There is a common misconception that you must know plenty about whisky to buy a good one as a gift. Wrong. How much you know (or think you know) about whisky is irrelevant. The main consideration is which style and flavour of whisky would the recipient of the present like or prefer? Light and fresh, rich and sweet, a little savoury or peaty and smoky? If you are not sure, then think of other foods and drinks that they enjoy. This will give you clues.
Another consideration is whether you want to purchase a well-known, big-selling brand or something more obscure. The world of Scotch whisky is awash with products that cater for all tastes, so you will be able to find something whichever direction you head in. Only you can decide on this – remember, a well selected unknown brand may gain you extra points with the recipient and show that you have done your research.
What is your budget?
Before you get too carried away with buying this brand or that, it is important to think about how much you wish to spend on the gift. Blended whiskies can start from as little as £10 for a supermarket own label. Single malts are a little pricier and kick off around the £25 mark. Set an upper limit and stick to it – any decent salesman worth their salt will try to get you to spend more when in their shop.
Whiskies tend to be marketed in certain price points with the majority being under £50. This extends upwards into the hundreds or thousands of pounds, so you can spend as little or as much as you want. If your budget is small, then you can always consider a gift pack of miniatures or a smaller bottle. Many companies release such packs, especially around key gifting times like Father’s Day and Christmas.
Where to buy?
There are several options for purchasing your whisky gift and each has their pros and cons. A specialist whisky retailer will offer the best range and have the most knowledgeable staff to assist you. They will also have bottles open to sample and aid your choice. But they can be daunting places and more expensive than elsewhere.
Supermarkets have expanded their whisky selections greatly in recent years and large ones now offer plenty of variety. They will carry nowhere near the quantity of a specialist retailer, but prices will be more competitive. However, many supermarkets have ditched their specialist wine and spirits staff due to cost-cutting measures, especially since the Covid pandemic.
Your local wine shop, liquor store or off-license can be another good outlet. Like with supermarkets, the staff may not be as clued up as those in a specialist retailer. But you can pick up some real gems or bargains, especially if you have done a little research and know what you are looking at. From experience, the owner may have picked up something from the cash and carry and not be aware of what they have and price it lower than it should be.
The final option is the internet. This is the easiest and you can order the whisky from wherever you are. There are many online whisky and spirit specialists these days, which offer a superb selection of products. Most will have some way of helping you make an informed choice, but the personal touch of visiting a store is missing. Also, remember that most will add postage and packing on to the price, which will increase your budget.
What to choose?
Once you have navigated your way through what type of whisky to buy, your budget and where to get it from, the final choice is which exact whisky will be the correct choice for the gift.
There are thousands of whiskies on the market, so the right one for you and your recipient is out there. The selection process is very similar to that of the recent blog post, ‘How to Build Your Own Whisky Collection in Five Bottles’. The suggestions within that article are a great start and will set you on the right track.