Holiday gifting-giving can be a stressful experience, especially if you’re buying for a whisky drinker with persnickety tastes. Whisky Advocate’s Buying Guide can provide excellent recommendations for the right bourbon, scotch, or other whisky in a variety of price ranges, as can our many whisky lists.
But while a bottle is always a welcome gift (particularly if it’s so well-decorated you don’t need to wrap it, like Hibiki Japanese Harmony’s special anniversary edition), you may want to extend beyond the obvious and bestow something more special. Whisky Advocate is here to help with this list of suggestions that range from the practical (shatter-proof glassware) to the utterly frivolous (cocktail glitter dust). (We can also recommend some great stocking-stuffer items, and a host of new whisky books.)
Whether you’re trying to find the perfect gift for the whisky lover in your life—or you are the whisky lover and making your own wish list—this list has something for everyone. —Susannah Skiver Barton and Ted Simmons
It’s always whisky time to us, but these barrel watches from Original Grain will ensure you’re never late to happy hour. Available in two diameters, the timepieces ($179-$429) are hand-made from reclaimed Kentucky bourbon barrels; a variety of bands is available. Your purchase isn’t just recycling old wood either; the company plants a tree for each watch that’s sold. If whiskey is a combination of grain, wood, and time, you are two-thirds there with this piece alone. —TS
Whisky is liquid gold, beautiful in its amber tones and light-catching clarity. But if you want to turn the dazzle up to 11, consider adding a pinch of this glitter dust. FDA-approved Spirdust ($9 for 1.5 grams) won’t add any flavor to your drink and—if you’re putting it in whisky, which is already colored by its time in the barrel—won’t change the color. But it will add an iridescent glimmer and sheen that transforms an ordinary drink into a whimsical concoction, with the just enough frivolity for the holiday season. —SSB
While Whisky Advocate can offer tips about making cocktails for a group of people (like buying in bulk or pre-making a big punch), sometimes even we want to simplify the process. Dollar Cocktail Club offers a variety of boxed kits ($15) for making 12 cocktails at a time, including whisky cocktail classics like the Manhattan and Old Fashioned. They provide all the mixers, a jigger, and instructions; you provide the whisky. We tested the Hot Toddy kit, which comes with bitters, crystallized lemon juice, ginger-honey syrup, a black tea infusion packet, and cinnamon and star anise for garnish. The kit made a great Toddy with both blended scotch and bourbon—warming, gingery, and sweet. —SSB
Machines that carbonate water or let you make soda at home have been around for years—but now there’s a gadget that can add bubbles into any liquid, including whisky. The hand-held Drinkmate Spritzer ($100) comes with two CO2 canisters and requires no electricity or batteries. Whisky Advocate tried making a Japanese Highball with it—1 part Suntory Toki whisky and 2 parts water—and we were pleased with the result. One thing to note: carbonation works best when the liquid is super cold, so be sure to put your bottle in the freezer for a couple hours beforehand. —SSB
Nosing is an essential part of any whisky tasting, but you can’t have your face in a glass all the time. Sydney Hale Co. offers this Bourbon + Brown Sugar set, which includes a candle and home fragrance spray (available as a set for $42 at Huckberry), which harness the scents of America’s native spirit, with notes of molasses, vanilla, and charred oak. Even better: 10% of profits on all Sydney Hale items go to benefit animal rescue. —TS
Most of us who have been drinking whisky for a while are familiar with whisky stones—metal or stone “rocks” that can be chilled in the freezer, then placed in your glass to cool whisky without diluting it. And every whisky drinker knows that ice in a glass will keep the liquid cold, but eventually may dilute it too much. Plunks ($25) split the difference: four cubes of metal nestle in a small tray, which is filled up with water and frozen. Placed in a glass of whisky, the ⅓ ounce of ice outside the stones melts relatively quickly, while the stones remain cold, keeping the whisky at an even temperature. Your drink won’t get as cold as it would on ice—but it also won’t become watered down. —SSB
From designer Todd Snyder and the Council of Fashion Designers of America Foundation comes this four piece handcrafted capsule collection that repurposes wood from barrels used by Balvenie Distillery. Available online through the end of the year, die-hard fans of the Speyside Distillery can purchase a snare drum ($1,500), bar cart ($3,900), custom men’s leather dress shoes ($3,600), or charcuterie board, infused with Balvenie-scented essential oils and complete with a spot for your Glencairn glass ($75). The Crafted Collection is part art, part luxury, and part whisky-obsessive conversation starter. —TS
Planning to hit the Vermont slopes this winter? You might want to stop in at WhistlePig’s Waterbury tasting room ahead of time and pick up a set of these eye-catching skis, which feature the logo of The Boss Hog V: The Spirit of Mauve, just released this fall. Even better: each set of skis ($2,000) comes with a bottle of the rye whiskey. The skis will be fitted for each customer by manufacturer Parlor Skis. —SSB
Glenmorangie is letting you ride the waves with whisky—sort of. In collaboration with Grain Surfboards of Maine, the single malt scotch producer has released a limited-edition surfboard ($5,500) that incorporates 12 oak staves from the distillery’s casks. The board is the latest in Glenmorangie’s Beyond the Cask series, which previously featured a bicycle from Renovo and sunglasses by Finlay & Co. —TS
Serious whisky collectors insure on their collections, keeping the bottles in safe and secure storage. If a locked closet or storage unit isn’t enough, a custom-made whisky vault might be. Designed to showcase 21 bottles through bulletproof glass, with additional storage in a teak cabinet underneath, the Whisky Vault (starts at $6,000) includes an electronic lock system and three locking door bolts. Custom artwork can be added to the inside of the vault door. Available for pre-order from Indiegogo starting in December 2018, with delivery scheduled for 8-12 weeks after ordering. —SSB
For when a bottle or two isn’t enough: Buy a cask
The gift of whisky, of course, is always appreciated. A single cask bottling from your favorite retailer or a membership to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society make for memorable and delicious gifts. But what if a bottle won’t express just how much someone means to you? Or perhaps you need gifts for a long list of people. Consider buying a whole cask. No, you won’t get an actual barrel to gift-wrap and place under the tree, but you will get many cases of bottles, all of them completely unique to this single barrel. A number of American distilleries offer single-cask sales (but read up ahead of time on what that entails for a private individual to make a purchase).
Some newcomers to add to the list: Virginia Distillery Co. is offering the option to pre-purchase a whole cask for $9,990 or one-tenth of a cask for $995 (guaranteed 24 bottles) of its Courage & Conviction single malt whiskey. This requires some patience, as the whiskey will age at least four years from time of purchase.
Finger Lakes Distilling offers its bourbon, rye, and other whiskeys for single-barrel purchase, and will work with you to customize specifications like bottling proof. Choose from among mature barrels, or pre-pay for a barrel that the distillery will mature to your liking.
Sonoma Distilling Company, meanwhile, sells single barrels of its rye, bourbon, and cherrywood-smoked rye and bourbon, aged between 2 and 4 years. The distillery offers cask-strength whiskey only through its single barrel program, and occasionally has special cask finishes (like cognac or port) available as well. —SSB