Who doesn’t love a bargain? And several times, I’ve written about under-valued spirits for Half Full. I love ferreting out bottles that are delicious but are for one reason or another a great deal. But the holidays aren’t about bargains, they’re all about ostentatiousness, bling, pizazz...you get the idea.
And, in the world of cocktails and spirits, you can certainly go over the top (and then some). Read on for some present ideas for your best friends and closest relatives.
During the holidays, I like to greet guests with a flute of Champagne as soon as they shrug off their coats. There’s something about those hundreds of tiny bubbles that are a real luxury—and they put everyone in a party mood.
While you can easily spend a ton of money on Champagne, the Beau Joie Brut bottle ($70), which is encased in an intricate weaving of rose gold–colored metal, certainly feels opulent and festive.
Champagne Laurent-Perrier’s Grand Siècle No. 24 ($175) would also make a great present. It’s almost equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wine and is a blend of wine made in three different exceptional years.
If you’re shopping for a rock fan, consider this new release of Dom Pérignon Vintage 2008 ($195) that comes in a unique bottle created by none other than musician Lenny Kravitz. He also did a holiday version of the Rosé Vintage 2006 ($350).
Age is not a very accurate measurement of the enjoyment you’ll get from drinking a spirit. But when the stars align, something magical happens in the barrel and the alcohol is transformed into something otherworldly.
Tasting the very rare Patrón Extra Añejo 10 Años ($349) made me rethink my opinions about aging tequila for longer than a few years. It was aged in a used bourbon barrel and then finished in an extremely unusual cask created from both American oak and French oak staves. The combination created a spirit that was lively but still tasted like tequila with an elegance and sophistication that I usually find in Cognac.
Another extra-old bottling that surprised me was the second edition of Canadian Club’s CC Chronicles 42-Year-Old. I was expecting it to taste like, well, old oak. But the whiskey’s flavor was anything but that with sweetness and spice. At $300, it’s actually an extreme bargain. If it was Scotch, you’d add another couple decimal points to the price.
You don’t often see rum aged for longer than 10 years, let alone aged for decades. But this September, Flor de Caña released just 411 bottles of its V Generacione ($1,200), which is 30 years old. Given the climates of must rum-producing countries, three decades of age is not a possibility. However, Flor de Caña has been closely guarding this barrel and has experience producing a range of extra-old rums, including its 18- and 25-year-old expressions.
The world of single malt Scotch is dominated by famous and familiar names, so it’s increasingly rare when something from a relatively unknown distillery pops up. So I was pretty excited this fall when giant spirits conglomerate Diageo bottled some incredibly rare 29-year-old Pittyvaich whisky ($370) that was aged in casks that previously held sherry. I’m not sure how much stock they have, but it can be much—the distillery opened in 1975 and shut down in 1993. A real shame given this whisky is absolutely delicious with a beautiful mix of sweetness with a hint of spice. Also, keep an eye out for a limited bottling of Mortlach 26-year-old ($2,090).
This year a number of spirits brands have partnered with clothing designers to create truly bespoke gifts. Courvoisier Cognac recently worked with trendy New York clothing line Public School to come up with an impressive black tie ($125), which benefits the CDFA’s foundation.
The bartender in your life will like this sleek leather tote bag and bartending kit ($250) dreamed up by BillyKirk and Cooper & Thief Cellarmasters. It comes with a pair of strainers, a bartending spoon and jigger. It also, of course, has room for a bottle of wine or spirits.
Crown Royal has one of the most loyal followings of fans and sells a range of gear on its site. This holiday season it’s offering a very special crushed velvet blazer ($1924) in royal blue with gold highlights as well as the Crown Royal XR logo embroidered on the breast. It was created by Los Angeles-based designer Jhoanna Alba and it will be custom tailored to your dimensions. Don’t delay: Just three of these jackets will be sold.