2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Booze

Walk into any liquor store and you’ll see hundreds of options. You can zero in on someone’s favorite drink when picking a gift, or you can get creative and choose something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. Also, remember that you don’t want to come to a party empty-handed, so get in the habit of at least bringing a bottle.

And for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Laphroaig Select Scotch Whisky


We sometimes like to imagine master distillers as mad scientists of sorts, mixing up solutions late at night as they eagerly search for the next cure-all elixir. The story behind Laphroaig’s Select Single Malt Scotch Whisky, while not as dramatic, confirms at least a few of our suspicions. Select is a combination of four Laphroaig whiskies — Quarter Cask, PX Cask, Triple Wood and 10 Year Old — brought together in new American Oak casks for a final maturation period. The resulting creation is described by Master Distiller John Campbell as “peat, ash and spice wrapped in a blanket of sweetness.” Our thoughts exactly. Upon first taste, one cannot escape the wave of smoke that permeates the aromatics and personality of this scotch. This is what the island of Islay is known for producing, after all. The signature peat may feel overpowering to the novice drinker, but subsequent sips reveal a surprising uniformity and balance underlined by a soft sweetness. Its subtle complexity invites the drinker to further exploration, without a punishing burn. All in all, we found Laphroaig Select to be a very approachable scotch, both in taste and in price ($44.99). Well-liked by our friends and family, we certainly recommend it for yours.

Crown Royal Vanilla Whisky


Crown Royal Whisky has always been easily identified thanks to the distinctive purple velvet bag with gold drawstrings that each bottle comes in. It’s been that way since 1939, when King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth visited Canada and were honored with this blend from Manitoba. But Crown Royal has continued to innovate since then, with each release being sold in a uniquely colored collector’s pouch. Their latest creation from the Flavor Series is Crown Royal Vanilla Whisky, boasting infused Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. And as one might imagine, you don’t create a flavored whisky on the premise that the flavor is subtle. No indeed, the vanilla is unmistakable. The vanilla scent is upfront but fairly balanced, yet immensely amplified in flavor when sipped. There’s no doubt that it’s smooth, however, with just a little heat upfront that quickly dissipates before being usurped by the vanilla extract. We thought it a little too sweet to be sipped neat but were intrigued by its potential on enhancing some familiar cocktails. We mixed it into a simple whisky and coke and loved it. From apple ciders to Old Fashioneds, this whisky makes for a great twist on holiday drinks. This would be a great addition for your alcohol loving friend, and best of all, you can even customize the bag on Crown Royal’s website to make them feel like royalty.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum


To celebrate the holiday season, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum has released a “Good Gifts for Bad People” bottle pack. Featuring a limited edition poster and a bottle of their iconic rum, this gift set comes packaged together in a “Bad People” tube that bears the signature tattoo style of Norman Collins. Created in the likeness of Collins himself, Sailor Jerry is raw and unapologetic. Pouring ourselves a sample, we were greeted with the profuse scent of vanilla and cinnamon that seemed to fill the glass. When sipped alone, the vanilla notes were prominent and long lasting but stood in stark contrast to the strong heat of the alcohol. We tried it in a recommended cocktail recipe dubbed ‘Mischief Night,’ which consists of two parts Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, ½ part lemon juice, one part Grade-A maple syrup, 1 ½ parts orange juice and pilsner beer (to taste). Shaken with ice and strained, the drink made for a sweet blend of beer and rum that would easily be a hit at any holiday party. For under $16, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum makes for an excellent stocking stuffer for your brother, dad or uncle. And while you’re at it, pick one up for yourself as well.

TINCUP Whiskey


One would expect a hard liquor from the mountains of Colorado to carry a distinct personality: rugged, strong and free-spirited. TINCUP American Whiskey ($28) is all that and more. Inspired by the hardened gold miners of old and the cups they carried, our first swig surprised us with its bourbon-style profile. Upon further investigation, we learned that TINCUP is a concoction mainly comprised of “high-rye” bourbon distilled in Indiana and a touch of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. Brought to life in the East and blended in the West, TINCUP is infused with Colorado character by being cut to proof with Rocky Mountain water. We were altogether pleased with this whiskey, starting with the bottle itself. It’s hexagonal shape with etching on each face calls attention to itself even while standing among the various liquor bottles on our shelf. The aroma is light and pleasant with sweet caramel notes. The flavor profile follows suit with sweet overtones reminiscent of maple syrup and hints of rye spiciness. Underneath its rough and tough exterior, TINCUP is light and easy to drink, with a moderate burn that fades quickly. If this is what those frontier pioneers drank, a hard day’s work in the mines suddenly doesn’t sound so bad.

Havana Club Añejo Clásico Puerto Rican Rum


Many great cocktails trace their origins from the island nation of Cuba. The Mojito. The Margarita. The Daiquiri. The Cuba Libre. And while all these mainstays share a familiar ancestry, they also have one common ingredient: rum. We have to admit things may have gotten out of hand as we experimented with the abundance of drink recipes, but one thing is for certain: Havana Club’s Añejo Clásico Puerto Rican Rum ($21.99) is an affordable and noteworthy rum to craft these cocktails in your home bar. Añejo Clásico gets its rich taste as a result of being aged in oak casks for one to three years before being extracted, blended and returned to the barrels for an additional three months. This seasoning process allows for the rum to pick up its dark color and deep, robust flavor. We enjoyed drinking it neat just as much as mixing it into our plethora of cocktails. But why is this labeled as a Puerto Rican rum, you ask? Fidel Castro’s revolution nearly ended the Havana Club brand, but Barcadi purchased the recipe and began producing it in Puerto Rico to distribute in the U.S. So while you may not be traveling to Cuba anytime soon, you can still enjoy one of this island’s best exports in the comfort of your own home.