As the holiday shopping season enters its frenzied final days, there will inevitably pop up on your shopping list friends or relatives for whom you have to get a gift, but no idea what to buy them. Well, look no further than your local liquor store. This is the perfect time of year for a bottle of single-malt Scotch. After all, there are few more enjoyable ways to warm up on a cold winter's night than with a snifter of whisky by a roaring fire (or a Yule Log on TV if, like me, you live in an apartment without a fireplace). And a good bottle of Scotch says something about both the giver and the recipient. It says, "I have good taste. I enjoy the finer things in life. I'm an adult; this isn't Jagermeister or FourLoko we're talking about. I see those same refined characteristics in you, gift recipient. And if for some reason I'm wrong about you, well, invite me over and I'll be happy to down that bottle for you."
The selection of Scotches available can be overwhelming. Single-malt or blended? Speyside or Islay? 12-year-old or 21-year-old? To help narrow things down at least a little, I'm going to forego blended whiskies (with one notable exception) and instead do a rundown of some of my favorite single malts. If you're wondering, single-malts are whiskies that are created using the ingredients and stills of one distillery, while blended Scotches come from several different distilleries. Surprisingly, single-malts were virtually nonexistent in the States until the last few decades; if you bought Scotch, it was blended brands like J & B and Dewar's. Today, however, Scotch sophisticates are like wine buffs, knowing the distinctions of different distilleries, regions and aging methods. (Speaking of which, if you need to bone up on your Scottish geography as it relates to whisky drinking, go here for a great overview.)
For the uninitiated, after each Scotch I list the region in which it's distilled, the alcohol content (also known as "alcohol by volume" or "ABV"), and the general price you should expect to pay for a bottle. The age (16 year, 18 year, etc.) refers to the youngest whisky in the bottle, dating from when it was first casked. And yes, it's spelled "whisky" without the "e," but only if it's Scotch. Bourbon and rye are whiskeys.
It seems like there are more Scotch whiskies than one human being with a normally functioning liver can taste in a lifetime. So while I'm mentioning a dozen Scotches for your gifting and/or drinking pleasure, I'm well aware that there are dozens more worthy entrants, if not hundreds. Please don't hold it against me if I haven't mentioned your favorite. Instead, go to the Comments section and tell the readers -- and me -- all about it.
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN
Let me -- and your fellow readers -- know about your favorite single malts. It's not like you can capture every angle of Scotch whisky from a mere twelve brands, after all.