Ten Bottles for the Holidays


The holiday season is all about spending time with family and friends, basking in the warm glow of hearth and family. This is the time when you want to drink or give something that will make the occasion special. After all, any drinker can treat himself to a bottle of Makers’ 46 or Tanqueray 10 on payday, but a gift of spirits should something a friend might not think to try on his own.
In any decent spirits shop, there’s no shortage of bottles worth giving as a gift. If you decide to stick with the tried and true—the big brands—look for items like Crown Royal Monarch, a limited edition of the wildly popular Canadian whiskey; Johnnie Walker Platinum 18 Year Old Blended Scotch; and the remarkable Wild Turkey American Spirit—these are all exceptional “a step above” choices, but if you want to try something a little different, try one of the following ten gift suggestions.
• Angel’s Envy: Woodford Reserve makes one of the best bourbons around—when they announced a new American whiskey, we couldn’t wait to try it. This bourbon small-batch spirit is the a result of extra aging in port wine casks. The result is a finely-balanced liquor with the flavor of wine-soaked cherries. It’s just heavenly.
• Jim Beam Devil’s Cut: This bourbon from the Jim Beam distillery plays off the idea of the angel’s share—the portion of the bourbon that evaporates from the barrel as it ages—by offering you the darker alternative: the Devil’s Cut. When a bourbon is finished aging, some of the liquid remains trapped in the wood. Beam distillers figured out how to extracted that liquid and incorporate it back into the liquor, for a richer drink. The vanilla and wood flavors are more pronounced, while remaining exquisitely smooth. This is devilishly delicious.
• Brugal 1888: Brugal is the Dominican Republic’s biggest rum producer. A unique rum, it has the seriousness of a fine scotch. It’s aged twice, first in medium-toasted American white oak casks (previously used for bourbon) for a minimum of six years, followed by a second maturation lasting two to four more years in Sherry oak casks to bring out a level of oakiness similar to bourbons or single malts.Drink it neat to better taste the notes of chocolate, roasted coffee beans, hints of cinnamon and dried fruit.
Cognac is regarded as the finest of all the spirits distilled from grapes. It has an abundance of incomparable qualities: fruitiness, subtle bouquet, intensity, warmth and complexity. You could opt for one from one of the ‘big four’ Cognac houses (Rémy Martin, Hennessey, Martell and Courvoisier), or try a delicious alternative from Tesseron.
• Cognac Tesseron Lot No. 90 XO Selection Cognac is made 100% from Ugni blanc (aka Trebbiano). This honey-colored libation offers lively aromas of oak, pear and apple, which subtly change to delicate maple and banana as it aerates. The flavors are honeyed tropical fruit from first sip through the satiny-smooth sweet, medium-long finish. ($69.99, Bottle Shop, Spring Lake)
If Cognac isn’t your cup of brandy, you may want to try Calvados. More rustic by nature than Cognac or Armagnac, it’s distilled from cider rather than from wine, it can defy brandy expectations.
• Norois Calvados ‘Trois Pommes’ is a blend of bitter and bittersweet apple ciders and a good introduction to the intense and natural apple characteristics of the Calvados AOC Pays d’Auge. Apple aromas and flavors burst vividly from the glass, in jagged flashes that seem to penetrate deeply into the complex essence of an apple. Clarity, purity, tart citrus, cinnamon spice, earthiness, mintiness: are just some of the sensations you can experience this glass.
Sometimes you just want to introduce new flavors for after dinner sipping or a new favorite cocktail. Some of the current favorite flavors are the tasty Castries Peanut Rum Cream liqueur, a combo of rum and peanut butter cream; the cinnamon-y and creamy RumChata;  or Southern Comfort Gingerbread Spice. For something different consider the following:
• Kahlua Cinnamon Spice. If you’re making a White Russian, you’ll need Kahlua, the Mexican coffee liqueur. This new flavor takes Christmas cookies and crunches them into your White Russian, So yummy.
• Amarula Cream Liqueur is made from the yellow berry fruit of the marula tree. Marula trees are found mainly in the warm, frost-free regions of sub-equatorial Africa, and the vitamin-C-rich fruit belongs to the same family as the mango, sumac, cashew and pistachio. This cream liqueur is the result of the fruit being pulped, sweetened, fermented, aged in oak casks for two years, and blended with fresh cream. The caramel-like flavor is sweet but not cloying, and is enjoyable straight from a refrigerated bottle, on the rocks, in coffee or try it as a dessert.
• Mama Micha Orange Dream Cream Liqueur. Mama Micha is a new product on the market created by a New Jersey-based, mother-daughter team who decided to pursue their dream of making delicious desserts you can drink. Take a sip and you’ll notice it tastes surprisingly like an orange Creamsicle. There is no overpowering alcohol taste (although it does contain vodka) and the combination of orange and vanilla is perfect. If you love Dreamsicles, you will love this bit of dessert decadence!
• Mama Micha Dark Silk Chocolate Liqueur. This is a perfect blend of creamy texture and explosive chocolate flavor. It’s like taking a bite out of a silky smooth dark chocolate candy bar. Full-bodied and delicately sweet with a hint of bitterness, it can be enjoyed on the rocks, in cocktails, added to coffee or hot chocolate and is particularly satisfying over ice-cream.
• Chartreuse. Why are we including “old-fashioned” Chartreuse? Because this green liquid is the perfect gift for the vodka or gin drinker in your life. Made from 130 herbs, plants and flowers gathered in the French Alps by the Carthusian monks, the mixture is macerated with a neutral alcohol spirit and distilled before being aged in oak casks for about five years. Chartreuse is the only liqueur to give its name to a color (my favorite color, too!) Look for intensely floral and herbal aromas followed by cloves, fennel, citrus, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, pine…each sip brings something new! Chartreuse is best served neat, but it’s quite delicious as a Chartreuse gimlet or served with chocolate creme brulée or mixed berries, whipped cream and chocolate syrup.
Happy Holiday drinking!

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