Need something to tuck under the tree? From vodka to bitters, we’ve got you covered with these holiday bottles
Need something special for your dinner party host, your boss or your impossible-to-buy-for brother-in-law. Here are the spirits we’d like to find under our own Christmas trees. (For whiskies, see Last minute gift guide part 1: Warming whiskeys.)
Rum gets a bad rap as a sprit made just for mixing, but a well-aged, well-made rum can have all the complexity and sophisticated flavour of fine Cognac.
Take, for instance, Flor de Caña’s limited edition V Generaciones, an ultra-premium, 30-year-old, single-barrel rum from the five-generation family estate in Nicaragua. It’s the oldest expression yet from the distillery, which is celebrating its 130th anniversary next year. Only 12 bottles have been allocated for Vancouver, retailing for $1,600 apiece. Inside the beautiful crystal decanter is a liquid that has deep tropical fruit, cocoa, orange peel and burnt brown sugar notes. Truly a special rum, and at that price, destined for a special person.
Too rich for your budget? Bacardi is pretty much synonymous with rum, especially inexpensive mixing rums, but its Gran Reserva Diez ($40.99) is something else entirely. Every rum in the blend has been aged a minimum of 10 years for a sipping rum that is smooth and complex, with appealing flavours of stone fruits, banana, pear, caramel and vanilla.
When only Cognac will do
For 250 years, Hennessy has been making Cognac, the most prized of brandies and king of spirits. We keep hoping that someone will tuck a bottle of the magisterial Paradis Imperial under the tree (it’s a mere $3,850), but so far no luck. In the meantime, the lively and enjoyable Hennessy Very Special ($69.99) will tide us over nicely.
Dreaming of a white Christmas
When it comes to gifting, we tend to think of brown spirits. But white ones can make equally compelling presents.
Take Sipsmith, the first London Dry Gin to actually be made in London in 200 years ($46.99). It’s bold, complex and aromatic, smooth in a martini, balanced in a G&T and a perfect supporting player in almost every style of gin cocktail. That includes the seasonal Hot Gin and Gingerbread, and a hundred other cocktails in Sipsmith’s new cocktail book, SIP ($21.99 at Indigo).
Then there’s Belvedere, the elegant rye-based vodka from Poland. This year they’ve produced a truly swellegant 1.75-litre Bespoke Silver Bottle that’s customizable with the recipient’s name ($109.99). Or the Absolut limited edition holiday bottle, a pretty carafe made of more than 40 per cent recycled clear glass, containing a rich, full-bodied wheat-based vodka ($24.99).
And for those who enjoy a hint of smoke, but not the oak of peated whisky, there’s the Gran Patron Smoky, an ultra-premium tequila made from agaves that have been pit-roasted with mesquite at the Patron hacienda ($269.99).
Gin and it
Over in Sooke on Vancouver Island, Sheringham Distillery has quietly been making some of our favourite gin, the kelp-, lavender- and wild-rose-scented Seaside Gin, which earlier this year was named “World’s Best Contemporary Gin” at the 2019 World Gin Awards in London, UK. Now you can sample it and two of its equally delicious siblings—Kazuki Gin (made with cherry blossoms, yuzu peel and green tea) and the brand-new Rhubarb Gin—in a unique tri-pack. The set of three 100 mL bottles retails for a suggested price of $35.
And since your alcohol-free friends shouldn’t be left out of the fun, Sheringham has also launched a sister company, Lumette!, which produces the non-alcoholic Bright Light Alt-Gin. This zero-proof spirit is made with premium botanicals including juniper, grand fir, grapefruit and rose, and is ideal mixed with tonic or replacing gin in just about any cocktail. It’s just making its way into stores this month, so visit enjoylumette.com for retailers.
Good things come in small bottles, especially these terrific local tastes.
The Ampersand Distilling Co.’s Nocino! ($24), an Italian-style green walnut liqueur made with Cowichan Valley walnuts and honey, is delicious on its own and even better as a richly bittersweet addition to cocktails. Supply is limited, so get yours now!
Speaking of bitter things, you can create a world of cocktails with Bittered Sling’s “Global Flavours” gift pack—Grapefruit & Hops, Lem-Marrakech, Plum & Rootbeer, Moondog Latin, Malagasy Chocolate and Kensington Aromatic—along with a collection of recipes ($50).
And one of our very favourite holiday traditions is the annual release of The Cascade Room manager (and The Alchemist contributor) Justin Taylor’s JT’s Hot Buttered Rum Mix. A 250 mL jar of this heavenly stuff is only $12 (plus tax; sorry, rum not included) with proceeds going to The Fawkes Academy School for Autism Spectrum Disorders PAC. Available at The Cascade Room, Main Street Brewing, the Union and El Camino’s. It tastes good while doing good, and isn’t that want the holidays are all about?
Note: Prices may vary and are subject to change without notice.
—by Joanne Sasvari