Holiday Gift Guide 2018: Whiskey, Bourbon, Brandy, and More for Cocktail Lovers
Halloween is over—and now the real fright begins.
The holiday shopping season is here, at least according to retailers and anyone who likes to plan their shopping early and/or likes to take to take advantage of blockbuster deals, many of which start today. (In this digital day and age, if you’re waiting until the day after Thanksgiving, you’re doing it wrong.)
However, not everyone has time to shop around or look for the newest items on the market that could appeal to the people on their gift lists (or for themselves, because let’s be honest, we look at holiday gift guides and deals for ourselves just as much for others). There is no shame or lump of coal in that, so here is a list of suggestions for lovers of cocktails: notably whisk(e)y and its derivatives.
WHISK(E)Y, BOURBON, and BRANDY
Slane Irish Whiskey: Housed in the 250-year-old stables of Slane Castle in the rural countryside of County Meath, Ireland, Slane Irish Whiskey’s new, state-of-the-art distillery began construction in 2015, opening to the public two years later. Now available nationwide in the United States, Slane’s self-described “A rock ‘n roll take on Ireland’s legendary spirit” features a signature triple-casked maturation process that uses virgin, seasoned, and sherry casks. (It’s also touted as a go-to option for an Old Fashioned.) SRP: $35.
BenRiach Scotch: Respected as one of the Scotland’s most innovative and experimental scotch producers, it’s also known for both its peated and unpeated whiskies. It’s core portfolio includes BenRiach 10 Year Old and BenRiach 10 Year Old Curiositas, a peated whisky well-suited to mixing in cocktails. (For a holiday beverage, consider mixing it with Rockey’s new Milk Punch, a relatively new New York-based brand producing a shelf-stable concoction comprised of comprised of tea, fruit, citrus, spirits, and milk.) SRP: $69.99 for the Classic 10-Year Single Malt.
New Riff Bourbon: Based in Northern Kentucky, New Riff uses 100% non-GMO grains (breaking down to roughly 65% corn, 30% rye, and 5% malted barley) and pure water directly from the Ohio River Alluvial Aquifer. Launched in 2014, its founders named it as a “new riff” on American whiskey. Consider it for some classic cocktails, such as a Manhattan or Sazerac. SRP: $39.99.
Bertoux Brandy: A new premium brandy from California, Bertoux Brandy was designed for the new wave of bartenders (a.k.a. mixologists) through a collaboration between bartender Jeff Bell (whose credits include New York’s legendary speakeasy PDT and newcomer Legacy Records) and acclaimed sommelier Thomas Pastuszak (The NoMad). Bertoux is produced with a Solera-style blend of pot-distilled California fine brandies, aged three to seven years in French and American oak. This one goes well in a Sidecar. SRP: $45.
Laird & Co. Brandy: A apple brandy brand George Washington would likely endorse. Laird & Company is America’s oldest family-owned licensed distillery. Based in New Jersey, it is the oldest licensed distillery in the United States, and it was License No. 1 from the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1780. It is now run by ninth-generation family member Lisa Laird Dunn, whose son, Gerard, recently joined the company as its 10th generation. Laird’s Bottled-in-Bond Straight Apple Brandy bottled at no less than 50% ABV, aged in wood for a minimum of four years, and distilled at one American distillery in the same season. Laird & Co. has a wide portfolio, however, so you can find higher-end brandies that should be sipped and enjoyed on their own after dinner as well as those that could be mixed in a cocktail (like the classic Jack Rose) or give a kick to mulled wine. SRP: $28.99 for Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy 100 Proof.
D’Usse Cognac: For the cocktail lovers who want to drink like A-listers. With Jay-Z as a backer, the brand touts Kevin Hart, Rihanna, and Nick Jonas among its celebrity fan base. And while it’s popular with bartenders in major cities for mixing cocktails, there’s a lot more history to this brand. Born from the historic Chateau de Cognac in Burgundy, France, the core component (the eau-de-vie) is aged ten years or more in French oak barrels to ensure the complexity and depth in flavor. D’Usse Cognac’s range consists of VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) and XO (Extra Old) qualities. The XO, for example, sports flavor notes including ripe blackberry and apricot, layered with hints of dark chocolate and walnut. SRP: VSOP: $47.99-$54.99, XO: $199-$219.
Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey: The “why didn’t I think of this sooner?” choice. Honestly, peanut butter should go with everything—and now it can go with your cocktails, too. Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey was developed in a San Diego lab to perfect the peanut butter flavor. With the special flavor, it could spice up a few cocktails. (Seriously, imagine a peanut butter and jelly cocktail. Now it can be done.) But its makers also suggest serving it neat or on the rocks with a salted rim for a savory effect. It’s currently available in over 200 locations in the San Diego area and nationwide via delivery with Keg N Bottle. It just rolled out in Arizona and will be sold in more cities in the coming months. SRP: $21.99.
Mixers can be a bit of an oddball choice when it comes to gifting spirits, but like Rockey’s Milk Punch (mentioned above), here a few under-the-radar options to consider.
Fever-Tree Mixers: A premium line of carbonated mixers, Fever-Tree sources ingredients around the world, including quinine from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ginger from Ivory Coast, India and Nigeria, and lemons from the slopes of Mount Etna, Sicily. It’s also a versatile brand, for depending on who is receiving the gift. For tequila fans, Fever-Tree Citrus Tonic will go well for a tequila and tonic, while G&T fans should look to Fever-Tree’s pink Aromatic Tonic for bolder, juniper-forward gins. SRP: $35.99 for a 24-bottle pack.
Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto: Sometimes you want the bottle to be as impressive as the liqueur it carries. Fit for a king (or at least, it was originally produced for and enjoyed by kings), Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto is a blend of bergamot peel, Cedro lemons, chamomile, lavender, gentian, yellow roses, and Melissa balm. Seeing a resurgence in recent years, this is perfect for anyone who both loves Italian apertivo hour (who doesnt?) and those cocktail aficionados who love obscure but historic beverages. It will also serve as a good option for two Italian cocktails that have seen a great resurgence in the last year especially: the Negroni and the Spritz. SRP: $39.99.