This post is sponsored by Alexander & James
Few things go together as well as booze and Christmas. When you’re around good company and in need of warming up, nothing is quite as good as a fiery dram of whiskey or a steaming mug of mulled wine. And when it comes to presents, good spirits and fine wines are godsends. After all, everyone’s got a favourite drink that they just can’t resist.
Then again, because good quality alcohol is so popular, it suffers from being a predictable gift. I’m guilty of having given the in-laws a bottle of artisanal gin every Christmas and birthday for a good two years now. Of course, this is partly because I get to enjoy a drink of it every time I visit, so maybe that’s not a fair comparison.
That’s why websites like Alexander & James are so handy. Not only to they offer some of the most sought-after spirits around, but they also add that extra personal touch to make any bottle feel truly special.
Handing over a bottle of spirits on its own always feels a little shame-faced. At A&J, you can find top-of-the-range whiskeys, gins and vodkas in ornate gift boxes. Or, if you want to make it genuinely unique, you can engrave your gift with a message. It makes the drink a much more rounded gift than usual – not to mention much more special.
I ordered the Talisker 10 year old gift set. Talisker is one of those well-respected single malts of the Hebrides of Scotland with a robust peaty flavour. As the only single malt whisky distilled on the Isle of Skye, it has a bit of character, too.
Arriving in a smart plum-coloured case with a smooth finish, you can sense the quality straight away. On the top is a restrained ‘Alexander & James’ emblem in a tasteful silver typeface. Lift the lid and two strips of ribbon cleverly hold it open, allowing you to marvel at length. A protective layer of foam padding allows the bottle and the glasses to rest gently while they’re inside, so you know that there’s no chance they’ll smash while in transit.
Before pouring myself a snifter of Talisker, I play with the rocking glasses. Once you’ve had whisky in a rocking glass, you won’t want to drink out of anything else again. There’s something about the way the gold liquid swirls around that mesmerises. The thick, round-bottomed glasses feel sturdy, with a good inch or so of thick glass on the bottom. They’re adorned with a frosted Talisker logo and the slogan ‘Made by the sea’, which unlike other branded glasses manages to feel understated and subtle.
Best of all, they allow you to admire the beautiful red-gold colour of the Talisker 10 year old. Oscillating between a deep amber and ochre depending on the light, it’s the kind of colour that draws you in. Sniff it: a fruity, malty aroma, which becomes more open after you’ve allowed the bottle to breathe for a bit.
But even that doesn’t prepare me for the flavour. The Talisker 10 year old is a spicy single malt, with that Christmassy piquancy to it. There’s also a rich sweetness to it, which thanks to its strong body feels chewy and caramely, with hints of fruit in there as well. Like all good whiskies, it lingers reassuringly on the tongue.
At 45.8% vol., it’s a pretty punchy whisky without being overpowering. With a whisky of this quality, a little draught goes a long way. The complexity of the flavours, even in a few drops, is enough to keep you intrigued for a long time after. That’s why, I guess, whisky inspires so much devotion among its aficionados.
Given how many bottles will swap hands this Christmas, it’s no wonder that people are looking for ways to make their gifts that little bit more special. Finishing my dram of Talisker from the rocking glass, I can see why this set would be the ideal present. Next time, I’ll get one for a loved one – rather than keeping it all to myself.
Find more whisky gift sets at Alexander & James