A Holiday Spirits Gift Guide: 15 of the Best Bottles
There's probably someone — maybe several people — on your holiday gift list this year who enjoy spirits. Everyone has his or her favorite categories and producers, but true aficionados like to branch out and try something different. Sometimes it’s a new brand, other times it’s a limited release from their favorite distillery. Here are 15 items at a wide range of prices that will help you shop for some of the best whiskey, rum, tequila, and more.
Somrus Indian Cream Liqueur ($30)
This cream liqueur is simply delicious — loaded with spices, hints of toasted pecan, and more. It’s creamy with sufficient weight to have some gravitas and texture but it’s not so thick and heavy that it becomes ponderous as some offerings in the cream liqueur category do. This is delightful chilled, all by itself, and it works in a host of cocktails. I blended two parts Somrus with one part Baker’s Bourbon over ice. The results were tasty and warming.
Ron del Barrilito 3 Star Rum ($35)
The Puerto Rican rum makes for a wonderful sipper. It’s a blend of spirits aged from six to 10 years. Bits of toasted hazelnut and date are present on the nose. The palate shows off hints of brown sugar along with fig, continued nuts, and a nice complement of spices. Wisps of dark chocolate and dried tropical fruit are present on the long finish. This is balanced rum that represents an excellent value.
Bache-Gabrielsen American Oak Cognac ($40)
This cognac was aged in Tennessee-grown American oak. Its coppery hue shimmers in the glass when you pour it. Hints of toast, vanilla, and roasted almonds are evident on the nose. Candied pecan, mission fig, and a hint of toffee dominate the palate. Dates, black pepper, and some gentle heat mark the impressive finish. There’s plenty of sophistication here for the price.
The Lost Distillery Company – Towiemore ($43)
Towiemore is a Speyside Scotch. The Lost Distillery Company produces Scotch whiskies that echo and are inspired by distilleries that closed long ago for one reason or another, often due to simple economics. Roasted almond, savory herbs, and wheat aromas form a welcoming nose. The palate has some lovely bitter notes that are counterbalanced by sweetness. Dusty cocoa, vanilla, toasted pecan, and more are all evident. The finish shows off citrus zest, white pepper, bits of brioche, and a touch of honey. This whisky is a particularly great value for the quality in the bottle.
Cruz Silver Tequila ($45)
This blanco is produced from estate-grown agave. The distinct bottles are numbered and hand-signed. Tangerine zest, sage, and a pure burst of fresh agave are all evident on the nose. The palate is refreshing, layered with fruit, hints of herb, and a touch of spice. The finish is persistent, clean, and crisp, begging for another sip. Cruz Silver is intended for cocktails but can be sipped neat, preferably with a chill on it.
Kikori Whiskey ($50)
This Japanese whiskey is made from locally grown rice, then aged for three to 10 years in a combination of American oak, French Limousin oak, and former sherry barrels. Kikori has a lovely pale straw color. Fresh wheat and toasted hazelnut aromas light up the nose. The palate is soft, gentle, and layered with nuanced flavors. Bits of flaky biscuit, lemon curd, and spice are evident on the palate. The finish here shows off spice and a bit of candied citrus zest. This is a beautiful and distinct whiskey.
Blue Nectar Añejo Founders Blend Tequila ($65)
This is a blend of añejo and extra añejo spirits. The components were aged from two to five years in American oak. Candied orange peel, burnt brown sugar, and a gentle hint of thyme emerge from the nose. Dried apricot, white peach, and toasted pecan characteristics drive the layered palate. Chamomile tea, salted caramel, and a touch of milk chocolate mark the long finish. This is a lovely expression that should be sipped slowly and contemplated deeply.
Alexander Grappa Guitar ($73/375 ml)
This grappa was produced from the pomace of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, and double-stilled. Red berry fruit aromas and spices fill the welcoming nose. The palate is rich and smooth without a single sharp edge to be found. Cherry, bits of toast, and black pepper notes are evident. The mellifluous finish is long, complex, and warming in nature. This is a standout grappa.
Belle Meade Bourbon Madeira Cask Finish ($75)
Belle Meade bourbons with six and nine years of age on them were placed in used Madeira casks for additional aging. Bits of praline, Mexican vanilla bean, and ripe fig burst from the nose. The substantial palate shows off toasted mixed nuts, red fruits, dates, and burnt brown sugar. Baking spices, dark chocolate, and mesquite honey are all part of the noteworthy finish here.
Laphroaig Cairdeas Madeira ($75)
Laphroaig is the leading name in smoky Scotches with peaty elements. Cairdeas, their limited-edition offering, is always one of the most anticipated releases of the year. The current Madeira edition is no exception. Candied orange, toasted filbert, and gentle wisps of peat are present on the nose. The dense palate has intermingling bits of sweetness and salinity. Dried fig, cardamom, and bits of chocolate are all evident. Fruitcake spices and a final bit of peat are evident on the long finish.
Jefferson’s Reserve Old Rum Cask Finish Bourbon ($80)
This bourbon was finished in barrels that previously contained Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum. The color here is a bit darker and deeper than in the average bourbon. The nose is filled with dried mission fig, toasted hazelnut, and wisps of spice. The palate has bits of sweetness that counterbalance the bite from what is a firm tannic structure. Leading dark fruit notes are punctuated by tropical fruit aromas. A host of spices as well as dark chocolate are evident on the long, lusty finish.
Usquaebach 15-Year-Old Blended Malt ($80)
Only single malt whiskies with at least 15 years of age are blended to create this offering, aged in European oak and old sherry casks. Things lead off with a big, boisterous nose studded with dried fruit, hints of rum raisin, and more. The palate is laced with toasted macadamia nuts, dates, and tangerine zest. Cinnamon, pepper, clove, clover honey, and praline are all part of the memorable finish. This is a lovely, smooth, pleasingly sweet Scotch that is likely to pleasantly surprise those who are staunch single malt drinkers.
Suntory Hakushu 12-Year-Old Single Malt Japanese Whisky ($85)
This complex, 12-year-old whisky shows off peat and thyme on the nose along with a tiny bit of lime zest. The palate is layered and complex with intricate but gentle flavors such as fresh wheat, wisps of smoke, and toasted barley. All of these elements reverberate on the long, persistent finish.
Gran Duque d’Alba Oro ($150)
The brandy in this Spanish offering was aged for an average of 25 years in casks that previously contained palo cortado sherry. This is a deep, dark, intense brandy from the first whiff to the last sip. Dark dried fruits, vanilla, and spice are evident on the nose. Characteristics of bananas Foster and hints of dark chocolate and dates are evident on the prodigiously long finish, punctuated by oodles of spice, a touch of maple syrup, and a hint of cream. This is a reference level quality brandy that can sit alongside anything in the category.
Glenmorangie Signet ($200)
Signet has been part of the Glenmorangie portfolio since 2008. It’s non-chill-filtered and bottled at 46 percent alcohol. A blend of some of Glenmorangie's oldest whiskies, it has a deeper color than others in the range. Roasted chicory, tangerine zest, and a core of spice aromas dominate the very welcoming nose. The palate is firm and rich with bitter dark chocolate, dates, toasted pine nuts, and white pepper flavors. Dried apricot, lemon curd, and continuing spice notes dot the long finish.