Ready for Christmas? Ready for Christmas 2023, maybe? Our long day’s journey into night may have continued unabated this year, but we’re hopeful you’ve at least found some ability to get out of the house, maybe take a trip, and reconnect with friends and family this season.
Naturally, you’re still not going to be able to show up at your parents’ house empty-handed this holiday season… but what to bring? Some cheap bottle of supermarket wine isn’t going to cut it on your first big holiday gathering in two years. Good news: We’ve done the legwork for you, sifting through over a thousand reviews published in 2021 to find the best and brightest bottles of booze, collecting here only the stuff with the greatest levels of giftability.
As always, we try to balance quality with cost in this guide. I doubt grandpa will complain if you pick up a bottle of Pappy 23 for him. But we know recommendations like that aren’t entirely realistic. This is our 14th annual gift guide, and you’ll find a range of prices represented for most categories. (All prices have been updated with current, representative cost levels.) As always, you’ll find most of these products available from our retail partners at Caskers, Drizly, Frootbat, and Wine.com. You can also search multiple stores at wine-searcher to find the best prices on all these products and more. If you can’t find something — or want a bespoke recommendation for a special someone — please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or drop us a line.
Happy holidays to all of you. As always, don’t forget to don your DH colors with the official Drinkhacker t-shirt, and we’d love to engage with you on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or all three.
Finally, don’t forget that previous picks are still out there and make great gifts. For more top gift ideas check out the archives and read our 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.
Bourbon – Heaven’s Door Redbreast Master Blenders’ Edition 10 Years Old ($120) – Bourbon continues to be insanely popular — and increasingly expensive — which makes finding that special, giftable bottling all the more difficult. Some bottlings we’d normally recommend, like Jack Daniel’s otherwise exemplary Coy Hill release, we’ve yet to actually see for sale anywhere. Eagle Rare Bourbon 17 Years Old 2021? Delicious. Runs $1800. Fortunately, this incredibly special Heaven’s Door bottling is still readily available and, at $120, hardly a bank-breaker. Another outstanding option is Maker’s Mark FAE-02 ($55), a huge improvement over FAE-01 and, again, a great bargain on a limited edition release. If you insist on splurging, consider Old Forester The 117 Series – Warehouse K Barrels ($495, 375ml), though at the equivalent of almost $1000 for a full-size bottle, you may have better luck just handing out cash.
Scotch – Lagavulin 11 Years Old Offerman Edition Finished in Guinness Casks ($80) – Lagavulin printing a label with Nick Offerman’s picture on it sounds like a gimmick, but this unique whisky is actually one of the best Scotch releases of the year — and it’s 10 bucks cheaper today than it was a launch, so you can comfortably pick up one for yourself and one for a friend. If money’s a bit looser, check out these two (wildly different) options: the surprisingly soft Ardbeg Arrrrrrrdbeg! ($300) and the opulent Glenfiddich Grande Couronne 26 Years Old ($600).
Other Whiskey – Sagamore Spirit Rye Tequila Finish ($60) – It’s a rye kinda year: All our top “other whiskey” picks this year are bottlings of rye, made in the U.S. At the top has to be this exotic number from Sagamore Spirit, finished in tequila barrels. Harder to find but worth it is Castle & Key Restoration Rye Batch 1 ($150), or go for the hipster pick with Nashville Barrel Co. Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey ($130).
Gin – Poli Marconi 42 Gin ($35) – Poli is best known as a grappa producer, but this aromatic and quite herbal gin makes for a fun diversion from its tougher product lines. Tamworth Garden Aviary Gin ($55), made with local raw honey, is another stellar pick, along with the unusually named The Family Jones Earl Grey Juniper Jones Gin ($35), an aged gin that spends time in barrels that previously held Earl Grey tea leaves. For more thoughts, check out our most recent top 10 gins list.
Vodka – Kozuba Potato Vodka ($20) – This potato vodka from Poland is an iconic, classically-styled choice — albeit a bit of a weird gift, we realize. For other options, consider a bottle of Wheatley Vodka ($20), Neft Vodka ($30), or the exotic Frankly Organic Pomegranate Lemon Vodka ($20).
Rum – Hampden “Great House” Rum Distillery Edition 2020 ($100) – Officially released with a 2020 designation, this Jamaica-born monster is still widely available and worth seeking out for rum junkies. More great picks include Tanduay Double Rum ($55) and the absolutely killer (but rare) Black Tot 50th Anniversary Rum ($170). For more great picks, see our most recent Top 10 Rums list.
Brandy – Chateau de Laubade Bas Armagnac Intemporel No. 5 ($150) – The problem with great brandy is that it quickly vanishes from the market. This Armagnac from Laubade is still widely available, as is Ferrand S.D.A. Cognac ($220). For something a bit more unusual, consider Distillerie Purkhart Blume Marillen Apricot Eau-de-Vie ($42), maybe the best fruit brandy you’ll ever taste.
Tequila – El Mayor Tequila Extra Anejo – Rum Cask Finish ($130) – Our #1 tequila of the year is also our #1 gift idea; it’s a unique monster of an XA that works magic on the palate. Less luxe — but still highly worthwhile — gift concepts include Espanita Tequila Blanco ($30), Lejana Y Sola Mezcal Joven ($60), and Dos Primos Tequila Blanco ($44). For more options, refer to our just-out top 10 tequilas and mezcals of the year.
Liqueur – Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur ($25) – We didn’t have huge luck with liqueurs this year, but raved about this apricot liqueur (made from the same base spirit that you’ll find in our brandy section above). Luxardo has two solid (and very different) options if you want something more traditional, including Luxardo Triplum ($29) and Luxardo Bitter ($28).
Books – For something to do before cocktail hour, consider one of our favorite books of the year. The Art of the Japanese Cocktail, Schumann’s Whisk(e)y Lexicon, The Terroir of Whiskey, and/or Booze Cruise: A Tour of the World’s Essential Mixed Drinks.
Remember: If you 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, Drizly, Frootbat, and Wine.com a try! Remember you can search multiple stores at wine-searcher for hard-to-find products. And Flaviar’s spirits subscription kits are a great way to try dozens of spirits each year for a reasonable price.
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