Holiday Gifts for The Whiskey Nerd in Your LifeBy Andrew Wiehebrink
So, you have a whiskey nerd in your family or circle of friends and it’s your turn to buy them a gift this year. As simple as this may sound, the task can be somewhat daunting. It seems easy on the surface – just hop over to the liquor store and get a bottle of their favorite bourbon. Then you start thinking… “that is probably what he gets every year”, or “I bet everyone is going to get her that bottle”. If you are like me, you want to give them something different. Or perhaps this whiskey nerd is someone very close to you, and you want to get them something a little more special than their go-to bottle that is likely already three-deep on their home bar. Well, if that is the case, this post is for you. As the biggest whiskey nerd you are ever going to come across, here is my short list of gifts that are sure to put a smile on any whiskey fan’s face.
#1 - A Bottle of Whiskey
So, you are dead set on buying this person a bottle of whiskey. There are a couple things you can do to make this a little more personal or special. But first, one thought. I find most of the time, the common whiskey nerd is a fan of all barrel aged spirits. They might find a little deviation from whiskey to be fun and interesting. In that case, do not be afraid to walk over to the tequila or rum aisle and pick up a nice bottle of something other than whiskey. High-end bourbons and scotch are difficult to find right now and can be expensive. Some good deals for amazing spirits can be found outside the whiskey section in your local liquor store. A high-end bottle of tequila can be had for a fraction of the cost of an allocated bourbon or scotch – and it still makes a statement.
Back to whiskey. Whiskey has become extremely specialized over the past few years which means lots of options for unique expressions. Single barrel store picks are one of the best options out there for great whiskey at a great price. Not to mention, this adds a nice personal touch to the otherwise standard gift. Often, store picks are different from their standard counterparts and come in at higher proofs. Moreover, store picks are a totally unique bottle that will never be found again once the allocation is gone. Barrels typically yield anywhere between 150-250 bottles, making any barrel pick extremely limited. All you need to do is ask your liquor store if they have any store picks available for purchase and I am sure they will be happy to lead you right to them.
EXTRA HINT: During the holidays, some of the bigger chain stores (especially in Kentucky) have on-site engraving for customers who purchase bottles. So, if you are looking to kick it up a notch, engravings can be a special touch. Some of my most cherished bottles are standard bottles of whiskey that someone had engraved for me. I generally drink out of them only once a year as a celebration or remembrance.
If the store doesn’t have any barrel picks to offer, look for line extensions or special offerings of your person’s favorite whiskey. This is also a great option for your whiskey nerd who will drink absolutely nothing other than their preferred brand. This is somewhat common with the ‘old guard’. Here are a few examples: If they normally drink 12-year-old scotch, bump it up to the 15-year expression. Maybe try for the Small Batch or Barrel Proof expression of their favorite bourbon instead of the standard 80 or 90 proof expression. The more unique and limited, the better. Personally, this strategy has worked very well for me in the past.
#2 - Something Other Than a Bottle of Whiskey
Maybe you have decided that you aren’t going to be the one to give the whiskey nerd another bottle of whiskey. Well, I have a few great options! To the enthusiast, the act of having a drink is just as important as the drink itself. Anything you can do to make that experience more involved or special is going to be greatly appreciated. I recommend considering a high-quality decanter made especially for spirits. From there you can trickle down to the glass and even the coaster. A company such as Clayton and Crume creates very high-quality leather coasters that can be personalized (remember personalization is an extremely nice touch) with whatever you want.
A word on whiskey glasses. Whiskey enthusiasts tend to be very particular about their glasses which makes this a tougher purchase. There is the person that has been drinking out of the same glass or cup for 30 years and then there is the person that will only drink their special pours out of one type of glass. Both of these folks are difficult to shop for with regards to tasting glasses. Just know which one your person is. If your recipient doesn’t care either way, then stay away from glasses because I guarantee they have so many bar glasses already, they don’t have room for one more.
Unless you want to spend money and travel and lodging, this next one is only going to apply for those who live near distilleries. Whiskey experiences are a great gift that can last a whole day and can supply a barrel full of fun. Distilleries usually offer many different visitor experiences so pick that one that is right for your whiskey person and send them to the distillery with a small group of friends. Tour vouchers are usually the way to go. Purchasing tickets for a predetermined date requires some planning and a bit of luck so try and secure some vouchers and let the recipient do the planning. For an added touch, throw in a gift card to a nearby bourbon bar where the group can grab some pre-tour appetizers and drinks.
#3 - The Last Minute Gift
Well, it’s Christmas Eve and you completely forgot to get your bourbon nerd a gift. It happens to the best of us. Luckily for you I have been in this position and have a few suggestions based off real-world experience. Sometimes there isn’t a gigantic liquor store nearby that has the latest and greatest in bourbon selection. In that case, grab a bottle of something high proof, say something in the 100 to 120 range and zoom on over to the grocery store and head directly for the candy aisle. Bourbon and chocolate go hand in hand and chocolate can really elevate the bourbon experience. Grab three different types of chocolate and put it together in a bag with the whiskey and decorate to your liking. For a special treat, try a smoky scotch with orange filled chocolate and thank me later.
Same scenario as above, but no grocery store? No problem, hunt down the nearest cigar humidor and walk on in. Cigars are a staple in the whiskey community. Some say you cannot have one without the other. Cigars range in value and said value usually indicates when that cigar should be smoked. The rule of thumb is that for most folks, anything over $30 is meant for a special occasion so this is where I recommend looking. A $30 dollar smoke should provide no less than two hours of relaxing solitude and paired with a great whiskey, it doesn’t get much better. Don’t go cheap here. Nothing says “you don’t matter” like a $2 cigarillo from the Speedy Mart. The advantage cigars have over chocolate is that with cigars, you don’t need to include it with a bottle of whiskey. It can stand alone just fine. A simple holiday card with a short sentence such as “to be paired with your most special whiskey”, should do just fine. Just make sure you make a reference to whiskey somewhere.
Happy Holidays folks!