Well, a lot of folks are starting to do their holiday shopping, and there are a lot of people who love to give and receive the gift of bourbon. Whiskey shopping around the holidays can offer some great deals on holiday gift packages. A lot of distilleries will issue box sets where you might get a 750 ml bottle with some glassware or some 50 ml samples of other products. Even if you are just looking to treat yourself, holiday box sets are always good fun.
Before I get into my recommendations for the bourbon lovers on your list, I need to issue two disclaimers. First, if you are a bourbon lover like myself, that does not give you the right to supply others with bourbon in hopes they will give you half the bottle because they don’t like bourbon all that much. Secondly, taste is personal, and your favorite whiskey might not be tolerable to somebody else. That said, do some research on the person you are giving the gift to and the bottles you are thinking of buying to give the best gift possible. Of course, that is where I want to offer some helpful suggestions that won’t break the bank.
For the bourbon newcomer on your list: This is the person on your list who has never had bourbon (or any other whiskey) before, but they have put bourbon on their holiday wish list. Don’t get them anything over 90 proof, and don’t get them anything will do dense a flavor profile. My main recommendation is Four Roses Yellow Label. It is light, and it gives a good introduction to whiskey without it being too complex. It is also a great value buy. If you are looking for something a little fancier, try Basil Hayden’s. It is also a light, well-balanced whiskey. Both of these presents will leave the recipient craving another bottle of bourbon.
For the bourbon novice on your list: This is the person on your list that has been getting into some starter bourbons of late, but he/she looking is looking to enjoy some craft bourbon. My recommendation (if you can find it) is Elmer T. Lee. It is a single barrel bourbon that is indicative of what bourbon should be. It won’t break the bank, but it is a monstrous step up from Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. However, Elmer T. Lee is hard to find. If you can’t lay your hands on that one, Buffalo Trace is a great alternative.
For the bourbon admirer on your list: This is the person who has been casually drinking bourbon for a few years, and it is one of their favorite drinks. This person is one of the easiest people on your list because they will probably like your gift. That said, here are a couple of the quintessential craft bourbons that make great gifts. Eagle Rare 10 yr. and Woodford Reserve are two readily available bourbons that always make great gifts. If you can find it, Four Roses Single Barrel is a great offering if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars.
For the bourbon connoisseur on your list: This is the person who loves bourbon, and gives a lot of thought and attention to their bourbon. Among bourbon connoisseurs, there are a few whiskeys that you can rarely go wrong with. If you find anything from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, Stitzel-Weller/Buffalo Trace’s Van Winkle Collection, Heaven Hill’s Parker’s Heritage Collection, or Four Roses Limited Edition Collection (and you can swing the bill), pick it up. It is a rare occasion that I read a bad word about any of these bourbons, but they are all pretty hard to find. That said, barrel strength bourbons are always a great gift for the bourbon connoisseur on your list. Noah’s Mill, Booker’s, and Willett Single Barrel (barrel strength) are all great gifts to open and great bourbons to drink.
For the vain bourbon drinker on your list: This is for that bourbon drinker that likes to sit in a smoking jacket with a $100 cigar while they enjoy their bourbon. Hardly a value bourbon drinker, but for somebody like this, appearance is everything. So, I would recommend a bourbon with a cool bottle and a long, uppity-sounding name. My first recommendation is Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Reserve. The bottle looks like you paid $100 dollars for it, but you didn’t even spend half that. What is in the bottle is pretty good, too. My other recommendation is the fancy horse-stopper of Blanton’s. It is a solid, all-around bourbon that has a very distinguished bottle.
For the rye whiskey drinker (looking to get into bourbon) on your list: This is for the rye drinker on your list that has mentioned wanting to get into bourbon. I would definitely recommend a rye-heavy bourbon. If you are thinking of a light, drinkable, full-flavored rye-forward bourbon, look no further than Russell’s Reserve 10 yr. If you are thinking monstrous, full-bodied, intense rye-forward bourbon, look no further than Wild Turkey 101. Both these bourbons are great choices for rye lovers.
For the Scotch whisky drinker (looking to get into bourbon) on your list: This is for the Scotch (I’m thinking Speyside) drinker on your list who normally finds bourbon too heavy and sweet for their palate. The bourbon to give to them is Four Roses Small Batch. It is light, floral, and fruity, but it still possesses a lot of bourbon qualities. Basil Hayden’s is usually a good gift here, too.
For the liqueur drinker on your list: The best bourbon-based liqueur on the market is Wild Turkey American Honey. Hell, even I drink it every once in a while on a hot summer’s day.
Those are my thoughts on buying bourbon for the holidays. If the person on your list falls outside any of these categories, leave a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let it Ride!