Let’s face it, despite all good intentions, buying holiday gifts can come right down to the wire. Luckily, spirits are perfect for last minute crunch time holiday shopping. In putting together our holiday gift guide for whiskey, we wanted to accolade and include some of the most amazing whiskeys we tasted this year, but many of them (including the best Irish Whiskey we’ve ever had, Exclusive Malts Irish 13 year old 2002) are virtually impossible to find. Rather than send you off on a frantic hunt to try to find some obscure spirit, we’re going to recommend spirits that you should be able to actually find and buy.
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Bourbon – Of all the spirits we considered for our holiday guide, this is one of the biggest no brainers. Maker’s is one of the most affable bourbons on the planet and experiencing it right from the cask elevates it to one of the most enjoyable. Maker’s Cask Strength was one of the few whiskies this year to score over 90 points, and within that class, it’s one of the easiest to actually find. (Drink Up NY has it if your local liquor store doesn’t). $32 per 375 ml.
Barrell Bourbon – While everyone else was chasing down $1000+ bottles of Pappy’s, we were stocking up on the early batches of this new merchant whiskey company. Headed by Joe Beatrice, Barrell Bourbon has managed to scoop up some of the most interesting and beautiful casks of whiskies out there. The collection includes great bourbon and whiskey from Kentucky and Tennessee. While they won’t tell you where the whiskey comes from, we know from a good source that it’s some of the most respected merchant/distillers out there. Barrell Bourbon isn’t cheap, but it does make one hell of a great gift. (Caskers often has good stock on Barrell) $60-$80
Lagavulin 16 – Sometimes the best that you can buy is sitting right there on the store shelf. That’s the case with Lagavulin 16, one of the most consistently beautiful and expertly produced whiskies on the market. A lot of whisky drinkers discovered Lagavulin this year due to the hilarious Nick Offerman promo videos, and the truth is, this IS the kind of whiskey you can sit by the fire and sip for 45 minutes straight. We won’t even talk about their special releases of Lagavulin 21, as they are impossible to find, but if you can, it’s the best whiskey we’ve ever tasted. $90
Highland Park Dark Origins – Picking between Highland Park and Lagavulin is like picking your favorite child. Put simply, we adore them both, and so we’ll leave the choosing up to you! Since they’re located up in the Orkney Islands, people often ask which style of Scotch Highland Park belongs to (hint: although there’s Highland in the name, it’s NOT Highland). We have a simple answer: it’s in the amazing style of Scotch whisky. Dark Origins an All Star release from Highland Park, perfect sipped neat, but also mind blowing in a cocktail. $80.
Booker’s Batch 2015-06: Noe Secret – We’re a little biased on this one, as Drink Spirits editor Geoff Kleinman has been on the selection committee for Booker’s Bourbon in 2015. Of all the releases Booker’s has done this year, the Noe Secret is by far our favorite. It’s one of the richest, boldest expressions of Booker’s, and presented in a wooden box that’s an absolutely perfect gift. $60
Looking for other gift ideas? Check out our Spirit and Cocktail Book Gift Guide.