Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2018

Hey, look who’s not breaking his foot this year! Last year’s Whiskies of the World Expo was cut extremely short for me, but this year, safety was the name of the game. (Reminder: Don’t text while on the stairs, kids!)

I spent a lot more time than usual on American whiskeys this year, reflecting an amazing surge of craft distilleries appearing at WotW as well as a relative dearth of Scotch. That said, some of the Scottish drams I sampled were some of the best whiskies I’ve ever had — particularly Glencadam’s glorious 25 year old, to which I gave a spot rating of A+, thanks to its delightfully bright texture and fruit-forward palate. There was plenty of whiskey to like in America and beyond, too, but if I had to pick one product I’d like to sample in more depth, it’d have to be Healdsburg-based Alley 6’s bitters made from candy cap mushrooms they forage themselves on the Sonoma Coast.

Thoughts on everything tasted follow, as always.

Scotch

GlenDronach 12 Years Old – Bold sherry, nutty, with spice, but vegetal on the back end. B
GlenDronach 18 Years Old – Richer and better balanced, with big spices and some chocolate notes. A-
Ancnoc 24 Years Old
– A surprising amount of grain here for a 24 year old, with some orange peel notes; perfectly approachable but not overwhelming. B+
Balblair 1983
– Some smoke, barrel char, vanilla and chocolate. Nice balance. A
Glencadam 25 Years Old
– Bright and fresh, with a Sauternes character to it; some coconut, a little chewy; very lush and rounded. Best of show. A+
SIA Scotch Whisky – This has clearly been refined a bit over the years, now showing a youthful but silky caramel and vanilla notes; quite elegant for a blend. A-
The Exclusive Grain Cameronbridge 1992 25 Years Old
– One of the best single grains I’ve experienced in years; chocolate dominates, with a big sherry finish. A
The Exclusive Malts “An Orkney” 2000 17 Years Old
– I’m guessing Highland Park, then; traditionally built, but quite oaky. B+
The Macallan Edition No. 3
– A disappointment; a huge, bold body for Macallan, but surprisingly hot. B+
Highland Park Dark 
– HP in first-fill sherry barrels; the name is no lie, but the sherry takes it so far it ends up medicinal; overdone. B+
Highland Park Full Volume
– Chewy, with gunpowder and grain notes. A bit dull in the end. B
Alexander Murray Bunnahabhain 28 Years Old Cask Strength
– Lightly peated, with a solid Madeira note; gently floral. B+
Tobermory 21 Years Old Manzanilla Finish Cask Strength
– Blodly spice up front, but a bit raw and vegetal on the back end. B+
Deanston 20 Years Old Oloroso Finish Cask Strength
– Big grain base, with notes of cotton balls. B-
Ledaig 1996
– Punchy, with lingering grain and plenty of sweetness. B+

American

Belle Meade Mourvedre Cask Finish – A very rare offering that sold out in 2 days, it’s a beauty of a blend of wine and wood influence. A-
Belle Meade Imperial Stout “Black Belle” Finish – Bold and hoppy, notes of peanut butter, tons of fun. A
Sonoma County Distilling Sonoma Rye
– Soothing menthol notes, but a little mushroomy funk. B+
Sonoma County Distilling West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 2
– Wheated. Silky but rustic at times, with ample spice. A-
Sonoma County Distilling West of Kentucky Bourbon No. 3
– High-rye. Youthful, some vegetal notes peeking through, showing promise. B+
Old Forester Statesman
– Special bottling for that Kingsman movie last year. Big chocolate notes dominate, with vanilla and clove. Classic Kentucky. B+
Amador Double Barrel Bourbon
– Quite sweet, with candied pecan notes, vanilla finish. A-
Seven Stills of San Francisco Czar
– A burly whiskey made from imperial stout. Lots of smoke here, which would be fine but for the very green character. Overly malty and unbalanced. B-
Seven Stills of San Francisco Frambooze
– Racy berry notes in this whiskey, which is distilled from raspberry ale, plus notes of walnuts and dark chocolate. Lots of fun. A-
High West Bourye (2018)
– A classic whiskey, gorgeous with deep vanilla, spice, and chocolate notes. A
High West A Midwinter Nights Dram 5.4
– The deep raisin profile remains a classic, showcasing both power and grace. A-
Do Good Distillery California Bourbon
– Very rustic, gritty with pepper and raw grain. C+
Do Good Distillery Cherrywood Smoked Whiskey
– Pungent, mainly showcasing pet food notes. D
Widow Jane Single Barrel Bourbon 10 Years Old
– Absolutely massive, with notes of minerals, orange marmalade, creme brulee, and milk chocolate. A-
Widow Jane Rye Oak & Apple Wood
– Youthful, the apple really shows itself. B
Alley 6 Single Malt Whiskey 
– Rustic, pungent, but showing promise. B
Alley 6 Rye Whiskey
– Pretty, quite floral. A-
Mosswood Corbeaux Barrel Bourbon 6 Years Old – A private bottling for a SF retailer; a rustic style whiskey. B
Mosswood Sour Ale Barrel
– An old favorite, gorgeous with apple spices and a delightful, deft balance. A

Japanese

Kurayoshi Matsui Whiskey Pure Malt – A young malt, gentle but simple, florals and biscuits. B+
Kurayoshi Matsui Whiskey Pure Malt 8 Years Old – Surprisingly a bit thin, though more well-rounded. B
Fukano 12 Years Old
– Heavy greenery notes, drinking overblown tonight. B

Other Stuff

Alley 6 86’d Candy Cap Bitters – Insane mushroom intensity, really beautiful stuff. A
Mosswood Night Rum Scotch Barrel
– This is a rum, finished in Ardbeg whisky barrels. What!? The combination of sweet and smoke is almost impossible to describe; working on a sample to paint a bigger picture of this madness. A-
Mosswood Sherry Barrel Irish Whiskey
– A 3 year old Cooley Irish, sherry finished in the U.S. Fairly classic. A-
Amrut Double Cask
– Port finished Amrut from India; peat overpowers the sweetness it wants to show off. B

Review: Midleton Dair Ghaelach Bluebell Forest Tree 1

Midleton’s experiments with wood continue with this whiskey, a blend of single pot still spirits each matured for 15 to 22 years in bourbon casks, then finished in barrels made from six ancient Irish oak trees harvested from the Bluebell Forest in County Kilkenny.

Each tree gets its own barrel. This sample was drawn from tree #1.

The surprisingly light-colored whiskey offers an enticing nose of lemon with hints of cinnamon and powdered ginger. The palate is on the hot side, showing a burlier than expected wood character that tends to dull the sweeter citrus and vanilla core underneath. The cinnamon manages to push through, though, and the finish brings some balance to all of the above, though the wood-heavy notes really endure for quite some time.

Would love to try the other five trees.

~110.6 proof.

B+ / $260 / midletonveryrare.com

Tasting Report: WhiskyLIVE Washington DC 2018

Whiskey festivals come in all shapes and sizes, but WhiskyLIVE consistently produces a very approachable event for a fan at any stage in their whiskey obsession. There’s a good balance of offerings from industry heavy hitters and smaller craft outfits, as well as the occasional downright weird bottling. This year, I got to taste whiskey the way George Washington made it, but I somehow missed the 28-year-old Czech single malt (which I’m not sure I regret). There were no real standouts from our side of the pond this year (no duds really, either), but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed some of the line-up from Australian distiller Limeburners, as well as one or two other international whiskeys. Abbreviated thoughts on (most) everything tasted follow.

American

Elijah Craig 18 Years Old / B+ / familiar oak and cinnamon notes; not as balanced as previous releases

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon (Batch A118) / B+ / another fine barrel proof release from Heaven Hill; drinking a little hot

Wathen’s Barrel Proof Bourbon (Jack Rose Private Selection) / A- / extremely approachable at cask strength; full of clove and orange peel

Kentucky Peerless Rye Whiskey / A- / complex and rich for its age with a great balance between the rye spice and sweeter elements

Maker’s Mark Bourbon Private Select (Whisky Magazine & Schneider’s of Capitol Hill) / B+ / bold and complex but a little too sweet

Journeyman Last Feather Rye Whiskey / B / light and grainy with good clove and caramel notes

Journeyman Silver Cross Whiskey / A- / cereal-forward with a minty sweetness and chocolate and cola notes

Widow Jane 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon / A- / baking spice and a little dark chocolate; surprisingly good, if straightforward, (sourced) bourbon

Widow Jane Rye Mash, Oak and Apple Wood Aged / B- / medicinal nose saved by notes of overripe apple and pear, thin and unbalanced

Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye “Maple Finished” Cask Proof / A- / syrupy and sweet but balanced with a bold rye spice

Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select / A- / tastes like Jack Daniel’s but better

George Washington’s Rye Whiskey (unaged) / B / baked cereal and creamy with a heavy corn sweetness

George Washington’s Rye Whiskey 2 Years Old / B- / chewy vanilla notes but unbalanced and astringent

George Washington’s Rye Whiskey 4 Years Old / B+ / age has clearly brought balance along with toffee and caramel notes; could be something special in a few more years

Scotch

Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso / B / jam toast on the nose; light-bodied with a little too much sherry influence

The Glenlivet 21 Years Old / A- / stewed fruit; sweet and earthy with an interesting chocolate covered cherry note

Aberlour 18 Years Old / B+ / a little hot with a good balance of raisin and creamy cola notes

Tamdhu Cask Strength / A- / rich, honeyed body with dried dark fruit and a little lemon zest, easy drinking at this proof (58.5%)

Glenglassaugh Revival / B / sweet, citrusy, meaty, and earthy; a bit all over the place

Benriach 10 Years Old / A- / complex and bold for its youth with great pear and citrus notes

Glendronach 12 Years Old / A / great balance of wood and honeyed dark fruit notes; a gateway single malt if there ever was one

Glendronach 18 Years Old / A- / more of a raisin quality than its younger sibling with a slightly thicker body and just as enjoyable

Bruichladdich Black Art 5.1 / B / a bit flat and woody underneath all the smoke and meat

Deanston 20 Years Old / A- / a great sherry-aged whisky old enough to provide a solid baking spice punch

International

Limeburners Single Malt Whisky Port Cask / A- / creamy nose, dark fruits on the palate with a great caramelized sugar note

Limeburners Tiger Snake Whiskey / A / big cherry sweetness and mounds of brown sugar; one of my favorites of the evening

Amrut Port Pipe Single Cask Whisky / B+ / honeyed palate with a good balance of smoke and raisin notes

Glendalough 13 Year Old Irish Whiskey Mizunara Finish / A / pecan praline ice cream with a dusting of raw coconut; an already great Irish whiskey elevated

Crown Royal XO Canadian Whisky / B+ / silky body with rich oak and subtle nuttiness; the cognac influence is pronounced on this one

Brenne 10 Year Old French Single Malt Whisky / B / herbal and floral, but almost too much so

Lot 40 Cask Strength Canadian Whisky / A+ / massive palate full of bold, fruity rye spice and rich caramel; one of the better Canadian whiskies I’ve ever tasted

Review: The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey

Ready for a new Irish that isn’t a special release of something from Jameson? Read on!

The Sexton is a made in the North Coast of Ireland (at Bushmills, surely, as the two brands have the same ownership, the company Proximo), and is made from a 100% malted barley mash that is triple distilled in copper pots and aged for four years in first, second and third fill Oloroso sherry butts. The master blender is Alex Thomas, one of few females employed in the whiskey world that are masters of anything (i.e. distilling or blending).

The bottle itself is also worth special note: It’s a squat, black hexagonal decanter (“sexton,” get it?) that is quite striking. Whoever gives out awards for booze packaging should take immediate notice of The Sexton.

As for what’s inside, perhaps owing to some of its unconventional production, this is indeed a rather unusual expression of Irish whiskey, even for a single malt. The nose is immediately a bit weedy, quite green and vegetal, but undercut with notes of savory spices — think rosemary, not cloves — and a slightly nutty, winey character. Give it some time, and the green character will fade a bit.

On the palate, the whiskey is more straightforward and quite charming. Bold nougat and spice notes round out a palate rich with nutty almond, toasty malt, and hints of cocoa powder, which linger far longer than expected. The finish sees some more of that winey character hanging about, which, along with the nutty elements, is the only real indication that this has been aged in sherry casks.

All told, this is an Irish that drinks more like a young single malt Scotch than almost any other Irish whiskey I can think of. Whether that is a good or a bad thing, well, is up to you.

By the way, that bottle may look cool, but it splashes pretty badly when you pour from it. Use caution.

80 proof.

B+ / $28 / thesexton.com

Review: Green Spot Chateau Montelena

It has been almost four years since we reviewed the original Green Spot and celebrated its arrival in the U.S., a single pot still whiskey which we lauded for its bold, balanced flavor. With time and universal acclaim, the makers of Green Spot have sought to offer new products. The last one, Green Spot finished in Bordeaux casks was quite nice, but didn’t really improve on the original whiskey. The newest product is this gem, made with Green Spot whiskey (which for starters is aged in ex-bourbon and sherry casks) that is finished for a year in Chateau Montelena zinfandel wine casks.

Tasting notes follow.

On the nose, this whiskey is identifiable as being born from the original Green Spot, showing banana, vanilla, honey, marshmallow, and cereal grains, but the zinfandel casks add some cherry sweetness which integrates well with the other notes. The palate is exceptional, offering fruity berries and honey that turn to dry marshmallow as the wood develops. Spicy notes assert themselves as the flavor progresses further, leading to a finish that is fairly long and shows off the chocolate malt balls that appear in the original. The whiskey finally fades without ever turning bitter.

Green Spot Chateau Montelena is a great spin on an already great whiskey, the use of zinfandel casks managing to add elements to the whole without disrupting the balance that marks the original Irish whiskey.

A / $95 / singlepotstill.com

Review: West Cork Glengarriff Series – Peat Charred Cask and Bog Oak Charred Cask

West Cork Distillers is a relatively little-known Irish whiskey producer (as of yet). Why might that change? Because, in addition to a baseline of Irish whiskeys, it also produces some oddball rarities, including these new limited releases: Glengarriff Series Peat Charred Cask and Glengarriff Series Bog Oak Charred Cask are single malts aged in sherry casks that are then finished in special barrels that have been charred with a particular type of fuel, in this case, peat and bog oak (or, trees pulled out of bogs).

Wacky idea, but let’s here a bit more:

West Cork Distillers, in partnership with its U.S. importer M.S. Walker, has today announced the upcoming Limited Release of the Glengarriff Collection of Irish whiskeys. These special release whiskeys are single malts aged in Sherry Casks and then finished for 6 months in barrels that have been charred using fuel sources obtained from the iconic Glengarriff Forest in Southern Ireland. West Cork uses a proprietary charring device built by the distillery with the guidance of a local fifth-generation blacksmith.

Each of these two whiskeys will retail for $45 throughout the United States, and only 4,800 bottles are available. In Spring 2018, the Glengarriff series will add two new marks to the collection – Glengarriff Cherry Charred Cask and Glengarriff Apple Charred Cask.

We received both the Glengarriff Series Peat Charred Cask and Glengarriff Series Bog Oak Charred Cask for review; thoughts follow. Both are bottled at 86 proof.

West Cork Glengarriff Series Peat Charred Cask – Moderately smoky on the nose, with a distinct peatiness. The palate is sherry-sweet and a bit cloying, chewy at times with notes of overripe fruit, banana, and a gummy but dust-laden texture on the back end. It’s like a young Islay Scotch that’s been blended up with some old applesauce, though from time to time, that smoke-meets-fruit combination works a bit better than you might think. B-

West Cork Glengarriff Series Bog Oak Charred Cask – A light smokiness on the nose, with a heavy meatiness weighing it down. The aroma reminds me of a very young bourbon mixed with Islay scotch — which is to say, a bit weird. On the palate, the whiskey takes on the tone of country ham, slightly sweetened, with a sort of prune-like character at times. The finish is again smoky, almost ashy, with a drying earthiness that hints at tanned leather. Balanced it ain’t. B-

each $45 / westcorkdistillers.com

Review: Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition Irish Whiskey

It seems like just yesterday that Jameson’s first Caskmates release — an Irish whiskey finished in stout barrels — hit our desk. Now the second of the Caskmates line has arrived: Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition.

Before you get too carried away, know that IPA stands for Irish Pale Ale, though to be honest there doesn’t seem to be that much of a difference between that and a more typical India Pale Ale. And structurally, the whiskey is crafted in much the same way as the original Caskmates Stout Edition.

Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition is created using the same process established with Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition, the original whiskey and beer collaboration. Starting with barrels from the Midleton distillery, the local Irish brewery receives the propriety oak whiskey barrels to be filled with their local craft IPA. Once the IPA has imparted its crisp citrus notes, the barrels are sent back to Jameson to be reused to finish Jameson Original, creating Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition. As a result of time spent in the IPA barrels, Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition enhances the smooth taste of Jameson with a crisp, hoppy finish.

While the original Caskmates was perhaps a bit of a letdown, without much of a clear stout character to differentiate it from rack Jameson, Caskmates IPA is a completely different animal. The nose alone is a wildly different experience: Immediately, notes of pine needles are just the start, as elements of bitter dark chocolate, grapefruit peel, raspberry syrup, and torched creme brulee all emerge from the glass. In time, some more floral elements percolate from this melange. None of this is typical of Irish whiskey, of course, and it’s indicative of the impact that time in the IPA barrel has had on the spirit.

The palate is actually less unique than the nose, with notes of rich honey syrup, lemon peel, and a straightforward hoppiness hitting first. As the body develops, so does a silky salted caramel character that folds a soothing element into an otherwise spicy attack. The finish is lightly hoppy, with notes of spicy black pepper, but also a supple vanilla caramel note that endures beyond them all.

Wow, what to make of this wild whiskey? It is incredibly, surprisingly complex, unexpected, and original — and yet it there’s a balance to all that indicates an impressive level of astuteness that went into planning and executing this unique barrel treatment.

Beer and a shot? Now you can get them both in one bottle. Well done.

80 proof.

A / $30 / jamesonwhiskey.com

Review: Tullamore D.E.W. Cider Cask Finish Irish Whiskey

Here’s an interesting variant from Tullamore D.E.W.: Cider Cask Finish, now available in the U.S. on a seasonal basis (in and around the fall — sorry, we’re a bit late with the writeup). Previously available in Ireland and Travel Retail, the D.E.W. folks say this is “the first whiskey to be finished in hard apple cider casks.” Seems impossible, but who really knows?

To produce Cider Cask, Tullamore D.E.W. small-batch ferments fresh-pressed Irish apple juice into cider in oak casks, before refilling the casks with its signature Irish whiskey. “As the cider ferments, the tart yet sweet notes infuse the bourbon casks, creating a layered complexity of nose and taste in the finished whiskey,” notes John Quinn, Global Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W.

The whiskey spends about three months in the finishing cask before bottling.

The results are pretty interesting.

For starters, the expected: Apples, and plenty of ’em. The nose has an applejack quality to it, lightly astringent with some hospital notes, a bit of dark chocolate, brown sugar, and a vague savory character lurking in the background. On the palate, the apples burst fully to life on the palate, starting with a rush of Red Delicious and slowly fading into more brown sugar plus a sprinkle of apple pie spices. As the finish builds, it’s malty and a bit doughy, but the spice element builds further, offering both cinnamon and a little red pepper. Give it some time to open up in glass and the fruit elements pop even more clearly.

Tullamore D.E.W. is consistently underrated, particularly in its special edition and age statemented whiskeys. Cider Cask is one of its more unusual — and particularly worthwhile — recent releases.

80 proof.

A- / $40 (1 liter) / tullamoredew.com

Review: Egan’s Single Grain Irish Whiskey Vintage Grain 2009

In 2013, Egan’s Single Malt hit the market as a new Irish whiskey brand. Now Egan’s is out with a second offering, a single grain. Unlike the Single Malt, Egan’s Single Grain doesn’t merely carry an age statement — this is an eight year old, though that’s not stated in exactly those terms on the label. Rather, it is vintage-dated, indicating both the year of distillation and the year of bottling, in this case 2009 and 2017, respectively. If things go according to plan, this will be the first in a series of vintage-dated releases.

Egan’s Single Grain 2009 offers a less familiar nose than most single grains, which can often be heavy with cereal and mushroom notes. This whiskey is actually much lighter, delicate with floral notes and a restrained cereal core, gently sweetened and lightly earthy, a complex web of aromas in what is normally a rather simple undertaking.

On the palate, again the experience is elevated over the typical single grain. The body is light on its feet and bright with honey notes and hints of green table grapes. As the palate develops, the granary character builds, but here those notes are sweeter than expected, with brown sugar and some lingering baking spice notes adding complexity. The finish is warming but not hot, just about perfect, actually, working wonderfully as a straight winter sipper that merits some serious exploration.

This is a huge surprise to be sure, but all told, it’s one of the best single grains on the market — from any region, and at any age.

92 proof.

A- / $45 / eganswhiskey.com

Review: Jameson The Blender’s Dog Irish Whiskey

Jameson began its Whiskey Makers Series with last year’s lackluster The Cooper’s Croze (celebrating the impact of wood and the barrel on its whiskey) with this second release in the trilogy: The Blender’s Dog. For those not steeped in whiskey lore, the dog doesn’t represent a furry friend but rather a long copper tube that blenders use to dip into casks of whiskey to retrieve the spirit for sampling. Why is it called the dog? Because it never leaves your side, and it’s a man’s best friend, of course.

The Blender’s Dog honors Jameson’s Head Blender, Billy Leighton, though there’s no real information provided about how this release was blended any differently than standard Jameson (except that both bourbon and sherry barrels are used).

Nevertheless, let’s see if we can’t figure that out.

On the whole this is more expressive than your typical bottle of Jameson, differing in quite a few ways. Let’s start with the nose: Here we find a lot going on. Oily wood, a mix of fresh fruits, some floral hints, and a heavily-toasted grain note running through all of it. It’s engaging but surprising — a bolder approach to Irish than most will be used to.

The palate is effusive with fruit, right from the start. Bursting with citrus (lots of lime), banana, and bubble gum, it starts off sweet and builds on that with notes of orange and persimmon. As the palate develops, the whiskey runs to honey, then red raspberry, before leading to a surprising chocolate note that seemingly comes out of nowhere. The finish has more of a bite than I’d expected, slightly vegetal at times but decidedly Irish.

Good stuff.

86 proof.

A- / $70 / jamesonwhiskey.com

Review: Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey

Venerable Irish brand Kilbeggan (the oldest in Ireland) — see our coverage of its standard blend here — has largely been a single-product operation for most of its existence. Things are on the move here, though, as Kilbeggan has just launched a single grain whiskey to expand the portfolio.

What’s single grain? Kilbeggan reminds us:

Many think “single grain” describes whiskey made with just one grain; however, it actually refers to whiskey made in a single location using malted barley and at least one other grain. True to form, Kilbeggan Single Grain is made of 94% meticulously-sourced corn and 6% malted barley.

The whiskey is aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and fortified wine (unspecified) barrels.

We gave it a sample. Here’s the gist.

As single grain whiskeys go, this is quite approachable and lively. The nose is very light, almost nonexistent, with a slight granary note that is smattered with touches of banana, cloves, and burnt sugar. The palate however is sweeter than the nose would lead you to believe, a bold butterscotch, caramel, and vanilla bomb that is unusual for single grains. There’s a weediness underpinning the sugar — a common theme in single grain — but it’s understated due to being subdued by an earthy gunpowder note and notes of dried, savory herbs. The finish is on the tough side, which is again a departure from the gossamer-light nose, but on the whole the whiskey is more than credible and worth sampling for a shot or two.

86 proof.

B+ / $30 / kilbegganwhiskey.com

Drinkhacker’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

It’s our tenth anniversary, and our tenth holiday gift guide!

After more than 5500 posts — the bulk of them product reviews — we’ve written millions of words on all things quaffable, and as always, we select the cream of the crop to highlight in our annual holiday buying guide. Consider it a “best of the year,” if you’d like — though we do try to aim the list toward products that are actually attainable (sorry, Van Winkle family!) by the average Joe.

As always, the selections below are not comprehensive but represent some of our absolute favorite products. Got a different opinion or think we’re full of it? Feel free to let us know in the comments with your own suggestions for alternatives or questions about other categories or types of beverages that might be perfect for gifting. None of these sound any good to you? Not enough scratch? Teetotaling it in 2018? May we suggest a Drinkhacker t-shirt instead?

Again, happy holidays to all of you who have helped to make Drinkhacker one of the most popular wine and spirits websites on the Internet! Here’s to the next 10 years of kick-ass drinks reviews!

And don’t forget, for more top gift ideas check out the archives and read our 20162015201420132012201120102009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Bourbon – Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon 2017 “Al Young 50th Anniversary” ($500) – I’m not the only one to have fallen in love with Four Roses’ one-off Small Batch bottling, which was made in honor of longtime employee Al Young and his 50 years on the job. While this exquisite small batch hit the market at $150, you’re more likely to find it at triple the cost… which means you can expect triple the thank yous should you buy one for a loved one. If that’s not in the cards, check out this year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection Single Barrel Bourbon 11 Years Old ($300+), A. Smith Bowman Abraham Bowman Sequential Series Bourbon ($40/375ml – hard to find), Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask Limited Edition ($55), or Hirsch High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey 8 Years Old ($40). All of these will make for unusual, but highly loved, gifts.

Scotch – Kilchoman Red Wine Cask Matured ($110) – So much good Scotch hit this year that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but for 2017 I simply have to go with the magical combination of Islay peat and red wine casks that Kilchoman just released. It’s an absolute steal at this price; buy one for your best bud and one for yourself, too. Of the many other top bottlings to consider, the ones you should be able to actually find include: Caol Ila Unpeated 18 Years Old Limited Edition 2017 ($100), The Balvenie Peat Week 14 Years Old 2002 Vintage ($93), Bunnahabhain 13 Years Old Marsala Finish ($80), and Glenmorangie Bacalta ($89).

Other Whiskey – Kavalan Amontillado Sherry Cask Single Malt Whisky ($400) – I’m not thrilled about dropping another multi-hundred dollar whiskey in this list, but Kavalan hit it out of the park with its finished single malts, the top of the line being this Amontillado-casked number, which is as dark as coffee in the glass. Also consider The Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey 16 Years Old ($70), Amrut Spectrum 004 Single Malt Whisky ($500, apologies again), and the outlandish Lost Spirits Distillery Abomination “The Sayers of the Law” ($50, but good luck).

Gin – Cadee Distillery Intrigue Gin ($36) – It’s been a lighter year for gin, but Washington-based Cadee’s combination of flavors in Intrigue are amazing. A close second goes to Eden Mill’s Original Gin ($40), which hails from Scotland.

Vodka – Stateside Urbancraft Vodka ($30) Philadelphia-born Stateside Urbancraft Vodka was the only new vodka we gave exceptional marks to this year. Is the category finally on the decline?

Rum – Havana Club Tributo 2017 ($160) – As Cuban rum finds its way to the U.S., your options for finding top-quality sugar-based spirits are better than ever. Start your collection with Havana Club’s Tributo 2017, which you can now find for much less than the original $390 asking price. More mainstream options: Mezan Single Distillery Rum Panama 2006 ($43), Maggie’s Farm La Revuelta Dark Rum ($35), Cooper River Petty’s Island Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum ($32), or, for those with deep pockets, Arome True Rum 28 Years Old ($600).

Brandy – Domaines Hine Bonneuil 2006 Cognac ($140) – Hine’s 2006 vintage Cognac drinks well above its age and is just about perfect, a stellar brandy that any fan of the spirit will absolutely enjoy. Bache-Gabrielsen XO Decanter Cognac ($100) makes for a striking gift as well, given its lavish presentation and decanter.

Tequila – Patron Extra Anejo Tequila ($90) – No contest here. Patron’s first permanent extra anejo addition to the lineup hits all the right notes, and it’s surprisingly affordable in a world where other extras run $200 and up. Siembra Valles Ancestral Tequila Blanco ($120) is actually more expensive despite being a blanco, but its depth of flavor is something unlike any other tequila I’ve ever encountered.

Liqueur – Luxardo Bitter Bianco ($28) – Who says amaro has to be dark brown in color? Luxardo’s latest is as bitter as anything, but it’s nearly clear, making it far more versatile in cocktails (and not so rough on your teeth). I love it. For a much different angle, check out Songbird Craft Coffee Liqueur ($25), a sweet coffee liqueur that’s hard not to love.

Wine  A bottle of wine never goes unappreciated. Here is a selection of our top picks from 2017:

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 Caskers and Master of Malt a try!

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