Top Spirit Picks for Secret SantasBy Stephanie Moreno
Participating in a Secret Santa is a great way to divvy up gift buying for a large family, group of friends, or work colleagues. But what do you do when your chosen one is a big fan of spirits…particularly if you don’t know much about their favorite category? On top of that, you’ve got a tight budget to consider. Well that is where we come in! We’ve got all of your basic booze groups covered, from whiskey to vodka and everything in between. Some bottles are new this year, but we’ve also included a few oldies but goodies. Our budgets are limited to $35 and prices listed will be suggested retail prices unless otherwise noted. Alright, folks, let’s go shopping!
JOHNNIE WALKER BLENDERS’ BATCH WINE CASK BLEND
Created by Johnnie Walker blender Aimée Gibson, this release blends whiskies aged in wine casks that were filled over 10 years ago. It incorporates whisky from Cameronbridge and Clynelish distilleries. Expect just a touch of peat smoke with loads of fruit flavors and vanilla. Released to global markets in September 2017. SRP $29.99.
Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Wine Cask Blend / Photo Credit: Johnnie Walker
KILBEGGAN SINGLE GRAIN
Released in late June 2017 in the US with a wider release expect to follow, this single grain whiskey is made from 94% corn and 6% malted barley. The initial maturation is done in ex-bourbon barrels, with further finishing in a marriage of ex-bourbon and various fortified wine barrels. Lemon, vanilla and cinnamon are some of the flavors found in this easy to drink dram. SRP $29.99.
Kilbeggan Single Grain / Photo Credit: Kilbeggan
JACK DANIEL’S TENNESSEE STRAIGHT RYE
This straight rye from Jack Daniel’s hit the shelves back in October of this year. It goes through the same standard charcoal mellowing process prior to barreling as their standard Jack bottling—as is required for all Tennessee whiskey. The mash bill is 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley. This is a lighter style of rye—less spicy and robust, but it can stand up to being served on the rocks, being 90 proof. Expect to find some vanilla, oak, and a hint of smoke. SRP $27.99.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Straight Rye / Photo Credit: Jack Daniel’s
LAIRD’S STRAIGHT APPLEJACK 86
This release from Laird’s is a 100% apple brandy. Bottled at 86 proof (43% ABV), hence the name, it sits between their standard 80-proof Applejack and their 100-proof Apple Brandy. The number 17 on the label symbolizes the number of pounds of fresh apples it takes to make a single bottle of the spirit. It shows sweettart apple juice, warming cinnamon, and a touch of barrel smoke. SRP $25.
Laird’s Straight Applejack 86 / Photo Credit: Laird’s
MARTELL VS SINGLE DISTILLERY
Made from a blend of eaux-de-vie produced at one distillery—which is not the norm—this product hit the US market in early 2017. Its packaging in a montre Cognac bottle is a throwback to the original design of the brand’s VS offering. Lots of berries, chocolate and nuts are displayed here. SRP $34.99.
Martell VS Single Distillery / Photo Credit: Martell
Plantation Grande Réserve 5 Year Rum
Grande Réserve is a blend of pot still and column still Bajan rums that are aged in bourbon casks for five years in the Caribbean. The blend is then finished in French oak casks at Maison Ferrand’s Château de Bonbonnet, in the heart of the Grande Champagne district. So much is going on here, from toffee and butterscotch to tropical fruit and vanilla. Worthy of serving on its own, but great in a rum punch. Average retail price in US $22.
Plantation Grande Réserve 5 Year Rum / Photo Credit: Plantation Rum
Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça
This cachaça is produced using certified organic sugarcane grown at the Novo Fogo estate in Morretes, Paraná, mere steps away from the coastal rainforest, Floresta Atlântica. The fresh cane juice is immediately fermented 18+ hours and given a single-distillation in pot stills. The herbal notes along with fresh pineapple flavors make this a must in your next Caipirinha. SRP $29.99.
Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça / Photo Credit: Novo Fogo
Sombra was created as a passion project of famed sommelier and wine negociant Richard Betts of Betts & Scholls. Created as a stance against the “Vodka-ization” of agave spirits, this is meant to jump out in a cocktail. Made from 100% espadín. Mesquite smoke, green herbs and banana help to make this a powerhouse in your cocktail. Average retail price in the US $35.
Sombra Mezcal / Photo Credit: Sombra Mezcal
Caorunn (ka-roon) Gin in made at the Balmenach Distillery in Scotland; one of the first distilleries to be licensed to make Scotch whisky. Standard botanicals used include citrus, coriander and the requisite juniper. But what really makes this gin stand out is rowan berry, bog myrtle, heather, coul blush apple and dandelion leaf—all hand picked from the Scottish Highlands. Average retail price in the US $34.
Caorunn Gin / Photo Credit: Caorunn Gin
This vodka has been around since 1953, but has just (2017) launched in the US. Produced from Finnish barley sourced within 120 miles from the distillery, Koskenkorva is named after the village where it is made. The vodka falls on the neutral and clean side of the spectrum with gentle sweet barley continuing on the palate. SRP $24.99.
Koskenkorva Vodka / Photo Credit: Koskenkorva Vodka
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