We know the disappointment of getting a “safe” bottle pick handed to us by a well-meaning relative: It’s like opening a second copy of a video game you already have, or that time your grandmother got talked into buying a Zune by someone at Best Buy.
Not this year. We won’t let that happen.
We’ve assembled a gift guide of fresh, smart whiskey ideas at every (and we mean every) price point. If you can’t find something for the whiskey lover in your life on this list, you must be shopping for us. And even then, we’ll take an extra bottle of anything below. Gladly.
Four Roses Yellow Label - $19
Okay, so bear with us here. No, there’s nothing new or exciting about Four Roses Yellow Label—it’s just a damn good bourbon for under $20, and it has been for years.
It’s the versatility of this bourbon that makes it a great gift: at $19 no one will feel guilty mixing it, but it’s plenty tasty by itself, so there’s no way not to please. Get a case now, so you’ll have last-minute gifts available in case you forgot someone.
Jack Daniel’s Rye - $27
Jack Daniel's Rye is the brand’s first new mash bill since prohibition, so it’s some exciting stuff to say the least.
Whether you’re buying for a low-key drinker and want to expose them to good rye for the first time, or a seasoned whiskey lover who will be surprised by how good this new JD whiskey is, you can’t go wrong. It’s great for old fashioneds and Manhattans, for your cocktail loving friend.
The Shackleton - $35
The Shackleton is a blended whisky with a story: a recreation of the 1907 bottles of whisky carried by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his failed Antarctic journey, and left behind only to be found a few years ago.
The recreated blend (which is bright and tasty) will, likewise, keep someone you care about warm through this winter, but we doubt it will get left behind.
Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye - $40
This Basil Hayden rye release is brand new to the market, and we can safely say that only the most aggressive collectors will have picked it up before the holidays.
That means you have a chance to get in under the radar and get a whiskey for the person who has every whiskey. It’s also a well-balanced, sippable rye, regardless of how much they care about novelty.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof - $60
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof actually got the nod from Whisky Advocate magazine this year for Whiskey of the Year, so it’s going to be on a lot of people’s radar for gifting.
We’d suggest this for your trendier friends, who will appreciate that you did your research, but that doesn’t mean newbies won’t like it just as much.
The Macallan Edition No. 3 - $95
A rich, tasty Macallan limited edition release is just the thing most single malt drinkers want this holiday season. It’s the perfect safety gift, because you’re dealing with a limited supply of aromatic, tasty scotch.
We’re pretty sure, given the limited nature of this release, that no one will be upset by receiving a bottle—even if they already have one.
Highland Park Full Volume - $120
Full Volume is a fun, conversation piece of a single malt to gift for the holidays. The backstory for the whisky is a discussion of how whisky blending (it’s a single malt) is similar to writing a symphony.
The whisky inside, meanwhile, is 18-year-old delicious ex-bourbon-cask juice, so you may not have to have much of a conversation at all.
Compass Box Phenomenology - $180
In contrast to some of the other bottles on this list, Phenomenology doesn’t really have much background information.
It was designed entirely to prevent consumers from knowing too much about the liquid inside before they had a chance to taste it (the information will be available on the company website later this year). That makes this a perfect gift for the whisky lover who likes to dissect what’s in his glass (oh, he’ll enjoy the whisky itself, too).
Lock Stock & Barrel Rye 18 - $230
Lock Stock & Barrel 18 is such a rich and flavorful rye whiskey that it might surprise even the most experienced whiskey lover.
We’ll let you decide if it’s best for someone that knows what rye whiskey is capable of, or someone who deserves to know, but if you’re shopping for yourself, you might want to grab two of them.
Michter’s 25-Year-Old Bourbon - $800
Michter’s hasn’t released a 25-year-old bourbon in nearly a decade, so when they announced they’d do so this year it got everyone pretty damn excited—and for good reason.
The whiskey in the 300-odd bottles of this release is so rare and precious that, well, you’ll have to remind the lucky recipient that whiskey is for drinking, not saving.
Yamazaki Mizunara 18 - $1,000
The new, 2017 limited edition from one of Japan’s most prestigious distilleries is aged in rare Japanese oak casks that impart subtler flavors to an already complex whisky.
Yamazaki really hit it out of the park with this year’s limited edition, and is exactly the kind of gift for someone without peers.
Last Drop 1971 - $4,000
One of the rare releases from The Last Drop, this year’s bottle is not to be missed. It’s the 2017 blend of the year according to Jim Murray, there are only 300 bottles available to the U.S., and it’s likely among the most collectable bottles released in 2017.
Of course, the prize for delivering this to someone you care about might just be an invite when it’s opened—and that’d be worth the effort alone.