2013 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.

Craft Beer Club

If you have a beer lover on your list, you can give him or her the gift that keeps on giving. The Craft Beer Club discovers exceptional craft brews from around the country and delivers them each month direct to you or your gift recipient. Every selection is produced by small-production, independent brewers who use only traditional brewing ingredients and time-honored brewing methods. In addition to traditional bottled beers, they also embrace the hundreds of small craft brewers around the country that offer their hand-crafted beers in cans. It’s a great way to enjoy craft beers and it’s ideal for the holiday season.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky

If dad, your buddy, your tomboyish gal pal or anyone else on your holiday list loves a very good bottle of Scotch, then consider this rather dandy, unusually enjoyable single malt. Outstanding on the rocks, with a splash of water or soda, or neat for you purists, the Laphroaig 10 Year Old is also more mixable than you might assume; on the other hand, it’s good enough that many will consider even the finest cocktail made with it a crime against nature. The website tells us that it’s got traces of salt and seaweed along with the usual peat and smoke flavors, but we don’t completely agree. It’s definitely got smoke – indeed, you might get hungry for barbecue after you take a good whiff and, yeah, that’s some salt in there, but that’s not all. Every good Scotch has its share of several indescribable tastes and smells of nature. We haven’t been to Scotland, but we wouldn’t be one bit surprised to find ourselves tasting the essence of this concoction in the clear cool air of the highlands. Cheaper than super-duper premium single malts but nearly double what you’ll likely pay for Chivas Regal, this is an outstanding gift for a true blue Scotch enthusiast.

Brugal 1888 Dominican Rum

If you’re in search of a bottle for the man or woman who’s drunk everything, Brugal 1888 is something genuinely new under the sun and it’s completely remarkable. An aged Dominican rum that thinks it’s a premium Scotch or Bourbon, it has the tantalizing, woody and astringent flavor you might get in very a high-end single malt, plus a hint of something that somehow reminds us of our dad’s old fake-leather chair. (That’s a good thing, believe it or not.) At the exact same time, it has a boldly sugary undertone that goes well beyond what you’re likely to find in the sweetest bourbon. We tasted more than a hint of maple syrup or maybe turbinado. Regardless, it’s delicious and probably not like anything you’ve had before. You can drink this on the rocks, with a bit of water, or neat. You can also put on your mixologist hat and go to town as this is a flexible beverage that won’t be out of place in an Old Fashioned, especially if you use real maple syrup in place of the usual sugar or simple syrup. High priced for rum but worth every gosh darn penny, this is one boozy gift that won’t be forgotten.

Cabo Diablo

This is the best new spirit we’ve tried in a long time. Cabo Wabo is known now just as much for its excellent tequilas as it is for its founder Sammy Hagar, and this new Cabo Diablo should attract many more fans. Cabo Diablo features a delicious coffee flavor and tastes amazing when you drink it straight. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and it’s not think and syrupy like some liqueurs. So it’s a fantastic sipping drink that men and women should both enjoy. But better yet, it’s a tequila, so it’s also a great way to get a party going, as tequila makes everyone a little nuts at times. It is made with 100% blue agave Cabo Wabo Silver tequila, then kicks in notes of fresh roasted coffee, vanilla and chocolate for a striking combination. It’s excellent served chilled or on the rocks. With the holidays around the corner, this makes for a great gift for men and women, and it’s a great bottle to bring to a gathering to get the party started!

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2013 Holiday Gift Guide: For the Home

Gifts like these might not be the most romantic if you’re buying for your wife or girlfriend, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find cool stuff that will put a smile on their face. Products for the home can be just as desirable if you focus on items with great design or that make someone’s life a lot easier, and if you stick to those simple guidelines, you’ll make whoever is on the receiving end very happy.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Dyson AM05 Hot + Cool Fan

When it comes to vacuums, you can’t do much better than Dyson, and apparently, the same is true with their bladeless fans as well. The new Dyson AM05 Hot + Cool Fan will keep you toasty during the winter months and cool in the summer. We won’t bore you with the specifics of its Air Multiplier technology, other than to say that it works as advertised. All you need to do is select your target temperature – from 33˚F to 99˚F – and the machine’s intelligent thermostat keeps it there. Unlike other space heaters, however, the AM05 doesn’t waste energy by constantly turning on and off, efficiently heating the room quickly and evenly so you can sleep in peace. And if the machine happens to tip over, the power cuts out automatically, making it much safer than other models. Additionally, oscillation, airflow and temperature can be controlled using a remote control (magnetized for easy storage on top of the fan), and the machine can be tilted upwards and downwards by 10 degrees to help direct the airflow. Like most Dyson products, it’s a little pricey, but you pay more for that kind of quality.

Edge of Belgravia Ceramic Knives

We’re always on the lookout for cool, unique additions to the kitchen, and these stylish knives from Edge of Belgravia certainly fit the bill. Part of an exclusive limited edition of 1400, they’re just as much cutting edge chef knives as they are pieces of art. The ceramic blades are made of zirconium oxide, forged under 300 tons of pressure and 1400˚C, rendering them almost as hard as diamond. As a result, the blades remain sharp for years without the need for sharpening. They’re also incredibly lightweight and won’t rust or discolor over time. Edge of Belgravia’s ceramic range is offered individually or in a five-piece set that includes a slicer, chef’s knife, santoku, utility knife and paring knife. The matte rubberized handles are extremely comfortable, while the blades themselves are superb in action. However, because of the brittle nature of the ceramic blades, they need to be treated with care. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be a Top Chef, but you should at least have a respect for the art of cooking in order to get the most out of these awesome knives.

Keurig Vue V700 Brewing System

When it comes to single serve brewing machines, Keurig is king, which is why it was a little surprising that the company decided to introduce a whole new line of brewers last year; one that utilizes a different delivery method (called Vue packs) in place of the popular K-Cups. But after testing out the new Keurig Vue V700, we can understand why they made the change, because it’s a vast improvement on the last generation of brewers. Featuring new Custom Brew Technology that adjusts water pressure, timing and airflow, as well as the ability to select brew strength and temperature on the V700’s fully programmable color touchscreen, your drink of choice is brewed to perfection. And in addition to the previous brewing options (hot/iced coffee, hot/iced tea and hot chocolate), you can also now make frothy café beverages like lattes. It only takes about a minute to brew and accommodates eight different sizes, ranging from a 4 oz. coffee cup to an 18 oz. travel mug. Though there aren’t as many varieties of Vue packs compared to the massive K-Cup line, we fully expect the selection to continue to grow over the next year or so.

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2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Games

The holiday season is the video game industry’s busiest time of year, with publishers saving many of their marquee titles to release on the public like an avalanche of digital goodness. It can actually be quite overwhelming with so many different options to choose from, so we’ve done our best to put together a collection of what we feel are some of the year’s best titles, and ones that the gamer on your shopping list will love.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Sony PlayStation 4

Sony’s already broken launch day sales records with the PS4, meaning that getting one for the holidays won’t be easy. That’s a shame, too, as by all indications, it is one incredible piece of hardware that has developers across the industry whistling in wonder. Sony really went out of their way to address many of the complaints people had with the PS3, and the PS4 not only fixes them, but adds exciting new features like built-in live streaming capabilities and a much more versatile and comfortable controller. If you do manage to get your hands on one, be sure to download the addictive and intense shooter “Resogun” to go with it. While it may not look like much, and isn’t that long, it’s the “Geometry Wars” of the new generation, meaning you’ll be playing it over and over again and long after bigger games have begun gathering dust on your shelf. It’s the unlikely can’t-miss game of the PS4’s launch.

Microsoft Xbox One

Is the Xbox One the system for you? Well, to answer that, you first must ask yourself if its $100 increase in price over the PS4 fits your budget. If so, then buying one means getting a gaming console that has both an intense interest in becoming the centerpiece of your home theater and the capabilities to do so. The Xbox One’s ability to work harmoniously with your TV and other devices through a native interface as sleek and capable as we’ve ever seen is so incredible that you would be forgiven for momentarily forgetting that it’s also quite a gaming system. Of course, the phenomenal Day One lineup of games available for the Xbox One should go a long way to reminding you. It’s hard to choose just one to spotlight, but if you haven’t yet got your fill of zombie killing, then be sure to consider “Dead Rising 3” and its own particular over-the-top brand of undead apocalypse. Much like the PS4, though, all of this is assuming you can somehow find one. Going by the pre-order numbers, that won’t be easy.

The Last of Us

“The Last of Us” has been referred to by some in the past as the greatest “Resident Evil” game ever made, and it’s been taken as an insult. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though, as it’s a statement only meant to convey the absolutely unbelievable mix of horror, survival, plot and atmosphere you get from this game. Purchasing “The Last of Us” is like giving a toddler on a sugar rush access to all your emotional buttons. Its world of despair and terror where survival is the only reward left is the perfect setting for its cross-country journey in search of hope. There’s nothing quite like “The Last of Us” in the history of gaming and, as much as fun as the game is to play, it’s an even better experience.

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2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Gadgets

Adults like toys too, so if you’re on the lookout for a memorable gift for your spouse or just treating yourself to an early Christmas present, a cool gadget is always a great option. Of course, prices run the gamut in this arena, so you’ll need to be careful, but whether you’re shopping for the latest and greatest tablet or something to please that audiophile in your life, you can find something that fits almost any budget.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Seiki 4K TV

4K TV is very real. By that, I don’t mean that it simply exists, but rather that it is the heir apparent to HDTV as the next format of television which will become standard. However, you should be cautious. 4K is an improvement over HDTV like Blu-ray is an improvement over DVD. That is to say that it’s noticeably better looking, but not necessarily mind blowing. Not to mention, the technology is still in its infancy. That being said, if you want to get in on 4K now and don’t want to pay a price too ridiculous to do so, the absolute best way to go is Seiki’s 4K model, which routinely goes for around $1,000 for its 50-inch model and, for a limited time, around $500 for the 39-inch model on Amazon. It’s the cheapest 4K on the market to be sure, but having sampled it earlier this year at CES, I can say with some confidence that it is far from a bargain model in quality. Sooner or later, keeping up with the Jonses will mean buying a 4K TV. If you need that to be sooner, the Seiki is the way to go.

Sceptre LED HDTV

By now, most people have some sort of HDTV in their home, but if you still haven’t gotten around to upgrading and don’t have the money to splurge on a higher-end brand, Sceptre makes some pretty nice budget-friendly LED and LCD HDTVs that are worth checking out. The company’s newest 40-inch model features a FullHD crystal clear viewable area, 1920×1080 panel resolution and 3 HDMI ports for as cheap as $250 depending on where you look. And if you don’t need all the fancy add-ons (like Wi-Fi, entertainment apps and 3D capabilities) that some of the more expensive brands feature these days, that’s a really good deal for a TV that isn’t too far off in terms of quality. It also boasts a lightweight and slim design, which makes it perfect for mounting on a wall, and is Energy V6.0 compliant, with an estimated yearly energy cost of about $13. You really can’t ask for more from an HDTV that costs less than most tablets.

Apple iPad Air

Ah, the iPad. Since the very first iPad model was released, gift guides have featured one iPad model or another, and for very good reason. However, the iPad market has grown more crowded than it once was with many consumers wondering just what model is right for them amongst a sea of options. While it’s difficult to account for personal needs, if you’re looking for the best iPad period it’s hard to argue against the iPad Air. Its $499 price tag may be daunting, but for it you get a model that is in a league of its own among full-sized tablets. No other product in the field can possibly compare to the iPad Air’s enticing paper-thin design, crystal clear display or flex-worthy processing muscle. The debate on the best overall tablet period is not an easy one, but if price is not an issue, then it’s a conversation that begins and ends with the iPad Air.

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2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Movies

These days, if you don’t own a Blu-ray player, you’re missing out, especially with a variety of classic movies being offered in high definition for the first time ever. But while we could easily fill several pages with suggestions of great films and cool box sets that deserve a spot on any holiday wish list, we’ve picked some of our favorites released over the past 12 months. If you can’t find anything worth buying here, then chances are that the person you’re shopping for doesn’t like movies.

Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy will likely go down as one of the best franchises in movie history, so it’s not too surprising that Warner Bros. has decided to capitalize on the films’ success with a fancy Ultimate Collector’s Edition box set. Though most people have probably already purchased the movies individually, this limited edition six-disc set (with only 141,500 copies produced) is geared more towards diehard fans – the kind that would gladly buy all three films again if it meant getting their hands on the exclusive bonus disc (featuring a new retrospective on the series and an interview between Nolan and “Superman” director Richard Donner) and the Happy Meal-sized reproductions of the Batmobile, Batpod and Batwing. The set also includes an introduction letter from Nolan, a glossy photo book, and a series of cool art cards by Mondo artist Jaw Shaw featuring the trilogy’s villains. The only thing it’s missing is your very own Batsuit.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Extended Edition

It was never going to be an easy job adapting “The Hobbit” for the big screen, especially after the success of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and although that likely played a hand in Peter Jackson’s initial decision to let another director take the reins, at the end of the day, it just wouldn’t have felt right with anyone else behind the camera. Not only does Jackson know the source material inside and out, but in keeping with the same tone and breathtaking visuals from the original trilogy, the movie feels like it’s part of a bigger story. Though it’s not as great as the “Lord of the Rings” films, “An Unexpected Journey” is still a delightfully fun trip back to Middle-earth with a solid lead performance by Martin Freeman. And for those diehard fans who have been patiently awaiting the customary Extended Edition, it’s arrived just in time for the holidays with 13 minutes of additional footage, an audio commentary by Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens, and two entire discs of supplemental material clocking in at over 9 hours. If this doesn’t satisfy your “Hobbit” fix, nothing will.

Star Trek: Stardate Collection

Most diehard “Star Trek” fans probably already own all of the films on Blu-ray, but for those that still haven’t gotten around to picking up high-def versions of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s first 10 big screen adventures, the Stardate Collection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to remedy that. This 12-disc set combines the previously released Original and Next Generation Motion Picture Collections into one massive box of sci-fi goodness, including every feature-length film starring the respective crews of Captain Kirk and Picard, from 1979’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” to 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis.” Additionally, there’s over 25 hours of bonus material like audio commentaries, featurettes and the 70-minute roundtable “The Captain’s Summit.” While “The Wrath of Khan” remains the only installment to have received a 4k restoration (though likely not for long with the original show’s 50th anniversary just around the corner), the rest of the movies still look and sound better than ever.

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