At this point it feels safe to say that the 2020 holiday season will be unlike any other in our lifetimes. And while in-person gatherings may not be possible, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to stop exchanging gifts. In fact, in the world of booze, it’s easier than ever to ship a bottle of something to loved ones no matter where they live — save for a handful of more prudish states that will go unnamed.
But what to give? It’s always a challenge to pick out a worthwhile wine or spirit, which is why separating the wheat from the chaff is a big part of what we do here at Drinkhacker. When it comes to giving a gift, the job is even tougher: Not only does the product have to be solid in the bottle, it has to be priced appropriately and, of course, look the part.
With this, our 13th annual gift guide, we’ve scoured the hundreds of product reviews we’ve written this year to figure out what’s worth putting under your virtual tree. As always, you’ll see products at a range of price levels represented in this piece — all prices below are roughly current — and we’ve taken strides to ensure that everything recommended has some level of availability. You’ll find many of these products available from our retail partners at Flaviar, Caskers, Total Wine, Frootbat, and Wine.com.
Happy holidays as always to our many longtime, regular readers. As always, we would be remiss without mentioning that the official Drinkhacker t-shirt can be yours for a song. And as always, we also appreciate your follows on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or all three.
Bourbon – Maker’s Mark 2020 Limited Release ($70) – Ideally we’d recommend commemorating 2020 with something emblazoned with the year on it. Alas, many of the big annual releases from Old Forester, Heaven Hill, and Buffalo Trace are long since sold out or are selling for upwards of $600 a bottle. Maker’s Mark is the exception, and this limited edition that’s part of its unusual wood finish series is a standout whiskey no matter what the calendar says. Other more expensive, but not outrageous, options include Knob Creek Bourbon 15 Years Old ($100), Bomberger’s Declaration Kentucky Straight Bourbon ($200), Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon 2020 Edition ($349), and Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Bourbon (Batch 27) ($349).
Scotch – Aberfeldy Exceptional Cask Series 20 Years Old ($200) – If you have all the money in the world, there’s a huge number of Scotch whiskies we can recommend to you. If your means are more realistic, continue this new Sauternes-finished Aberfeldy, a gorgeous crowd-pleaser that, while expensive, isn’t overbearingly so. And it’s worth it. Also a good value: Highland Park Cask Strength Release No. 1 ($90). Wonderful but not as thrilling on the pocketbook front: Bruichladdich Octomore 11.1 ($200) and Pittyvaich 30 Years Old Limited Edition 2020 ($525).
Other Whiskey – Glendalough Single Malt Irish Whiskey 17 Years Old ($280) – After 15 years in bourbon casks and 2 years in Japanese mizunara oak, this wild expression of Irish whiskey is one not to be missed. Also a magnificent delight is the well-aged (and decidedly pricy) Bushmills Single Malt Cognac Cask 28 Years Old ($500). Old Elk Straight Wheat Whiskey ($70) and Balcones Texas Single Malt Single Barrel ($80) are upscale options that won’t set you back quite so far.
Gin – Hepple Gin ($40) – Lots of great gin this year, but this scientifically-produced British production was our top pick. Not far behind is Japan’s 135 East Hyogo Dry Gin ($30) and Scotland’s Rock Rose Gin, either in standard proof ($44) or navy strength ($50). For more picks check out our most recent Top 10 Gins list.
Vodka – Hangar 1 Honeycomb Vodka ($25) – This honey-flavored option makes for a unique and delightful gift, as does Cathead Pecan Flavored Vodka ($21). If you want to gift something straight, try Belvedere Single Estate Rye Vodka Smogory Forest ($44) or a classic like Absolut Elyx ($25).
Rum – Black Tot Rum (2020) ($60) – There’s so much great rum out this year that it’s legitimately hard to pick a favorite. For sheer giftability we have to go with the recreation of Black Tot, which will invite all manner of discussion (without breaking the bank). More top picks include Equiano Rum ($65), Holmes Cay Single Cask Rum Belize 2005 ($100), Admiral Rodney Royal Oak ($66), and Mount Gay Master Blender Selection – The Port Cask Expression ($170).
Brandy – Camus XO Cognac ($150) – Camus tops our list of best brandies again in 2020. Also worth a strong look is Maison Surrenne Cognac VSOP ($75), an affordable California’s Germain-Robin and Cognac’s largest family-owned producer, Distillerie Galtaud.
Tequila – El Mayor Tequila Cristalino ($40) – We’re in a full-on tequilapalooza situation right now, with plenty of great options available on the market. Two more solid picks include Expresiones del Corazon Barrel-Aged Tequila William Larue Weller Anejo 2020 ($85) and Vamonos Riendo Mezcal ($65). All three are unique expressions worth talking about by the holiday fire — real or virtual. For more options, refer to our top 10 tequilas and mezcals of the year.
Liqueur – Ramazzotti Amaro ($20) – This year we’re all about bitterness because, you know, it’s 2020. Some of these options aren’t particularly new, but you should nevertheless check out delightfully bitter options like California Glogg Liqueur ($39), Fernet-Branca ($25), or even Angostura Cocoa Bitters ($9/4oz).
Wine – A bottle of wine is always welcome (and not everyone enjoys spirits). Our top wine choices can be found in our recent top 10 wines for winter feature.
Need another custom gift idea (or have a different budget)? Drop us a line or leave a comment here and we’ll offer our best advice!
Looking to buy any of the above? Give our retail partners at Flaviar, Caskers, Total Wine, Frootbat, and Wine.com a try! Flaviar’s spirits subscription kits are a great way to try dozens of spirits each year for a reasonable price.
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