I’ve never really had much interest in the lifestyles of the rich, nor do I begrudge anybody their wealth, but I do try to stay nominally on top of the “super expensive, top-shelf, trophy-style” single malt Scotch whisky category.
Recently, however, folks have asked me for serious recommendations for purchase. A reader told me they “owe a very nice gift to someone who enjoys scotch very much.” The reader was looking to spend “something like $1,000.”
By and large, these hyper-expensive whiskies are typically excellent products, but value is necessarily subjective.
Also, within the industry, a recognized component of nearly every high-end marketing campaign is “aspiration” — the presumption (backed by marketing “data”) that a significant segment of Scotch whisky drinkers aspire to the good-life as evidenced by expensive booze. So whiskies at the high end of the spectrum are treated like luxury items marketed to folks for whom such conspicuous consumption is also thought to be part of the goal.
I’d never buy such whiskies for myself. As sublime as any whisky might be, it is, after all, merely grain alcohol, a product of water, yeast and barley. These are the same simple ingredients as beer and bread, after all. As the Torah sagely notes in a slightly different context, “man does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
The question remains, how best to guide this inquiring reader who intends the purchase as a nice gift. If I knew the tastes and whisky inclinations of the intended recipient, I’d have an easier time of it, but how otherwise?
There are a few options in the desired price range, and remarkably many more the higher up the price scale one considers.
Some options that should range between $850 and $1,100:
Glenfarclas 40 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (not smoky);
The Balvenie 30 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (not smoky);
Highland Park 30 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky (mild smoke);
Laphroaig 30 Year Old (Smoky);
Johnnie Walker Private Collection 2014 (very high-end blend);
Another option might be to consider a gift-subscription to a whisky club, like one or both of the two D&M whisky clubs (a San Francisco-based company, but can legally ship to much — though not all — of the United States).
Or to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America. This would entail giving a membership and the bottle-of-the-month club). Some outstanding whiskies will be had through such options.
My own choice at the time of writing is the fabulous, complex and well-rounded Glenfarclas 40 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (usually around $900): an opulent Scotch, with notes of candied orange and ginger, toasted bread, maple syrup, roasted nuts, fig, mocha, chocolate and oak — with a lovely, balancing tannic grip on the pleasantly long, fruit-leathery, and ever so slightly aniseedy finish. L’chaim!
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