A Dash of Christmas Cheer


From the high north to the deep south – that is to say, from Selfridges to Berry Bros – Stirling scours the globe (well, Mayfair) in a festive hunt for fine tipples to lighten those dark wintry days…

It’s not far off now – that moment when the presents are drunk, the children stuffed and the mother-in-law unwrapped. At least I’m pretty sure that is how it was last year. Even the hardiest of Christmas fans need a little something to get to that point, and as your close friend, doctor and unofficial legal council, I suggest, prescribe and advise a moderate splash of one (or perhaps all) from my first selection, starting with one of many favourites:

Balblair Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky Vintage 1999

BB 1999 2R Pack Shot copyOn a cold autumnal morning, many years ago, I visited the Balblair distillery.  It was wrapped in mist, and the stone and iron of its stores presented a powerful visage hinting at the treasures ageing quietly inside.  The passion of John MacDonald, the distillery manager, is a joy to behold. Quiet confidence ebbs from him into his whisky, of which there is a wide, excellent selection.

The Balblair Vintage 1999 displays aromas of honey and green apples, notes of spice, citrus fruits and vanilla, but most importantly it is the perfect accompaniment to a slice of Christmas cake.  Feel free to take a dram before the 25th, but save that cake until Christmas Day.

With each vintage beautifully presented in a luxury front-opening box, Balblair Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a very fitting gift this Christmas. Whether giving an exclusive Vintage or enjoying a wee dram by the fire, the signature citrus and vanilla notes of Balblair and its long, smooth finish will keep your friends close.

Balblair whiskies are unique as the only single malt scotch to be exclusively released in vintages rather than ages.  Just like the Arbuturian team.

£62 www.shop.balblair.com

The Botanist Gin

Staying north of the border I feel like something to freshen up with, something to bring a crisp clean flavour to the palette – it’s early Christmas Eve, the carol singers are collecting outside and I’ve just lit the fire. Time for a gin. 

700ml (Cut Out) 1mbThe Botanist is made in a Lomond still; “Jim McEwan realised that this extraordinarily ugly, ungainly copper tub had potential to distil a sublime, delicate gin”. Thank goodness he did because The Botanist presents 9 classic gin botanicals combined with 22 local herbs and flowers native to the Southern Hebridean island, foraged then hand picked.  You’ll find apple mint, sweet chamomile, creeping thistle, elder and heather flowers – it’s well worth reading the full list when you have a moment.

Handcrafted and distilled on the Scottish island of Islay (home to many a fine dram), The Botanist is a truly unique gin and a representation of the region’s progressive heritage. The Botanist has a rich, mellow taste, and no signature garnish to encourage the exploration of seasonal serves at home.  Tis the season to be jolly, so get to it with a slice of lime and splash of Fever Tree tonic.

£42.99 Selfridges – www.selfridges.com

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a bit of Ol’ Blue Eyes singing ‘Let it Snow’, and for those who know a little about Frank you’ll be aware that he was a more than a fan of Jack Daniels.  If he was still crooning us into the late hours I’m sure he would be more than happy to trade up from Old No. 7 to the Single Barrel edition. 

Not as sweet and certainly with more punch than its rock an’ roll cousin, each barrel is hand-selected for its one-of-a-kind flavour.  This flavour comes from the special ageing process, whereby the barrels are placed in the highest reaches of the barrelhouse.  Oaky, smokey, lots of vanilla, and a rich long finish it suggests the party is in full swing – which means you should be too.

Once reserved as a gift for the Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller himself, you can now personalise a bottle of this rare and hand-crafted whiskey with a special message, and gift it to someone that matters to you – like me.

£55 The Whisky Shop – www.whiskyshop.com

Gusbourne: Great British Fizz

The first vines were planted at Gusbourne Estate in 2004 after Andrew Weeber purchased the property in 2003. Andrew, a retired orthopedic surgeon from South Africa who had experience of wine production in Stellenbosch, saw the great potential for grape growing at Gusbourne and brought his fastidious, scientific attention to detail to both the vineyard establishment and the creation of the first wines.

The very first vintages of Gusbourne were Gusbourne Estate Brut Reserve 2006 and Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2006, both of which were released in 2010 to great acclaim, and a number of prominent sommeliers have chosen to feature Gusbourne wines at prestigious establishments such as Le Gavroche, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, The Fat Duck, The Dorchester, Charlotte Street Hotel, Limewood Hotel, The Gilbert Scott, Texture and Vinoteca.

Gusbourne sparkling

Gusbourne wines can also be purchased from premium independent wine merchants such as Berry Bros & Rudd, Philglas & Swiggott, Lea & Sandeman and prestigious department stores like Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges.

Krug Champagne Gift Sets

Krug sharing setIf you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas, then look no further for your Christmas Day bubbles than one of Krug Joseph Sharing Gift Sets. In the first, a beautifully embossed gift box, containing two crystal Joseph glasses, and a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée (75cl) – recreated every year from scratch with a blend of over 120 wines from ten or more different vintages giving it a fullness of flavours.

Available from all major UK retailers for RRP £170.

But if it’s just the champers you’re after and you can’t decide which, there’s also the Krug Du Point A L’Univers 2003a limited edition collection of three different expressions from a single year: Krug Clos du Mensil 2003, KrugVintage 2003 and Krug Grande Cuvée’s recreation 2003.

Available from top wine merchants for RRP £872.

So there we go – we’re off on our spiritual adventure cruising steadily towards Christmas Eve. Enjoy each slowly, savour carefully and be mindful that we are not at the finishing line just yet…