Booze: The gift that keeps on giving, whether you like it or not. It’s now tradition at Drinkhacker to look back at the best new spirits of the year, offering our suggestions on our favorite tipples — and the stuff that’s most likely to impress your holiday giftee should he find a neatly wrapped bottle under the tree. As always, we’ve tried to offer suggestions in a variety of price ranges, with a focus on spirits a bit out of the ordinary — as long as, no matter what the price, it’s the best stuff on the shelf.
Also check out our 2008 holiday guide.
Bourbon – Old Rip Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 Years Old (2009 Edition) – $350 – A hugely expensive and hugely delicious bourbon that will impress your giftee until he’s three sheets to the wind. More affordable choices include Evan Williams Single Barrel 2000 Edition, a complete steal at $26, or the always-good George T. Stagg limited edition bourbon; the 2009 is a real standout.
Scotch – Macallan 1824 Collection — prices vary — This collection of four different whiskys was obviously not distilled in 1824 (it’s just an homage), but your giftee doesn’t have to know that. For a real splurge: Laphroaig 25 Years Old is a rare knockout.
Absinthe – Vieux Carre — $60 — The absinthe craze is finally on the wane, and fewer new brands popped up in 2009 than last year. Vieux Carre, made in Philadelphia, is arguably the best.
Gin – Bulldog — $25 – I love everything about this gin, which is light, fresh, and inexpensive. Also check out Citadelle Reserve, which is aged and unique — any gin drinker will find it quite the departure from Tanqueray.
Vodka – Any tea-infused vodka — less than $20 – Tea-flavored vodkas are the booze trend of the year, and for good reason, they taste great! Firefly and Jeremiah Weed are both outstanding. For a good unflavored vodka pick, check out Van Gogh Blue or Vermont Gold.
Rum – Appleton Reserve — $24 — You won’t find a better rum at this price level on the market. Brugal Extra Viejo is comparable in price and quality. For Captain Morgan fans, hook them up with The Kraken and you’ll blow their mind.
Brandy – Bache-Gabrielsen Hors d’Age Cognac — $400 — Not just a killer cognac, it’s the best sub-$1,000 spirit I tried this year. I have one, sad, half-ounce drop left in the sample I received at the end of September. I can’t bring myself to finish it off.
Tequila – Casa Noble — $40 to $60 – This line of tequilas is both delicious across the board, from blanco to anejo, and the bottles are pretty enough to gift without wrapping. 901 is good for a silver. Or try mezcal: Mijes Joven is the best I tried in ’09.
Liqueur – J. Witty Chamomile Liqueur — $25 – Continuing the tea craze is this exotic and very spicy liqueur, flavored with chamomile leaves and other essences. For fans of the bitter stuff, look into Root Liqueur. I also wholeheartedly recommend just about anything from the Thatcher’s Organic line.