bars, alongside over 400 other Scottish single malts, blends and liqueurs.
Slainte mhath, and best wishes for the festive season!