Each holiday season, liquor companies celebrate the most festive time of the year with a batch of unique, unusual, and sometimes luxurious alcoholic concoctions.
What’s new in 2014? There’s a gingerbread spice-flavored liqueur, a kit to make the perfect in-flight old fashioned cocktail, and a decades-old cognac. And it isn’t just about the liquor in the bottle. Spirits companies are hoping to entice holiday shoppers with limited edition kits and seasonal labeling — even though the actual product stays the same. Another popular strategy: pairing bottles with complementary gifts, such as cocktail shakers, glassware, or bottle stoppers.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States estimates that about 40% of the industry’s $66 billion in retail sales occur in the final three months of the year, a spike that is usually attributed to gift giving and holiday parties.
Here are 11 new gift ideas for the adults on your shopping list.
Southern Comfort Gingerbread Spice
New to the market this year, Gingerbread Spice is the first seasonal flavor that Southern Comfort has ever concocted and is best served either warm in a mug or mixed with cider, egg nog or hot chocolate. Southern Comfort brand director Jennifer Powell says seasonal beverages are pretty rare in the spirits industry, and after some testing, Brown-Forman felt that gingerbread was the ideal fit for the liqueur for the winter months. The combination of the beverage’s gingerbread and vanilla “makes Southern Comfort that much more special for the holiday season,” Powell said. $12; southerncomfort.com
The carry on cocktail kit
Brooklyn-based W&P Design’s cocktail kit is a Federal Aviation Administration-compliant kit that is meant to give consumers the tools they need to make old fashioned cocktails while on a flight. The kit (which doesn’t include alcohol, you’ll have to buy that once on the plane), includes cane sugar, bitters, and a spoon–and is a perfect stocking stuffer. Other W&P designs include a Mason Jar cocktail shaker and a kit to make homemade gin. $24; carryoncocktailkit.com
Cleveland Whiskey’s Christmas Bourbon incorporates several popular holiday flavors including nutmeg, cinnamon, spices and orange. “This is what Christmas is about,” said Cleveland Whiskey founder Tom Lix. He said a customer who had tasted the bourbon said he could “almost hear the reindeer in the background.” If you are a fan of holiday flavored beers, Lix said his bourbon will be an ideal fit. The bourbon is sold in retail stores across seven states–Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and New Hampshire. $38-$42; clevelandwhiskey.com
Campari art labels
Campari, with an eye on the holiday season business, is selling three bottles that feature art labels designed by Italian painter and graphic designer Fortunato Depero. The bottles are meant to be ideal hosting gifts for the holiday season, first reaching retail stores in the U.S. last month. The art was originally created in the 1920s and used as advertising. Two of the labels were originally produced in black and white for newspaper publication but Campari added color to them to modernize the look. $26; campari.com
Woodford Reserve's Personal Selection Program
It’ll cost a pretty penny, but Woodford Reserve’s personal selection program is a must for the whiskey connoisseur. The bourbon maker invites a customer to visit the Versailles, Kentucky distillery to taste a spread of barrel samples and concoct their own unique blend of Woodford whiskey with the guidance of Master Distiller Chris Morris or another on-hand tasting expert. “You are involved with making your own expression of Woodford Reserve,” Morris said. After an order is placed, customers get 180 bottles of the customized bourbon sent to their homes, along with other goodies. And while that may seem like enough to last a lifetime, Morris said the program has seen many repeat customers. $10,000; woodfordreserve.com
Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary
Wild Turkey’s Diamond Anniversary is a whiskey meant to celebrate the 60-year career of Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, considered by many to be a legend in the American spirits industry and an ideal gift for fans of American-produced whiskeys. The barrels used to create this bourbon were hand selected by Russell’s son Eddie, and includes a blend of 13- to 16-year-old whiskey. Russell is proud of the legacy he has helped establish, telling Fortune recently that his greatest challenge is to make sure “every time you buy a bottle of Wild Turkey, I want it to taste the same as the last time you bought it.” $125; wildturkeybourbon.com
Absolut's Andy Warhol bottle
Andy Warhol’s contemporary work, already a huge hit on the auction house scene, has also inspired Pernod Ricard to debut a bottle that celebrates the famed artist. Interestingly, Warhol was connected to the Absolut brand shortly before he died. In 1986, he became the first artist to create an original artwork for Absolut and Pernod Ricard has quoted Warhol as saying he loved the bottle. The Warhol-inspired design is featured on about four million Absolut bottles, which began to hit liquor shelves this fall. $19.99; absolut.com
The Scotch whisky brand has in recent years collaborated with British-based luxury brands to create limited edition holiday tins that are meant to be collectibles. This year, Chivas Regal worked with watch company Bremont for the holiday tin, which features cogs, wheels and other parts that make a watch tick. “Guys who are into watches like their whiskies as well,” said Nick English, a co-founder of Bremont and one of the individuals responsible for the design of the tin. $30-$32; chivas.com
Age your own whiskey kit
This kit is meant to allow consumers to age their own whiskey in about four weeks (a sliver of time compared to the aging process for most major brands.) This is how it works: you’ll take two bottles of Silver Coyote whiskey, pour it into the barrel and after a month, it’ll be ready to drink. Santa Fe says the whiskey will even have the color of a typical 12-year spirit. The barrel can be used up to eight times (though each subsequent use will take a little longer as the whiskey is pulling flavors from the oak each time it ages). $99; santafespirits.com
Louis XIII Black Pearl Anniversary Edition
The cognac in these bottles is up to 100 years old, new to the market this month and sold in an extremely limited quantity with only 775 decanters up for sale.. The cognac is taken from a single barrel that was housed in the private collection of the Hériard Dubreuil family, which owns French beverage firm Rémy Martin. The barrel is only the third of its kind to be released by the family in the past century. $16,000; louisxiii-cognac.com
Pearousia Pear Brandy
Virginia-based distillery Catoctin Creek fall debuted a five-year anniversary bottle with a full Asian pear in the bottle. This offering took some advanced planning, as Catoctin Creek attached bottles to pear trees in the spring, allowing the pear to fully grow inside the bottle. The ripped pears were then cut from the trees and the bottles were filled with pear brandy. The brandy is exceptionally limited, as customers will have to visit the distillery if they want to buy a bottle. $150; catoctincreekdistilling.com