Fathers are famously unforthcoming about what they might want in the way of gifts: "Oh, anything," is probably the classic response. But ready or not, Father's Day rolls around every year, and unless you bail and settle on a witty card, a gift is going to be in order.
If you have a traditional Dad, one easy and classy option is to go with a traditional gift: a bottle of fine single-malt scotch. "Single-malt" refers to a whiskey made in pot stills in a single distillery (as opposed to blends such as Dewar's, which contain several different single-malts, along with a proportion of grain spirits). They tend to be more individualistic, as you'd expect from an unblended product. And they're best enjoyed neat, or with a bare splash of water.
But as with wine, picking the right bottle can be daunting -- head into a liquor store and you'll see a wall of Glen-this and Loch-that. To help you out, we've created the following guide based on the different regions of Scotland, each of which, broadly speaking, has its own character. Any of these would make a wonderful Father's Day gift -- or, of course, a gift for yourself. After all, figuring out what to buy someone is a stressful activity, right? (Unless noted, all are widely available.)
THE HIGHLANDS. In making Scotch, malted barley is traditionally dried over burning peat, giving it a distinctive oily smokiness, before it's turned into mash and then spirits. One distinction of Highland malts is that they tend to be firm and lightly peated. A good example: Glenmorangie 10 Year Old, $34.95, which has a lighter style, fragrant and delicate, with spicy-sweet flavors and a lingering finish. Glenfarclas 12 Year Old offers a more robust side of the Highlands: rich, full-bodied whiskey with a light, peat-smoky scent. If Dad's a Macallan fan, give this a try. $45.99 at the Wine Specialists (2115 M St. NW, 202-833-0707 or 800-832-0704).
SPEYSIDE. This area, which is part of the Highlands, has more distilleries than anywhere else in Scotland and produces a distinct variety of fragrant, dry whiskies. Cragganmore 12 Year Old embodies Speyside with its complex herbal scent and austere, long-lasting flavors. It manages a fine sleight-of-hand, being rich and almost stony all at once. $45.
THE LOWLANDS. These are usually softer and only faintly peaty. Auchentoshan 10 Year Old is a good introduction to the softer Lowland style: a gentle whiskey with a touch of hay and citrus in the aroma. $39.99.
THE ISLANDS. These include Islay (pronounced "eye-luh"), where the whiskies are often resoundingly peaty and forceful. Bowmore 15 Year Old "Mariner" draws the line between the heavily peated whiskies of Islay's south side and the lighter ones from the north coast. Add a touch of water to bring up its oceany savor and smoky peat notes. $60.
CAMPBELTOWN. A peninsula near Glasgow, this area produces little whisky now, but what is there is very fine, full of seaside elegance. Springbank 10 Year Old is the definition of a cult fave. Golden in color, it's subtly complex -- sherry notes play against honey and a hint of peat, rounded out by sea-salt briskness. $64.99 at the Wine Specialists.