Christmas gifts can be tough to get right and for many, while they know a friend or family may like a certain spirit, knowing what kind of flavours within in that category or even why something is their favourite brand can be hard to unpick, especially if the spirit is new to you.
We’ve already given you a few Spirited Gift Ideas last week, now here’s our full guide on what we think would make for perfect Christmas Gifts.
It’s a long one so we’ve divided up into the major categories for you so that you can skip to what you are looking for with ease. Continuing our ambition to help promote conscious consumption wherever possible - we’ve also made sure to add a strong reason for why you should consider them over and above the fact that they taste great (they all taste great!)…
PERFECT GIN IDEAS FOR CHRISTMAS
Let’s kick off with the more searched for end of the Gift Ideas when it comes to Gin – gift packs and seasonal treats!
When it comes to gin, Tarquin’s Gift Packs are a great one to look towards. Not only are the two bottles in crazy cute half size bottles (ideal for trying something new but enough to really delve in), the box and presentation is really impactful too.
As a gin maker, Southwestern Distillery are the real deal and true to the concept of craft production. They also employ dozens of people in Cornwall year-round (a much-needed industry for an area that can sometimes focus on the summer spike only).
In buying this, you’ll be supporting youthful, entrepreneurial and dynamic team, while the attention to detail and the intricate layering of botanicals in the bottle delivers fantastic G&T (get a sliver of grapefruit ready for the garnish).
Another brilliant British maker is Warner’s, who have released a Christmas Cake Gin. A sweet, rich and syrupy delight, Warner's distil a botanical base gin made with real dark chocolate, ginger, juniper and festive spices and once made then expertly blend it with cherry juice, the distillery's hand-picked Sloe Gin macerate and pure treacle. It positively screams indulgent treat, but flavours aside, you’ll find something equally wholesome about Warner’s as a distillery.
Warner's are grafters and have continued to push a much need dialogue around sustainability and giving back that they began two years ago. In 2020, they’ve found new ways to advance the conversation by growing many of their own botanicals and joining the 1% for the planet movement. A great team to support.
What do you get someone who is really into gin, has dozens on the self and knows a lot about it? Well, starting with newer releases, smaller brands and selecting one of the best of 2020 is a good place to start. We asked our category curator and Gin super nerd Olivier Ward to share his tips.
“Silent Pool Rare Citrus is up there in the best new gins of 2020, namely as it’s such a solid juniper core that’s been enhanced by a chorus of complex citrus notes. Negroni drinkers would love it, while it makes for a zesty and memorable G&T. Porter’s Orchard Gin is an equally fantastic new arrival, layering apple and pear with a nutty backdrop. It’s nuanced, clever, intricate distilling.
That said, the gin that edges it in my opinion, in terms of overall bottle impact as a gift, the flavours it contains and the distillery you’d be supporting by default of buying their product - is Bullard’s Coastal Gin. Piny but definitely savoury on the nose with a distinct marine element too. To taste, there’s still the familiar transitions of bright citrus, meets resinous juniper, meets lingering spice but at each stage there’s a funky twist. Samphire gives the citrus an accent, the woodiness of Douglas fir and vegetal nature of some of the plants like sea purslane and aster really add layers into the mid journey, while there’s a fennel-like note that joins the finish. One of the standout gins of 2020.”
What Whisky to get as a gift?
2020 has been a year in which English Whisky started to make an impression on the scene, while the category as a whole finally shed some of its stuffiness and thankfully, also renounced a lot of the nonsense sexism that’s plagued it for years.
We’d recommend you look towards a trio of makers who have not only put out better whisky than ever before, but are now systematically showing that their Whisky is on par with the best of the world – an extraordinary feat given they are less than 5 years old.
Yorkshire based Filey Bay’s Flagship Whisky is light, fruity and creamy and showcases the distillery’s bourbon-cask preferences - with dried fruits, honey and lots of vanilla to taste. It’s the distillery's "house style" and a whisky that would please the experience palates that will notice the complex and nuanced flavours, or malt newbies who'll appreciate its easy-going nature. One to sip on, but also makes for a great high-ball when served with soda and an orange garnish.
The Lakes have got a lot to offer for those seeking Christmas goodies… From their Whisky Explorer’s Packs (great for Secret Santa’s on a budget), to a broad collection of Whisky to suit different preferences. Principally matured in European oak Oloroso and PX casks The Lakes' Sherry Cask Finish is a decadent whisky, with a deep, rich and more intense flavour, perfect after dinner or to relax and unwind.
Our advice for this winter would be to plump for the Colheita. The release is part of the Lakes Whiskymaker’s Editions, which are one-off releases intended as an expression of creative freedom showcasing the sense of adventure of their whisky maker – Dhavall Gandhi. Not only does it taste delicious, you really get a sense of who they are as a distillery from it and the creative intent of Dhavall as a blender. The nose is vibrant with hints of plums, pickled cherries and candied orange; the palate is complex with notes of prunes and warming cinnamon.
Last but certainly not least, Cotswolds Distillery. Many will already know their Single Malt or their higher proof Founder’s Reserve, but what we’d like to recommend is their Peated Cask. Namely, because we all have that friend and family member who LOVES peated whisky, but outside of the familiar Scotch names, it can be hard to find something different yet equally as good. Look no further.
Cotswolds Peated Cask is made using odyssey barley, grown on Cotswolds farms and floor-malted at Warminster Maltings. They ferment using two complementary yeast varieties - Anchor and Fermentis and once distilled, age the spirit in Ex-peated quarter casks from Scotland.
Vanilla with light charring and a touch of dried fruits and spice greats the nose. To taste, creamy peat smoke layered with light fruits and tannin-rich wood, leading to a lasting finish of smoking embers. It’s not an incendiary bonfire of a Peated whisky, it’s more complex than that and allows for a broader journey, but it still has a lot of residual smoke to satisfy the need that ‘peat-heads’ demand in a glass.
Which Rum should I stock up on?
British Rum has had the kind of year that has taken it from a few niche local producers to having many credible offerings. There’s now both great rums being made from scratch here, and brilliant blenders buying in rum from the Caribbean and either blending to spec, or further processing it here with botanicals and infusions. The creativity on display is mesmerising and for us, that’s what you buy into when you look towards British Rum.
That’s not to say the quality is right up there too – take Greensand Ridge which is made in-house from scratch in Wealden, using the surplus molasses from sugar production. It's distilled using a pot still then aged for 6-10 months in ex-bourbon barrels. It has a floral nose, giving way to subtle honeycomb and roast cobnuts on the palate. There's a long finish with raisin and oak in the finish and a sweet, full mouthfeel. Not only tasty, Greensand are one of the pioneers of sustainability in the UK, with the most advanced systems on how to be a zero carbon, planet friendly producer. Green distilling, Golden Rum.
Meanwhile, Brixton-made newcomers, Market Row, have made a splash and if you are looking for a gift for the Rum enthusiast and want something hot off the press, new and exciting, it may well provide the answer. It is made taking a blend of rums and re-distilling them in the rafters of Market Row, with botanicals such as Kenyan black tea, Nigerian hibiscus, Pakistani red rose, Grenadian mace, cloves, Jamaican pimento, Madagascan vanilla, Oregano and black pepper. They showcase this new approach to the category and the ways Rum makers are merging cultures, locations and flavours.
Another British maker with a hugely giftable range is Hattiers Rum. While all are lovely to look at, the Devon based producer is now also a certified B-Corporation and part of the 1% for the planet, yet again showcasing how the spirits industry is committed to long term social and environmental sustainability.
We’ve got a soft spot for the Egremont – with its caramel, toffee, cacao, soft fruit on the nose. It’s more structured to taste, with cinnamon, nutmeg and gentle black pepper spice, rich toffee cacao and attractive apricot fruit. Delicious!
Look beyond this island and there’s hundreds of possible Rums to select a gift from. The best of the Caribbean or Latin America is a tough ask to pick just one so with so much on offer, we asked our Rum Curator Sam Lawson, for his pick of the bunch this Christmas.
From the new to the old, exotic to local legends and after much consideration, he recommends the tactile and beautiful Eminente Reserva Rum. He says “It’s a classic Cuban rum but not as you know it! This powerful full-bodied rum encapsulates the vibrant and passionate Cuban culture. Eminente builds upon Cuba’s rich rum making history and revives yesteryear traditions via the use and ageing of aguardiente to create depth, complexity and soul.
The blending and ageing of aguardiente with light rum creates a rum with a powerful yet delicate profile, think elegant Salsa meets energetic Rumba!”
Which Aperitifs make great presents?
Sherry is an underestimated choice when it comes to gifts. Namely as it’s surprisingly little understood, and the preconceptions and tired clichés of being Nan’s drink remain difficult to unburden itself from.
For those who love drinking Vermouth, Port and who are likely to indulge in both cocktails and drinking their aperitifs on their own, Sherry can be just the ticket.
Try Xeco, who in one swoop disabuse any notion of standing on ceremony with their Fino. The sherry inside is superb, while everything around it is modern and progressive. Having now established Xeco and celebrated its third birthday, the all-female owners have helped hugely to rejuvenate the category, while the flavour profile they have captured lends itself to how you’d drink sherry today. Chilled neat, sure, but also in Spritzes or in a Martini instead of Dry Vermouth.
Who better to get a recommendation from than the Queen of the Aperitivo, our category curator and founder of the Negroni Club herself, Sara Jane Davis? Her nod is the historic producer, Contratto, whose cellars are so precious they are literally a UNESCO world heritage site…
“Contratto Bitters bring me joy, they are big and bold, full of warming aromatic spice with layers of complexity. The perfect bitters for a Christmas Negroni partner with Tarquin’s Figgy pudding gin and Contratto Rosso Vermouth, a sprig of rosemary and sticky cherries. If you are feeling fruity it’s a real treat with Half Hitch Berry Gin and Dubonnet.”
Set me up with some Tequila & Mezcal gift recommendations!
Let’s start with the most likely situation (or at least the one that comes up most in requests for advice) – What do you buy for someone when all you have to go off is that they like a Margarita, but not you’re not sure about what Tequila they use, or if they also drink it in other ways? Don’t fret. Your best bet is to pick a good quality Blanco and go from there.
We recommend the likes of Ocho Tequila as it’s a total fail safe, high quality tequila that almost every bartender would have on their shelves for a reason – it makes spectacular drinks every time. Alternatively, when it comes to needing some extra special design work and a highly desirable aesthetic as well as cracking liquid - El Rayo is perfect for Christmas gifting.
It is a great 100% Blue Webber Agave Tequila, mixes well in cocktails, lovely when served with tonic and it looks as stunning in real life as it does in these images. That’s no surprise though, El Rayo work with Mexican artists and are committed to showcasing the creativity that’s rife of Modern Mexico through collaborations and bespoke prints.
What about those who are into the deep end of Agave spirits and love their Mezcal? A safe bet is Corte Vetusto. The bottom line is simple – it’s a range there the quality of craftsmanship is indisputable, the production authentic and any of their three offerings showcases unique terroir.
They are a very special Mezcal producer.
Think roasted agaves cooked in conical earthen oven, milled by horse drawn Tahona, natural fermentation using wild yeast, distilled to proof in both copper and crazy looking ancestral clay pots - everything you can think of when it comes to craft production done here. A fantastic way to introduce yourself to the art of Mezcal making, or to gift to someone who would appreciate the level of dedication it has taken to produce it.
How about Vodka gifts?
Often underestimated – the world of Vodka offers up innumerable ideas for fantastic presents. It’s a category that’s long had incredible looking bottles, and one that’s shown a huge diversity in its ranks. Sure, we all think of the fruity flavoured stuff or the classic plain spirit – but Vodka also has a lot in-between as well. Botanical vodka is growing, while craft offerings are allowing a lot of the base material shine through bringing in nuanced flavours such as the creaminess of wheat, the peppery hit of rye of supple nature of grapes.
One such Vodka is Nadar (meaning nature in Gaelic), whose base ingredient, the humble pea, is palpable throughout. Quite amazingly, it's a climate positive product - a first for the category. Most vodkas are made from spirit distilled from cereals such as wheat, barley or maize. Growing peas means no synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is needed, and so its negative environmental impact on waterways, air and soils is avoided. Peas also benefit the ecosystem as a whole, improving soil quality and offsetting synthetic nitrogen fertiliser requirements of other crops, which follow peas in the crop rotation.
The net effect of -1.54 kg CO2e per 700ml bottle and a brilliant present for those wanting to make thoughtful environmental decisions this Christmas.
Not just a world's first in being a climate positive Vodka, Nadar is an antidote to tasteless vodkas generally! By making their own from scratch, it retains many subtle flavours lost in most highly rectified and filtered vodkas. It's vodka, so all flavours are subtle and nuanced, but within that framework, expect a vibrant and spicy taste alongside a contrasting floral nose from the pea base.
Another super special Vodka, especially for those who like to make a Martini before dinner time, is L’Orbe Vodka. It’s the first vodka which has been naturally infused with caviar. It delivers a subtle combination of buttery and nutty notes and a fresh taste of the sea.
It's really unusual and different and allows both the base vodka (made from Polish Dankowski Diamond rye) and Royal Baeri Caviar which is infused into the spirit to shine respectively. Expect rich, buttery fish with a touch of brine and iodine on the nose. To taste, light creamy vodka at first builds into more nutty caviar finish, lending it a savoury tone.
Both vodkas display this modern progression of the category, where authentic production that’s centred around creating flavour (not removing it through filtration), provenance and allowing any extra ingredients to shine in their best light are being honed and permitted to really appear in the glass.
We hope you enjoyed this gift guide. Whatever you pick, we hope that it gives you joy knowing what you’ve bought into, and that it delivers the recipient the kind of spectacular Christmas treat we all deserve!