New spirits, revisions of old favorites, and fun party packs top the list of my 2012 picks for spirited holiday gifts. Whether you are looking for a unique gift for the cocktail lover on your list, want to bring something new and special to the year's round of holiday parties, or simply want to give yourself a present - because there is nothing wrong with that either - the ten recommendations below fill most needs and tastes.
If someone on your gift list is a lover of whiskey, especially Scotch, you may want to think about this special bottling of the iconic Johnnie Walker Black Label. Double Black is the Black Label intensified, complete with that signature smokiness and added rich flavor. It's superbly charred and a great treat for around $40, making it an ideal gift for anyone.
Now, if you are looking for a Johnnie Walker gift of the, shall we say, more lavish variety, a personalized bottle of the Blue Label might be just the ticket. Available through 1-877-Spirits.com and for $220 you can send your Scotch-loving pal an engraved bottle of this premium Scotch.
Ready to be excited by a vodka? Here is one that you have to check out, though it can be difficult to find at the moment. Broken Shed Vodka is from New Zealand and just this year has made its way to the U.S., first in Connecticut and now in New York. It uses natural whey as the base, and this natural byproduct of milk is not the average distillate, but it works and it works very well. As an added bonues, this vodka is gluten-free and has no additives, just pure, clean vodka and it is ultra smooth.
Broken Shed Vodka sells for right around $30 and beats the smoothness of most vodkas in that range. If you do not live in either Connecticut or New York, it may be possible to order it online (depending again on your state) at places such as Connecticut's Toast Wines by Taste, Loading Dock Wine & Spirits, and International Wine Shop.
This is quite possibly one of the most exciting releases of the year and for those looking for a fantastic gift for those whiskey connoisseurs out there, this is sure to be a hit. Knob Creek Rye Whiskey is a 'patiently aged,' 100 proof rye crafted with all of the care of their signature bourbon. It has a delicious spice that wakes up the senses and the vanilla and oak undertones are simply spectacular.
As with Knob Creek Bourbon, this is bottled at a higher proof and is meant to be opened up with ice or water when sipping it straight. That makes this an ideal gift to give with a pair of nice old-fashioned glasses and maybe an ice ball mold for the complete drinking experience.
Here we have one of the new style of gins, which relies less on juniper and more on fruit and floral notes and it is quite a lovely experience to share with other. Nolet's is a Dutch gin from the same producers of Ketel One Vodka and in keeping with the high standards of that vodka, this gin is impressive. Read more about it in my recent review...
The bottle alone qualifies this as one of the best gifts of the season. Then, we must consider what is inside and it holds up to the level of cool that the skull-faced bottle promises. There are many flavors detectable inside Muerto Reposado including vanilla, butterscotch, cinnamon, and banana, partially due to it being aged for 7 months in three-time charred Canadian white oak barrels. This tequila also took top honors in the reposado tequila class at the Spirits of Mexico in San Diego this year.
As a new tequila on the market, you may have some difficulty finding it. On the Muerto Tequila website you can be notified when it will be available in your area. For the immediate needs, you can also find Muerto at online stores including Old Town Liquor.
Moonshine. That good, old American corn whiskey is making a comeback and there are a few great brands available, but this one has a twist and it is too tempting to pass up. The XXX comes from the three trips through the copper pot still for which only select American corn is chosen. Surprisingly smooth, the additional flavors of lush butter and sea salt make this a truly unique flavored whiskey and an ideal novelty gift for those who love modernized tradition and the $25 price tag isn't bad at all. Try this unique whiskey in a Ménage a XXX cocktail.
As yet another new release, XXX Shine is just beginning to roll out throughout the U.S. Their website has a nice directory of online stores and distributors to help you find a bottle today.
The popular coffee liqueur has two special bottlings that you will want to check out this holiday season. Possibly the best part is that either can be mixed into almost any coffee liqueur cocktails, giving you the opportunity to have something both familiar and special.
Kahlua Midnight is a black coffee and rum blend that is amped up, not only in flavor profile, but in proof as it is a 70 proof liqueur. It is rich, dark, and as versatile as the brand's flagship liqueur.
Another seasonal bottle of Kahlua is also available this year and it is a delight to mix with. Kahlua Gingerbread is exactly what it sounds like, flavoring the base coffee liqueur with gingerbread spices including a tantalizing array of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove. This one will only be available through the end of 2012.
These Chaser Packs from Bruvado are somewhat quirky and rather convenient if you have the propensity to enjoy a shot of tequila or bourbon with a chaser of beer and want to share that experience with friends. The packs include five bottles of Mexican lager, a stout bottle with five shots of either 4 year-old Kentucky bourbon or 100% agave reposado tequila, and three shot glasses (yes, the number of glasses seems off to me too, though there is another party pack that includes all five glasses).
This full spectrum party-in-a-box is fun and the beer is good while the tequila is okay (that's why there's a chaser). Though, for around $13 it seems like a good option for a few enhanced beers with friends.