Thinking about what to give someone can be annoyingly difficult, especially if you are unsure what they want. If someone has asked for whisky, there are so many options out there that it feels like it is super easy to choose the “wrong” bottle.
I have created a list of 11 Scotch whiskies that are perfect as a gift, and I will also explain why.
In the list there are options for people who are new to whisky, who are just getting into whisky and for people who have been drinking whisky for ages. At the end of the page I will also briefly go over what bottles I would not buy when someone asks for whisky as a gift.
Do you know what they like?
Giving whisky to someone who enjoys it is without a doubt a great gift! Whether you’re giving whisky to a family member, friend, colleague or someone else, it is a beautiful gesture.
If you know what the person likes or usually drinks, it makes it easier to choose the right bottle. You can choose a similar or even the same whisky. It’s all about the taste, and like you know, tastes differ.
The best example of this when it comes to whisky is the smokey flavor some whiskies have. Peated (smokey) flavor really is the marmite of whisky: people love it or loathe it. If you do not know whether someone likes peated whisky, stay away from anything that tastes like smoke. There are slightly peated whiskies out there which already are a better choice.
I will be sure to tell you what whiskies are peated, so you can make a good decision. Now let’s jump straight into the first whisky on the list. And fyi, the more expensive whiskies are listed a bit further down.
1. Glen Moray Elgin Classic
Coming in at around $30, this entry level whisky from Glen Moray called the Elgin Classic is a great gift for beginner whisky enthusiasts. I have had the please to visit the distillery that is located in Speyside, Scotland and they were extremely friendly and helpful.
You are getting a single malt whisky, which means that it is made from 100% malted barley and it is bottled at 40% alcohol. By giving this whisky the recipient will know you have done some research and bought an amazing whisky at its price point.
Taste: Overall this whisky tastes really light and fresh. There are nutty and fruity notes on the nose and oaky citrus flavors on the palate. Mixed with sweet caramel and spices this is a great entry level whisky.
2. Chivas Regal
The Chivas Regal 12 is one of the most popular blended Scotch whiskies that is available on the market. It is often considered a blend for grown-ups and is a phenomenal introduction to Scotch whisky. The 12 in the name means that is has been aged in oakwood barrels for 12 years, which gives it a really rich and smooth taste.
This gift is perfect for both the novice and the more experienced whisky drinker. Heck, I would be super happy when I receive this as a gift, but I’m a little biased as that is the case for all the bottles on this list.
Really a great option if you do not know what kind of (Scotch) whisky someone is normally drinking, or if the recipient is not yet a whisky drinker. I actually received this for my birthday when I reached legal drinking age and it has introduced me to the world of whisky!
Taste: At probably the best value for money on this list, the Chivas Regal 12 has a sweet herbal with honey aroma. It’s a great blend with flavors or fruit and citrus leaping forth on the palate. Some people find banana notes when tasting this whisky!
3. Old Pulteney
Old Pulteney 12 is a single malt whisky that is bottled at 40% alcohol. It is a widely available whisky that is sold for around $40 and it tastes delicious. Funny enough not many people, even whisky drinkers, know about this whisky, which makes it a great gift for someone who already has been drinking whisky for a while.
This is a more unusual pick, and I will guarantee you that you will get a reaction similar to “how and why did you pick this one??”, but the taste is really approachable and I’m sure they will love it!
Taste: To give you an idea of the taste, it is a really smooth maritime flavor without any smoke. There is a lot of fresh citrus and fruit notes, but I think the salty maritime character makes this whisky so interesting.
4. Big Peat
Peat! I have warned you for this earlier, peat smoke is not for everyone. However, if you know that someone is a fan of peated whisky, this bottle is a great fun bottle to give. It’s a blended malt, which means it’s a mix of different single malt whiskies from different distilleries.
The whiskies used to create this particular blend are Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen, all from the island called “Islay”. All the great peated whiskies come from this island, and it really is a heavily peated blend.
If you are looking to buy this you are going to spend around $50 for it. You are getting a great whisky with a lot of character.
Taste: A novice whisky drinker will without a doubt be overwhelmed with the warm tangy peat that greets them when nosing the glass. On the palate there are notes of heavy peat, cut grass spices and a little bit more peat. Overall a great and challenging whisky.
5. Glengoyne 12
Number 5 on this list is the Glengoyne 12 single malt whisky! This is a great whisky that is not that well known. As a gift, I would recommend to give it to an experienced whisky drinker. The reason why it is on this list is because it an unpeated highland Scotch, which is unusual.
This bottle will cost you around $50 and is bottled at 43% Alcohol By Volume (ABV). From the list up until now, I think this is the whisky that has the highest quality. However, I struggle to tell how expensive a whisky is from the taste, and an absolute beginner would not be able to either. Therefore, I would not gift this whisky to an absolute beginner who has not found his or her preferred taste yet.
Taste: Unlike most highland whiskies there is no smoke present in this whisky. The wood influence is prominent with notes of caramel, vanilla and spices. There are delicious fruity notes that remind me of grapes and there even is a little bit of chocolate.
6. Benromach 10
This is a whisky I would recommend as a gift for everyone! Someone who has never had whisky, someone who is starting to get into whisky and someone who has been drinking whisky for 20 years. It’s a great whisky at a great price, as the 10 year old Benromach costs around $45. It’s bottled at 43% alcohol.
It is one of my favorite whiskies of all time, and its a very interesting one as well because it is a classic Speyside whisky. Unlike modern Speyside whiskies, the Benromach 10 has a tiny tiny bit of peat smoke. It’s a great whisky and you are sure to make the recipient extremely happy with this choice.
Taste: A complex whisky that keeps on giving. The sherry cask influence leaps forward with a sweet fruity effect on the taste. The slightly spicy taste reminds me of ginger, and the malted barley is prominent. Lovely whisky, highly recommended!
7. Glenfiddich 12
An absolute classic, well known, popular, universal, everywhere-available whisky is the Glenfiddich 12. It’s a great quality whisky and it has a typical Speyside taste. It’s fresh fruits, spices and sweet caramel all the way. It’s a lovely whisky and you can’t miss with this one.
However, its a standard choice. If someone asks for whisky and it’s important you do not make the wrong choice, and you want to give something that the person likes, this is the way to go.
Just to repeat, if you buy this you are safe, but not special.
Taste: Typical Speyside flavor profile: orchard fruit, honey, malty as well as slightly floral. It’s a very smooth whisky which makes it super easy and enjoyable to drink.
8. Highland Park 12
Look at that design! I think the Highland Park 12 is one of the best looking bottles out there (if not, prove me wrong and shoot me a message). The whisky itself has a good taste, but I personally think it’s not that special. It tastes good, and it is a quality whisky, but the reason it’s in this list is the stunning bottle.
I feel like I’m not expressing myself well, let me put it this way. I have tasted the Highland Park 12 before (about a year ago) and I totally forgot what it taste like. I had pour myself another glass and I’m tasting it right now. It’s great, but not that memorable.
Taste: A spicy whisky with many similarities of the Glenfiddich we discussed just before this. The orchard fruit and honey are present. I also get some maritime notes and a woody finish. Enjoyable to drink for sure!
9. Lagavulin 16
Alright we got to number 9 on the list of many possibilities! Choosing this one is going to be easy: it’s one of the best whiskies ever made (opinion shared by many other whisky drinkers) but it’s heavily peated and the most expensive bottle on this list. Currently you can buy one for around $70. It’s bottled at 43% and the smokey flavor reminds me of a campfire on a late summer evening.
If you know that someone loves smokey whisky, this bottle arguably is best gift you can give. It’s a very good and high quality whisky that has aged in a wooden cask for 16 years! It for sure is a classic and I can not recommend this enough for a peated whisky enthusiast.
Taste: The king of peated whisky comes in with a great campfire smoke together with dried fruit and spices. Have I already the mentioned the beautiful big peat note that comes forward when tasting? The 16 years of aging have added a preset wood/vanilla flavor which also makes the whisky incredibly rich.
10. Craigellachie 13
If you want to surprise someone with a odd, special and unusual bottle of quality whisky, the Craigellachie 13 is the way to go! I can’t explain how to pronounce the name, but it’s not the way you think. Bottled at 46% ABV you get a quality Speyside whisky. Currently a bottle costs around $60.
Taste: The flavor does have a little smoke in there, mixed with loads of fresh fruit, caramel, nuts and spices. Some people even find aromas like burned popcorn or BBQ pineapple. It really is something special.
11. Dalmore 12
Last but not least on the list is the Dalmore 12 coming in at around $55. It’s a premium and quality whisky with a great bottle and an even better taste. You can describe the whisky as a toasty, spice rich whisky with coffee notes.
For a 12 year old whisky the taste is incredibly rich, and a fantastic whisky to give as a gift.
Taste: The most interesting part about this fine 12 year old whisky is the coffee note that is especially prominent when nosing the whisky. If someone likes coffee, this would be a great and suitable gift. When tasting, expect to find winter spices and chocolate. It’s a rather dark tasting whisky, which is different that most whiskies!
What whiskies to avoid
When it comes to drinking and enjoying whisky, there are many “whisky snobs” out there who pretend to know it all, and who will be the first to tell you that you are doing something wrong. Now, I understand that you are looking to buy a bottle of whisky for someone else, and I want to help you choose the best gift within your budget.
However, I would recommend you to not buy whisky that’s too cheap. There are a lot of blended whiskies out there for under $20, but they generally are not that enjoyable to sip as they are very young with sharp ethanol edges to the flavor.
These whiskies are sold to mix with a mixer like coke or lemonade, for which they are great! Examples of such whiskies which I would not buy for someone who has asked for whisky are bottles like Famous Grouse, Johnny Walker red label and Teacher’s.
In general, when someone mentions they would like whisky as a gift, I would also not buy them something like Jack Daniels or Johnny Walker in general, as chances are they already had these and these bottles are also better suitable to mix with other drinks.
If you feel lost and have no clue what to buy, you can always ask them what they like to drink. They might recommend specific whiskies that they would like to have, which is perfect as you can not let them down. If they do not mention what whisky they like, you can buy any of the bottles mention in the list (without the smokey ones if you’re unsure whether they drink peated whisky).
Good luck, and I hope you make someone very happy with a bottle of whisky!