Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Whiskey Wednesday: Whiskey Gifts

It's that time of year again, time for whiskey gift recommendations. Since I spent most of the year on Scotch and American whiskies, I'll make recommendations in each category.

American Whiskey

This has been an amazing year for American whiskey, and just in time for holiday shopping, there is a vast array of high end whiskey on the market. Heaven Hill has released a 27 year old version of its well regarded Parker's Heritage to rave reviews and has 21 and 23 year old versions of Rittenhouse Rye. Buffalo Trace just released its new, always popular Antique Collection, which continues to be one of the best deals in whiskey, with prices ranging from $55 to $85.

For the money though, there isn't a better deal than Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon which runs in the $40 range. This Bourbon is new to California this year. I found it to be refined, subtle and complex. It is a great deal for the price and is my pick as best bang for your buck for a Bourbon gift. Four Roses is widely available at good liquor stores and on-line retailers.

If you're a rye fan and have a slightly larger gift budget, check out the new High West Rye. I haven't posted my review yet (it's coming), but High West rye is made by a Utah company from a blend of two Kentucky high-rye content ryes. It's wonderfully smooth with a strong rye flavor. It goes for about $50. You may have to hunt for it a bit, but it still seems to be available from your better retailers.


Unfortunately, the year hasn't been as great, or at least as accessible, in the world of Scotch. Scotch inflation has gotten so ridiculously out of control that the biggest new releases all seem to go for several thousand dollars. Hey, don't get me wrong. I would love to try some Black or White Bowmore, Highland Park's new 40 year old or the Last Drop Blend, but the stuff just isn't anywhere near my price range. Of the slightly more affordable new releases that have created a buzz, Ardbeg Renaissance is not available in the US and Bruichladdich's super-peated Octomore seems unlikely to reach our shores by the end of the year. For all of these reasons, it was a somewhat disappointing year for Scotch compared to the amazing year American whiskey had.

However, there are still some good gift ideas out there. I absolutely loved the Bruichladdich 15 year old Second Edition with its rugged, maritime notes. It still seems to be out there in the $80 range. This one is a real people-pleaser.

Another new entry in the single malt market that I really enjoyed was Ardmore, which I reviewed just a week ago. This nicely peated, sweet Highlander is in the $30 to $35 range and is now widely available. It's the first time that Ardmore has released a distillery bottling, so there is definitely some novelty to it if you're looking for a fun Scotch gift.

Happy Holidays to all the whiskey fans out there!

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