There is no region of whisky-making in the world more renowned or more compacted with distilleries than the Speyside region of Scotland.  A great many of the famed whiskies of the world hail from this famous river valley.  And, with so much having already been said about it by more qualified persons than me, I’ll waste little time in getting to my nominees.

Name: Aberlour A’Bunadh

Batch: #39

Age: No Age Statement

Proof: 119.6 (59.8% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: Many of the older batches of the A’Bunadh could have made this list because there have been many brilliant iterations of this wonderful whisky.  It is a batching of old and young whiskies, all aged in first fill ex-Oloroso Sherry butts.  This particular batch is amazingly complex, with rich wood spices, sweet dark fruits, tangy citrus peel, and decadent toffee and butterscotch.  This batch was deep and full, and presented something new every time I sipped it.  Aberlour A’Bunadh is still a readily available whisky, although I have to admit that some of the more recent batches have not reached the heights of some of the older ones I have had the pleasure of sipping.  Even still, at cask strength and aged in first fill Oloroso butts, it’s a great value buy.

Name: The Balvenie 21 Year-Old Portwood

Batch: N/A

Age: 21 Years

Proof: 86 (43% abv)

Price: $200-225/750ml

Notes: This expression of The Balvenie was one of the first super-premium Scotches to utilize cask finishing when it was developed by famed maltmaster, David Steward, in 1995.  It is every bit as good of a whisky today as it was then.  It is aged principally in hogsheads for 21 long years before being transferred into port pipes for the final stage of their journey.  This process exudes flavors of nutty flavors, backed up by baking spices, rich dried fruits like apricot and pineapple, and drying dark chocolate.  This is a readily available expression of whisky in most fine liquor stores, and although it does cost a good deal of money, there are few gifts the whisky lover in your life will appreciate more.

Name: Glendronach 21 Year-Old Parliament

Batch: N/A

Age: 21 Years

Proof: 96 (48% abv)

Price: $150-175/750ml

Notes: There is perhaps no whisky I have tried in my travels that looks quite so impressive in the glass as this one.  It is aged 21 long years in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks and bottled without artificial coloring or chill-filtration, giving it a rich dark maple syrup appearance.  It is a rich, robust, viscous whisky, almost chewy.  Antiquated libraries with Oxford Dons sipping sherry come rolling through the memory as this whisky cascades across the palate.  All the rich chocolate and mocha flavors with subtle spices that one would expect from an old sherried dram are evident here in large quantities, such that taking your time with this whisky and letting it open up for you provides the best whisky experience.  This is not an impossible whisky to find if you frequent higher end liquor stores, and it is a very reasonable price for its age and casking.

Name: The Glenlivet XXV

Batch: N/A

Age: 25 Years

Proof: 86 (43% abv)

Price: $350-400/750ml

Notes: At the time of its release, this whisky was intended to be a mainstay in The Glenlivet’s Classic Range, but with the massive demand for premium Scotch these days, the distillery no longer releases this on a regular basis, but it is released in small batches on occasion.  After its principle aging, which ranges around 25 years, the barrels that are to comprise this expression are married for 1-3 years in first fill Sherry butts, eliciting a rich layer of flavor.  What makes this whisky so unique is that it drinks like a young whisky and an old whisky at the same time.  It has only spent a short time in Sherry casks, so the musty sherry notes of old sherried drams are not present.  Rather, this whisky layers dark chocolate and fresh gingerbread over the top of rich vanilla, spiced almonds, and creamy blood oranges.  This is a very hard whisky to find, but if you can find it, it is one of the classic drams from Speyside, and certainly my favorite whisky from arguably the most famous Scotch distillery in the world.

Name: The Macallan 18 Year-Old Sherry Oak

Batch: 1996 Vintage

Age: 18 years

Proof: 86 (43% abv)

Price: $175-200/750ml

Notes: This is perhaps the most famous sherried malt in all the whisky world, and for good reason.  Just about any iteration of Macallan 18 could have clocked in on this list, but I’ve chosen my personal favorite.  Sticking my nose in a glass of this was one of the great pleasures I have had in my time drinking whisky.  The nose has rich mahogany, spiced walnuts, and saddle leather.  This whisky works beautifully between sweet sherried flavors and spicier flavors such as ginger and orange peel.  This whisky has been called the epitome of an aged sherried Speysider, and I can see why.  This one is not so hard to find if you frequent luxury liquor establishments, but for an 18 year-old whisky, it is expensive, so be sure you have a special occasion on which to enjoy it.