Here at Whisky Advocate, we hear one question more than any other: “What whisky should I buy?” Whether for yourself or a loved one, the gift of whisky—a well-considered, out-of-the-ordinary bottle—is perfect for any occasion, and we offer plenty of tools to help you find the right one: from Best Value and Editors’ Choice picks to the annual Top 20 list, plus the full Buying Guide with over 4,000 whisky reviews, sortable by price, score, and more.
But what about the whisky lover who already has a fully stocked bar, or the one whose taste is so discerning you’re afraid of picking something they won’t like? Each issue of Whisky Advocate includes recommended whisky gear (everything from decanters to cocktail picks to glassware), and we’ve made some additional picks below. There’s something here for every budget and all kinds of whisky lovers, including the at-home bartender, the aspiring taster, the outdoor enthusiast, and the cigar aficionado. Some of these come with whisky, while others are simple whisky accessories, but they’re all tailored to enhance the drinking experience.
Throw another log on the fire, grab your favorite glass, and offer a toast to great whisky and great gifts. Happy holidays from our family to yours!
Whisky Infusion Kits for Instant Cocktails
More of us are making our own cocktails these days; in fact, some of us are drinking so many at-home cocktails we may be getting a little tired of the same old Old Fashioned or mundane Manhattan. Luckily, there’s an easy way to jazz up your favorite whisky cocktails with almost no extra work on your part (because who has the energy anymore?). Infusion kits, complete with pre-made packets of botanicals, impart an array of flavors onto your favorite bourbon, rye, or other spirit, and they only take a few hours to do their work. We like the Alkemista by Ethan+Ashe for its sleek all-in-one vessel ($70), which infuses a full bottle of spirits at a time and can go from the kitchen to your bar without missing a beat. Create your own herb, fruit, or spice blend, or use one of the company’s infusion packets, like House Bitters—perfect for an earthy, wood spice-heavy bourbon Old Fashioned. Or get everything you need in a single box with One Part Co.’s Master Infusion Kit ($75), which includes all the gear for a 375 ml. infusion plus seven blend packets, from Spicy to Floral. Try the Smoky packet, which includes Lapsang Souchong tea, with a standard bourbon or rye to simulate the smoked cocktail experience with no pyrotechnics necessary.
Want to share with a buddy? One Part Co. offers an “email a cocktail” service ($9.57); you send to a friend, they choose the flavor blend they want, and One Part sends them the packet. —SSB and TS
Bourbon Nosing Kit to Hone Your Tasting Skills
Whisky reviews—ours included—use lots of sensory terms to try to put the tasting experience into words, but ultimately it’s the drinker who is the final arbiter. Assessing and describing whisky is something anyone can do, and it relies on your own experience of aromas and flavors. But how do you focus your tasting so that you can find those notes in the glass? This Bourbon Nosing Kit ($69) aims to train your nose so that discerning aromas like mint, tobacco, and cherry becomes second nature. Eighteen sturdy screw-top containers hold a variety of common scent items, from black pepper (don’t sneeze!) to cracked corn, all contained in a compact case that’s easy to carry to your next tasting. The kit is specifically designed for bourbon, but many whisky styles have common flavor notes, and the nosing skills you acquire are good for life. —SSB
American Whiskey Distillery Map to Track Your Travels
Whiskey trips may be on pause this year due to travel restrictions and closed visitor centers, but this Scratch-Off USA Whiskey Distilleries Map ($22) will help you plan your next tour. With over 200 American whiskey distilleries across all 50 states, the map also includes the types of grains each producer uses. (Though the key says “Whiskey Types,” we can only presume that the “corn” listed is meant to denote bourbon.) While not a comprehensive guide to all whiskey distilleries in the country, there is plenty of detail, including insets for Kentucky, Kansas, and Oregon that allow ample room for many of those states’ distilleries, and even the most seasoned whiskey lover will likely discover a new-to-them name. When you do finally take your trip, scratch off the distillery name to mark the milestone. Maps International offers different finishes and a variety of personalization options. —SSB
Reimagined Bar Equipment for a Quicker Clean-Up
The classic cocktail shaker has gone largely unchanged for decades, but just because it’s old school doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement. Shaker 33 ($40) has reimagined the tool, losing some of the slick 1950s appeal of stainless steel for a more modern approach. The device still incorporates the basic elements of a shaker—base, lid, and cap—but uses interlocking BPA-free Tritan plastic to allow for leak-proof shaking—and to save your hands from sticking to the freezing metal. A built-in strainer enables a smooth, mess-free pour. At 24 ounces, you can create Whiskey Sours or other shaken cocktails in batches, and when it’s time for clean-up, all three parts are dishwasher-safe. Although it’s less classically sleek than the throwback barware, Shaker 33 compensates with thoughtful design that considers the home bartender at every turn—er, shake. —TS
Bundle Up With a Branded Gift Pack
At this time of year whisky gift packs line the check-out at your local liquor store. While most of these are the same—a bottle of core whisky with one or two branded rocks glasses, costing maybe a dollar or two more than the bottle by itself—occasionally there’s a premium worth the trade-up. This year, Bulleit is partnering with outdoor lifestyle brand Yeti to offer the Bulleit x Yeti package ($72), which includes a 10 oz insulated Yeti Rambler Tumbler, 750 ml bottle of Bulleit bourbon, and 375 ml bottle of Bulleit rye. Take your tastings to-go and keep your drinks cold—or warm, if you’re the Toddy type—with the Rambler which typically retails for $20 on its own.
If you prefer your fireside dram indoors, Aberfeldy is offering a Golden Hot Chocolate Gift Set ($45) in collaboration with Miami’s Exquisito Chocolates. The set includes a bottle of Aberfeldy 12 year old, custom hot chocolate mix, scotch-infused marshmallows, two mugs, two gold drink stirrers, and edible gold glitter, and is available through ReserveBar. While the set was sold out at the time this article was published, we’re told that it’s being restocked and will be available in the lead-up to Christmas. —TS
Double Down on Your Whiskey Pairing with Bourbon-Infused Cheese
Whisky and cheese are a classic match, and now you can take their union to a new level with Pour Me a Slice ($17), an aged white cheddar from Utah-based Beehive Cheese that’s been infused with Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight bourbon. This cheese could add new depth to a charcuterie platter or add a kick to your favorite sandwich or burger. (Get more ideas from The New Age of Hosting, a virtual series from Basil Hayden’s helping fans learn new ways to host during the pandemic.) If you truly love your cheese lover, gift them Beehive’s Pour Me a Box gift set ($76) which includes Pour Me a Slice along with more spirited cheeses: Beevino, rubbed with wine must; Teahive, which has been marbled with raisins and spiced rum; and Buzzed, marbled with Justin Cabernet Sauvignon; plus Creminelli Casalingo salami and a Beehive-branded Victorinox knife. —SS
Decorate Your Tree with a Dram
These festive, hand-blown baubles from Angels’ Share Glass elevate traditional Christmas tree ornaments and pack a sippable surprise—as they come filled with whisky. Purchase individually ($26), with a choice of Glen Moray Classic single malt, Deanston 12 year old single malt, or Arran 10 year old single malt, or in a pack of four ($99), which includes Douglas Laing & Co.’s Big Peat, Timorous Beastie, Scallywag, and Rock Island blended malts. You can also buy empty baubles ($5 for one; $13 for four) to fill with the whisky of your choice. And if these drinkable Christmas ornaments make you want to adorn your entire tree with whisky, Costco also offers a set of 12 holiday ornaments ($56) featuring mini-bottles of various whiskies including Glenlivet, Jameson, and Chivas Regal. —SS
Camping-Friendly Flasks to Bring Your Whisky to the Great Outdoors
In the age of social distancing, camping provides a fun but safe excursion, and thanks to these High Camp Firelight Flasks, toting your favorite whisky along is easier than ever. Made of leak-proof stainless steel and available in two sizes—375 ml ($85) and 750 ml ($125)—these flasks are big enough for cocktails too, and their vacuum insulation keeps beverages hot or cold for 24 hours. Magnetic-locking tumblers—one on the 375 ml size, two on the 750 ml—make for easy sipping, and sharing, on the go. —SS
Pack Spirits and Smokes Together
Our friends at Cigar Aficionado know the draw of a good whisky and cigar pairing, and Autopilot has made packing the two a snap with the Bruce Tote travel case ($360-$470). Hand-crafted in León, Mexico, the leather case has room for two bottles in its main compartment and up to four cigars in the front pocket, with separate magnetic locking pouches for cigar accessories. Stylish and sensible, it comes in four colors as well as crocodile leather, and features thermal lining to keep your drinks relatively chilled. You’ll never have to worry about a break, crack, or leak again—and your smoke and a dram will never be far from reach. —TS
Go Golfing in Scotch-Inspired Style
Anyone can pick up a t-shirt at the distillery gift shop, but Glenlivet and golf apparel and accessory brand Malbon have collaborated on a capsule collection that will make you look fashionable on the green, even if your short game needs work. The collection includes a crewneck sweatshirt ($100), rope hats in teal and white ($44), a driver headcover ($70), and a caddy towel ($33). The color scheme for the products was inspired by Glenlivet bottles (teal modeled after Glenlivet 12, a soft blue taken from Founder’s Reserve), and each purchase comes with a code for $5 off or free delivery on a Glenlivet product purchased through Drizly. Who said branded swag has to be bland? Malbon’s drive-worthy designs will make you pop on or off the fairway. —TS
Clear Ice to Take Your Cocktails to the Next Level
Some whisky drinkers eschew ice, but most of us appreciate a rock or two on a hot day or with a barrel-proof bourbon—and many of us enjoy the aesthetics of perfectly clear cubes. You can make your own using the cooler-based “directional freezing” technique, but if you’re not keen on chiseling the rocks by hand, there’s the ClearlyFrozen ice tray ($36), which makes 10 2-inch clear ice cubes at a time. It comes in three parts—the ice tray, a foam outer layer, and a liner that goes in between them—and includes a set of instructions, which we advise following closely for optimal results. (Don’t leave the ice in tray longer than the suggested 16-18 hours or it will lose clarity.) —SS