You know what makes for a surefire winner under the Christmas tree? A great bottle of fancy booze, that’s what. It shows you thought long and hard about the gift receiver and then decided, “Imma help them get a buzz on.”
As Christmas nears, we’ve compiled a shortlist of some of our flat-out favorite bottles. These are the bottles of liquor that are sure to put a smile on anyone’s face, while taking the edge off the family-overload at the same time. Any one of these bottles will be the best money you spend during the whole holiday season.
WHISKEYS & RYES
RYE WHISKEY: JACK DANIEL’S TENNESSEE RYE
It’s nice to know that Jack can still surprise us. This peppery rye is a pretty serious switch from the caramel-y Jack you’re used to. There are still the vanilla notes we know and love from the brand, but the slight smokiness feels new. In general, this is just a fun addition to “America’s Whiskey Brand” and something it’s pretty easy to get behind.
If you’re making a Manhattan, you’ll be happy with what this addition to the brand lineup brings to the table. Drinking the stuff neat would work pretty well too.
IRISH WHISKEY — REDBREAST 12 YEAR OLD
Redbreast is bottling some of the best Irish whiskey on the market right now in their Midleton distillery. Their 12 year old is a perfect mid-point bottle that’s well-refined but still reasonably priced. The whiskey is a floral, crisp, and slightly earthy.
It’ll go down with a slight burn of alcohol to widen the eyes and warm the soul.
UNAGED WHISKEY — TEELING SPIRIT OF DUBLIN IRISH POITÍN
Unaged whiskey, or white dog, or white lightning, or moonshine is all the rage. Great malt is turned into a great distillate and then bottled without touching oak. Irish Poitin is what almost all Irish whiskey was before they had to hide their distillates in barrels in the cellar from the pesky tax collector. It’s a throwback to a time when ‘shine was what you drank. It’s a little rougher around the edges, but still a treat.
RYE — TEMPLETON RYE
Nicknamed ‘The Good Stuff,’ Templeton Rye always lives up to its name. The 90+ percent Rye spirit is a throwback to the days of bootlegging and illicit stills popping up in America’s breadbasket during Prohibition. The recipe hasn’t changed since. The whiskey is a spicy customer with a smooth, grain finish that’s perfect for stirring up a nice, wintry Manhattan after you’ve opened all your Christmas presents.
Prices start at $36.99
AMERICAN WHISKEY — BELLE MEADE BOURBON
Over at Nelson’s Greenbrier, they’ve revamped one of the oldest and biggest whiskey operations in America. The results have been fantastic and Belle Meade Bourbon is a great place to start with their line. The corn-fueled spirit hits the classic notes of a great bourbon square and true. It’s oaky, vanilla-laced, and has that slight corn sweetness and husk layered in. This is an all-around great bourbon with a cool story to boot.
SCOTCH — THE MACALLAN 12 YEAR OLD SHERRY OAK
A good bottle of Scotch whisky is always welcomed with a smile. The Macallan 12 will assuredly bring on a very big smile. The whiskey is expertly distilled and then aged to peaty perfection. There’s a bit of a floral and fruity note that accents the whispers of a smokey malting room. It’s subtle and delicious without being overpowering.
WEIRD MISCELLANY: SECRET SPIRITS SCOTCH WHISKY ADVENT CALENDAR
This is a very specific gift and we’re not super religious around these parts, so we recognize that we may have missed the window. Still, a different rare Scotch every day for 25 days straight? Yeah, we’re in. Advent4Eva!
Whether you celebrate advent or not, these scotch whiskeys are sourced with incredible care and presented beautifully — there’s even a rosewood box for the collector (of advent calendars? Mini whiskey bottles? Either way, it’s lovely). This is scotch drinking as an experience, and as such, it’s the next best thing to flying off to tour distilleries in Scotland.
Meanwhile, the same company also sells a treasure chest full of pirate themed rum — which seems very much like a thing we’d be into. Speaking of…
RUM & THE LIKE
RUM: DON PAPA RUM
Don Papa is an interesting pick for the novice-but-certainly-intrigued rum drinker. This spirit from the Philippines is exceedingly sweet, with fruit notes more powerful than you’re likely to encounter anywhere else across the category. The character is caramel-y, with strong vanilla scent way up front.
This spirit — some have debated whether its use of glycerol and added sugars even qualifies it as a “rum” — is perfect for the drinker who is keen to recognize flavor notes. Even a newcomer will be able to pick out primary flavors upon taking their first sips.
If you want a spirit that will make a strong impact with the receiver, this is a fun bottle to have in the cabinet — not least of all because the label looks like a piece of long forgotten currency.
CUBAN RUM — HAVANA CLUB SELECCION DE MAESTROS
A swig of rum is a great way to start any Christmas morning. That’s why we’ve put a couple on the list! Havana Club has only recently been making waves in the US and this one is a stone-cold classic. There’s a definite sweetness paired with an oaky, almost spicy taste. It’ll warm you up with every swig and goes super-duper well with the ol’ eggnog.
CACHAÇA — NOVO FOGO COLIBRI
Novo Fogo is the world’s leading zero-waste distillery. They make some of the best cachaça you’ll find on the US market. Their Colibri (hummingbird) aged spirit is a vanilla and cinnamon forward drink that’s been aged in upcycled American oak and Brazilian teak.
This is a special bottle of Brazilian rum that’ll delight any booze lover.
Prices start at $34.99
GIN — NOLET’S SILVER DRY GIN
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Nolet’s Club. One of Bram’s inventions for #noletsgins in the Entree Horeca magazine in the Netherlands. A Twist on the classic Clover Club. Made by mixing #Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin with a white wine, peach and basil syrup. Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice and an egg white. Don’t forget to dry-shake! Serve with poached peaches, made in the syrup that is used for the drink. Original photo by #MingChao #ThreeMartiniLunch #TML #CustomCreativeCatering #CocktailCatering #Cocktail #NoletsSilverDryGin
Nolet’s Gin will make you start drinking gin straight, we swear. Add some ice and maybe a dash of Angostura and then enjoy the fantastic aromas of all those herbal botanicals blooming in your glass. The berries and juniper shine through and accent the light spirit without overpowering any single component. If you’re still not convinced, you can always whip up a nice dry martini.
TOP SHELF TEQUILA – CLASE AZUL REPOSADO TEQUILA
The dream of every tequila drinker is to have one “showpiece” bottle in the house. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is our pick. The Clase Azul bottle is crafted with every bit as much detail as the spirit itself — individually sculpted and hand painted, it’s a genuine work of art.
And what tequila befits this stunning decanter? A patiently rested “reposado” — aged for eight months in American oak barrels, leaving it incredibly smooth. This is a finely crafted tequila with very little “burn.” Sure, you could mix a tequila like this into a hell of a cocktail, but are you sure you want to risk missing something? The oakiness from the barrel, the smooth character, the noticeable sweetness… it’s all there for the discerning sipper to recognize and savor.
We suggest you do exactly that, then put the bottle up on the wall as a showpiece.
Price: $170-199 for 1.75L; $79-99 for 750ML
INSANE SPLURGE: CASA NOBLE SELECCIÓN DEL FUNDADOR VOLUME II
You ready to go really wild on tequila? Casa Noble’s “Selección del Funador” is triple distilled and aged 8 years in French White Oak. Not the sort of stuff you combine with margarita mix from CVS. The company raves about a “savory and silky mouth feel with intricate aromas of cooked agave layered with chocolate, butter and vanilla” — but they didn’t let us get within a country mile of the stuff, so it’s hard to say for sure. Still, if you’re celebrating the good life, this is the stuff to have.
There are only 300 bottles on the planet, so if you’re planning on a splurge don’t wait too long.
WINE & ALE
CALIFORNIA RED WINE — SAN SIMEON STORMWATCH
A great bottle of wine is one of the best gifts you can give this time of year. San Simeon might just be the strongest pick this year. Their Stormwatch is a heavy-hitting red with strong lines of blackberry and dark cherry underpinning the tannin oakiness and vanilla spiciness. It’s a delight in a bottle.
Prices hover around $70.00 per bottle.
WINE: GAME OF THRONES WINE
Here’s the thing with GoT wines and ales: They didn’t have to try. The show is eternally linked to drinking and it has a passionate fanbase. The stuff would have sold.
But both the makers of the Game of Thrones wine and beers/ales were chosen carefully, and they have more than delivered. Industry legend Bob Cabral is in charge of the wines and he’s not someone to cash in for a gimmick. The whites taste as crisp and cutting as one of Cersei’s insults and the reds are rich and spicy, with deep earth notes. Perfect for the cold nights of the north.
Show references aside, this is good wine.
We’ve praised the GoT beers before but their recent release of ales really has us hyped. The labels on these are less “set prop” and more “Night’s King drinking game” but the taste delivers. The “Winter is Here” is a witbier with a punch — it’s plenty boozy and feels like a great traveling ale to sip on the King’s Road.
Price: Sold out; Check their page for new GOT beers!
WINE: EPICURIOUS CHARDONNAY
Epicurious is best known as a recipe blog — probably the most famous one in the game. Now, they’re edging into the wine business, hoping to capitalize on brand goodwill. Guess what? It works. The label is clear and concise and the back of the bottle even has “tags” to help would-be wine snobs navigate the pairing process.
The chardonnay is similarly straightforward — fruity and crisp. The sort of white that you can drink a few glasses of after work without even noticing they disappeared. The brand seems to heavily endorse using their wine for cooking, so we tried that too — making an alfredo that definitely benefited from the brand’s crisp notes.