Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Whiskey Gifts

Happy holidays! Here are some gift ideas for that loved one who loves whiskey. There were a number of good new releases this year which would make excellent gifts for the booze lover in your life.

Top Picks

For single malt Scotch, my pick of the year is definitely the Balvenie Tun 1401 ($250), a vatting of whiskies aged in bourbon and sherry casks that is a wonderfully balanced sherried malt. There are two distinct batches of this that have been released in the US, batch 3 and batch 6, and while both are excellent, batch 3 is a bit better, so grab it if you can.

For bourbon, the Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2012 ($87) is an easy pick. It's a big, complex bourbon bottled at barrel strength with notes of briny rye, tobacco and even some fruit. If you know someone who drools at the thought of George T. Stagg or Pappy Van Winkle, get them a bottle of this. It's probably the best bourbon I had all year. Apparently, though, it's become hard to find in California, so you may have to dig a little.

Something Smoky

If you know someone who likes their whiskey smoky, you might want to get something a bit out of the ordinary instead of that usual bottle of Ardbeg or Laphroaig. Two of my favorite smoky whiskeys of the year were fun and off the beaten Islay path. High West's Campfire ($55) is a blend of bourbon, rye and peated Scotch. It's unlike anything else around with a flavor that is at once sweet, spicy and smoky. Balcones Brimstone ($50) is a corn whiskey smoked with Texas scrub oak. It's deeply smoky with a sweet edge, and it's unlike any other smoky whiskey I've tasted.

Budget Booze

If you're looking for a less pricey gift, there are several good options. Trader Joe's Single Malt Irish Whiskey ($20) was probably the best Irish Whiskey I had all year, with a nice combination of peat and sherried sweetness. Distilled at the Cooley distillery, it still seems to be readily available, and the price is right.

One of my favorite new bourbons of the year was Hooker's House ($36), a high-rye Kentucky bourbon finished in pinot noir barrels. It has a nice, fruity disposition and is a pleasure to sip for a reasonable price.

Canadian Whisky

If you know someone who loves Canadiant Whisky, you could get them one of the excellent ten year old Canadian straight ryes, WhistlePig ($70), Masterson's ($65) or Jefferson's ($40), but what you really should get them is Davin de Kergommeaux's excellent book Canadian Whisky, the Portable Expert ($15) which answers any question anyone has ever had about Canadian Whisky, its history, style and production.


Lastly, for those of you who might be looking for a whiskey alternative, look no further than the Famille Esteve Selection Coup de Coeur Cognac ($90), part of K&L's exclusive selection of Cognacs. Equal parts sweet and spicy, this is a wonderful Cognac to sip anytime and better than some Cognacs that go for nearly double the price.

Happy holidays!


Anonymous said...

Great list. Going with the 4rLE small batch as a gift this year. In my area it's $67.

SinoSoul said...

FYI: Pulteney 12 at TJ's is $28 right now. I'm clearing out the rest of the bottles at my local (burbie) store this week. There was only about a case at their "hustle" pricing.

sku said...

That's a fantastic deal SinoSoul. Thanks for the tip. said...

I've talked up the Trader Joe's Irish for some time. They really found a good one for their bottling. Seems like 80 percent of Irish whiskies that are "named" (Michael Collins, Shanahans, etc.) are Cooley. But, they tend to hold up well. Trader Joe's also really has grown through the years in their selection of whiskies. A few years ago they had a number of single malts from an independent bottler that basically sold TJ's the dregs of their selections. You could get a 20 year old Macallan for $20 -- and it tasted as you'd expect. They've improved since then, considerably.

sku said...

Thanks for your comments whiskyguyrob. I wrote up those old Trader Joe's Single Malts at the time. Their Bowmore was one of the worst cases of FWP I've ever had.

They have a no series of mystery malts (no distillery listed) but I haven't tried any of them yet. Have you?