Monday, December 2, 2013
'Tis the season for holiday gifts (well mostly Christmas because someone made Chanukah start in November this year, but hey, there are still a few days left). Here, then, are my whiskey gift suggestions.
It was hard to come up with American Whiskey gift suggestions this year, not because there weren't a number of great new whiskeys released but because they are so hard to find. I would love to recommend the new Elijah Craig Barrel Proof or either of the Four Roses Small Batch or Four Roses Single Barrel Limited Editions, but good luck finding those. (And if you came here looking for Pappy Van Winkle, be sure to check out my post on Pappy Van Winkle alternatives).
There were, however, a number of new American whiskeys that are quite good but easier to find. K&L's Faultline Bourbon, an MGP bourbon blended by Smooth Ambler, is a nice one at $40. Similarly priced is High West's American Prairie Reserve, which blends MGP and Four Roses bourbons. For something higher proof, Wild Turkey's Russell's Reserve Single Barrel is a spicy whiskey at 110 proof and around $55.
One of my favorite new whiskeys this year was the George Dickel 14 year old from Park Avenue Liquors. The new Dickel retailer exclusives are a series of 9 and 14 year old bourbons selected by specific retailers. The first Park Avenue release that I reviewed is sold out but they have a new one in stock ($90), and The Party Source also has good versions ($46 for the 9yo and $66 for the 14 yo, though they no longer ship out of Kentucky). I love the dry, minerally profile of Dickel, and these more aged expressions have all of that along with a bit more oak that you'd expect from an older Dickel.
On the rye front, there wasn't as much action this year, but the new Angel's Envy Rye, finished in rum casks, is a sweeter take on MGP distilled rye, though it's a bit pricey at around $70.
After a few years where sherry seemed to reign supreme, most of the best Scotch I had this year was peated. Among those I'd recommend would be the Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch 004 ($60) and the New Laphroaig Cairdeas Port Wood Edition ($60). On the higher end were Bruichladdich's Port Charlotte PC 10 ($150), the Springbank Calvados Finish ($110) and a new Kilchoman from Binny's ($80). And for the budget recommendation, you'd be hard pressed to do better than the Smokey Joe Islay Malt ($35) available at Total Wines.
If you're looking to avoid all the smoke, I really enjoyed the Mortlach 1990 bottled for Binny's ($100), a sherry cask aged malt that tastes more like a bourbon cask malt.
I seldom recommend Canadian Whiskies during my gift posts, but I'm very fond of the new Lot 40 Canadian Rye ($60) that's just showing up on American shelves. It's got some nice rye spice but it's not as aggressive as the WhistlePig/Masterson's/Jefferson's Canadian Ryes. It's one of the best Canadian Whiskies I've had.
This was a great year for whiskey books. For anyone interested in bourbon, rye or American craft whiskey, Clay Risen's American Whiskey Bourbon & Rye is a must have. For those with a historical interest, Michael Veach's Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American History is a great survey course on bourbon history. I haven't read it yet, but I have heard very good things about Fred Minnick's Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey. And for those looking for more of a story, there's Rob Gard's engaging memoir Distilling Rob: Manly Lies and Whisky Truths. So drink, but read too.
Later this week: Brandy Gifts