Despite its popularity this time of year — or perhaps because of it — whiskey actually runs the risk of being a thoughtless gift. Does your buddy’s liquor cabinet really need another bottle of Johnnie Black? Put a little thought behind the bottle, though, and you’ll impress even the most critical of whiskey drinkers. Let our picks be your guide.
Best Whiskey Gifts Under $50
Michter’s US*1 American Whiskey
Michter’s makes great bourbon and excellent rye. This whiskey is neither. It’s aged in whiskey-soaked barrels and free from grain neutral spirits, which means it’s “unblended.” Expect notes of butterscotch and vanilla with a fruity finish.
Suggested Retail Price: $45
Barton 1792 Single Barrel Bourbon
An offshoot of Sazerac, Barton 1792 cleaned up at the most-recent San Francisco World Spirits Competition, one of the most prestigious spirits competitions in the world. And this bourbon won a Double Gold, the highest honor there is. In layman’s terms, it’s one of the best bourbons you can buy. And it costs all of $40.
Suggested Retail Price: $40
Four Roses Single Barrel
The Fallback: Four Roses caters to all budgets, including people on one. This bottle, however, is an upgrade to the brand’s “Yellow Label” and Small Batch expressions. It’s a little more complex, too, with notes of cinnamon, caramel and vanilla.
Suggested Retail Price: $40
Best Whiskey Gifts Under $100
Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye
This is one of the best whiskeys of the year. Before it even hit shelves, it was named “Best Rye Whiskey” at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Needless to say, whiskey snobs were quick to snatch up as many bottles as they could when it did hit market. If you can find it, you’d be wise to do the same.
Suggested Retail Price: $70
Nikka Whisky From the Barrel
For years, this was one of the most lauded Japanese whiskeys outside of Japan — partly due to the fact that it wasn’t available in the States. That changed this summer, when Nikka introduce From the Barrel to the American market. For being so sought-after, it’s pretty affordable, and the rectangular bottle will look unique on even the best-stocked bar carts.
Suggested Retail Price: $59
Green Spot Pot Still Irish Whiskey
The Fallback: Brought to the U.S. in 2014, this historic single-pot Irish whiskey is made from a distillation of malted and un-malted barley that’s aged in bourbon and Sherry barrels. Newer bottles of Green Spot don’t carry an age statement, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. Jim Murray, the world’s premier brown-spirit critic, once called it “unquestionably one of the world’s great whiskeys.”
Suggested Retail Price: $60
Best Whiskey Gifts Over $100
Russell’s Reserve 2002
These days, Wild Turkey’s perhaps better known for affordable bourbon and an affiliation with Matthew McConaughey than its range of premium whiskey, but this expression from Russel’s Reserve (a sub-brand of Wild Turkey) is something else. It’s a non-chill filtered bourbon, meaning it still carries some of the fatty acids known to make whiskey cloudy when served over ice (some people think they actually help the flavor when preserved), and it’s bottled at barrel proof — two relatively rare things in the world of whiskey, and not often paired.
Suggested Retail Price: $250
New this fall, 28 is one of Laphroaig’s oldest expressions ever. It’s not often you see a whiskey pass the quarter-century mark. The liquid was selected from casks of different sizes before moved to Sherry casks for the final 12 months of the maturing process. Expect notes of baked pears and salted toffee, as well as a eye-watering price tag.
Suggested Retail Price: $799
Highland Park 18 Viking Spirit
The Fallback: Can’t find our other recs but still want something more special than the typical fare? Buy this, one of the Highland Park’s core expressions. It’s highly drinkable, with notes of honey, chocolate, dark fruit and some peat for good measure.
Suggested Retail Price: $130
Don’t know what to get the people on your list? We’ve got you covered with our holiday gift guide
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