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Whisky Buying Guide For Father’s Day

In which we make you a hero of an offspring whatever your budget.

As a father of two I can’t think of many things that will be more comforting in the future than my girls sourcing me a great bottle of whisky once a year to say thanks for all those soccer practices, those late night chauffeur service, and the like. It sounds crazy, but knowing what your father wants to drink means that you know a lot about him, and that’s a wonderful thing. And I don’t mean buying him a bottle of his everyday drink—that’s too easy and, by definition, not memorable. I mean choosing something that he wants but doesn’t buy himself—even if he doesn’t know he wants it. That’s the key to a great present. Here’s a quick cheat sheet on some avenues worth exploring this June 15th.

Under $30

Alberta Premium Dark Horse, $29

I’m not kidding you, this is a tough price point for a celebratory tipple. Tough, but not impossible. Alberta Premium is just about the best deal in whisky-dom and the made in Alberta pedigree is a point of local pride to boot. Their run-of-the-mill rye is a steal of a deal but to be fair the packaging is a bit on the utilitarian side, and not in a Scandinavian designy-y way. Their new offering Dark Horse not only looks better but adds some great smoke and spice to an already great spirit and as it still isn’t that mainstream so it’s unexpected in a good way.

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Under $40

Black Grouse, $34

I drink a fair bit of Islay whisky—I love the smokey peat—and I live in fear that someone will serve me this whisky blind and I’ll misidentify it as some $150 bottle, it’s that good. Blended whisky was the connisseurs’s whipping boy for the longest time but in the last few years the tide is turning back to the appreciation of the skill possessed by the master blender who can gather a bunch of disparate casks and compose and spiritual symphony. Brands like Compass Box charge prices for their blends that are every bit as dear as single malts, but leave it the the Famous Grouse to make a blend that’s distinctive, beloved by mixologists and a great gift for such an amazing price.

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Under $75

Green Spot Irish Whiskey, $65

Sometimes the beauty of a gift is not in the value but in the scarcity and if that’s the criteria it’s tough to beat Green Spot. As I write this there are 30 bottles in  B.C, (Kensington Wine Market in Calgary is sold out), which may very well be more than there is in all of Dublin. And this isn’t some marketing ploy a la Pappy Van Winkle (your Dad’s too samrt to buy into this PR created scarcity canard), this is just a legitimate shortage of an amazing spirit that’s made in very small qualities. The spirit is complex with just the right amount of sweetness and when you see it on a shelf, be it in a bar or a home, it immediately tells you the owner is a person of discernment and perseverance—both pretty amazing qualities for a Father.

 

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How do you put a price on love?

Highland Park 18, $165

Given how long it takes to make a whisky like this—hint: the clue is in the name—there are occasions when there are deals to be found even at these rarified levels. For years, The Macallan 18 was such a benchmark of the Highland style at a near perfect age that it became almost like some sort of international currency: anywhere in the world there were whisky lovers, this bottle served as the unofficial gold standard. The problem is, this created a demand that was difficult to meet and they only fair way to control that demand was to raise the price so much that a bottle of The Macallan 18 clocks in at just under $300. The only other distillery that comes close to balancing The Macallan’s blend of lore, history, romance and impeccable standards is Orkey’s Highland Park. Their 18 is also legendary and it’s priced closer to Johnnie Walker Platinum, which (no offence, John) isn’t in this whisky’s league by a Glasgow mile, than in it is to The Macallan. It’s in the category of give a bottle as a gift, but buy a case as an investment.

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