BUYING A BOTTLE OF SCOTCH can be a complicated affair, especially for the uninitiated venturing into a world of Speysides, Islays, Highlands, Lowlands in order to find someone an extra special dose of Christmas spirit.
Whether you're on the lookout for a gift or just want something special to have in the drinks cabinet over the festive period, these are six of the best Scotch whiskies for Christmas.
Full of Christmas spirit
Glenfarclas 15-year-old single malt.
With a deep nose of sherry, plum, cinnamon and dark chocolate, this is Christmas in a bottle. To get in Santa's good books, leave a glass of this out on Christmas night.
One of the grand old Speyside malts, Glenfarclas means ''valley of the green grass'' and is widely considered the best example from a distillery founded in 1836. A special gift pack has miniatures of the 21- and 25-year-old bottlings to compare. RRP $120
You're the one that I want
The Balvenie Single Barrel Aged 15 Years.
If you're looking for one of a kind, this is about as close you're going to get. The Balvenie 15-year-old comes from a single oak whisky cask, producing no more than 350 hand-numbered bottles.
No two casks are the same, so while the recognisable characteristics of honey, vanilla, chestnut and honeysuckle are always present, each bottling is unique.
Balvenie is a Speyside malt made in Dufftown, which claims to be the ''whisky capital of the world''. RRP $125
Out of this world
Ardbeg Galileo Limited Edition 2012.
Named after the Italian astronomer, this limited edition of the classic Islay malt marks the distillery's part in a recent space venture in which molecules of Ardbeg spirit were blasted into space to judge the effects of zero-gravity on the maturation process. The 12-year-old vatting of bourbon and Marsala casks is not a whisky for the novice. It's non-chill-filtered so has a rich and oily mouthfeel, with a nose and taste full of fruit, peat and smoke. There have been rumours that it is almost impossible to get, but it should be available at good whisky emporiums. RRP $130
Kilchoman Machair Bay.
A rare, lesser-spotted whisky from the first distillery to be built on Islay for 124 years, back in 2005 and its first general release - a vatting of three-, four- and five-year-old whisky, matured in bourbon barrels and then finished in sherry butts. Peaty smoke combines with a blend of fruit, vanilla and intense sweetness. They will continue to develop the whisky as it ages - it could become an Islay classic of the future. RRP $120
The Glenlivet 16-year-old Nadurra.
Glenlivet is whisky aristocracy. When George IV visited Edinburgh in 1822, it was said that ''the King drinks nothing but whisky and is an admirable judge of Glenlivet'', no less. Distilled in the rugged foothills of the Cairngorm mountain range, Nadurra (natural) is bottled at cask strength, without chill filtration, producing a strong, full-bodied, crisp whisky full of fruit and herbs. This is one for sipping and savouring. RRP $119
Mixing with the best
Spoil someone with a membership to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. The society bottles rare cask-strength, single-barrel whiskies that don't even have names, so don't be surprised if you find yourself salivating over a bottle of 3.75. It also hosts whisky tastings in Australian cities and membership comes with access to global facilities and, of course, four diverse 10 centilitre society single-cask, single-malt whiskies. Visit smws.com.au. Price: $180 plus $15 delivery fee, including GST