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Looking for that perfect gift for the bourbon lover in your life? Although a bottle is a safe bet, there are a ton of other great options to consider. "If I were buying a gift for a bourbon-loving pal, I would create a little gift pack to create an at-home unique Old Fashioned,” says Crystal Chasse, the beverage director of Talk Story, a rooftop bar at the McCarren Hotel in New York. "I would make sure to include some of my favorite unique bitters for bourbon drinks ... add in some beautiful glassware and a unique ice tray, and you’re set!" A visually striking and practical gift, the Corkcicle Whiskey Wedge is our top pick.
From orange twists to whiskey stones, here are the best gifts for bourbon lovers, according to beverage professionals and bourbon distillers.
Best Overall: Corkcicle Whiskey Wedge
Ice is a bourbon lover's best and worst friend: a cool drink is more refreshing, and many whiskies love a little bit of dilution to open up the flavors, but rapidly-melting ice leads to over-dilution (and a watered-down beverage). As a general rule, the more surface area exists between ice and spirit, the quicker the dilution, which is why large, single ice cubes have become de rigueur for many aficionados. But what if you could reduce the surface area even further, while also presenting your whiskey in a unique and striking way?
Enter the Whiskey Wedge kit from Corkcicle. To use, just place the angled silicone ice mold into the borosilicate double old-fashioned glass, fill the mold with water, and freeze for a few hours. The resulting glass-ice combo offers about as little surface area contact as possible, while also creating a truly one-of-a-kind visual presentation of your favorite bourbon.
Best Value: Stainless Steel Whisky Stones
Juan Fernandez, the beverage director of The Ballantyne, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte, is a fan of these stainless steel whiskey spheres. “They put a solid chill when I feel like cooling down a whiskey, but do not want to water it down," he says. "Whiskey stones gained a lot of popularity over the past 10 years, but unfortunately, many options are not very effective. But this set of steel spheres are excellent for chilling down whiskey for 30 to 45 minutes without dilution."
This set of four, food-grade whiskey balls come in a silicone tray, which can also be used to make perfectly round ice cubes. The included metal tongs make it easy to pop the spheres and ice cubes in and out of drinks.
Related: The Best Whiskey Stones
Best Budget: Collins Orange Twists
"A fat orange peel slab is one of the joys when drinking an Old Fashioned,” says Henri Schock, co-owner of Bottlehouse and Mr. West Cafe Bar in Seattle. “Providing both flavor and aromatics, it is a crucial component when building this classic cocktail." Specifically, Schock keeps a jar of Collins orange twists at home when he craves an Old Fashioned but doesn't have any citrus on hand. "They're evenly cut strips of peel that provide the flavor and aroma you'd typically get from fresh orange peel.”
The preserved orange peels are curved into a swirl before being popped into the jar, so when you’re ready for a drink, just pull one out and garnish your favorite cocktail. Or, use the twists to top a dessert or baked treat. "I also love to use the syrup in the jar instead of simple syrup (or a sugar cube) for a truly over-the-top citrus experience," says Schock.
Related: The Best Bourbons Under $50
Most Unique: Barrel Aged in a Bottle Oak Infusion Spiral
Any true bourbon lover knows that the defining characteristic of this classic American spirit is the mandate that it be aged in charred new oak barrels, which results in a bold and unique flavor profile (vanilla, caramel, toffee, spice) that distinguishes it from other whiskies. If your friend is a bourbon lover, that probably means they love that rich, oak-heavy taste—so why not give them the gift of do-it-yourself oak flavor, all in a small and convenient package? The infusion spirals from Barrel Aged in a Bottle, which are made from American oak and charred to a robust level of #3, fit conveniently through the neck of any 750 ml. bottle. Use them to barrel age whiskey cocktails to perfection, or experiment with adding them to younger, cheaper bottles of bourbon to see how close you can get to replicating the brawny lushness of your favorite 10-year expression.
Best Book: The Complete Whiskey Course
In his flagship tome, renowned whiskey expert Robin Robinson dives into the "water of life," covering everything you need to know about the world of whiskey. In 10 "classes" (or chapters), Robinson walks readers through whiskey history, how to define different local whiskeys, how to understand different styles (think American whiskey, as well as Scotch, Irish, Canadian and Japanese whiskies), and how aging and finishing can define a dram. Along the way, Robinson recommends his favorite bottles, including bargain options and splurge-worthy spirits.
"This book is a one-stop-shop for aficionados,” says Natalia Cardenas, brand ambassador of Woodford Reserve. "It covers history and the roots of distillation in ancient times to modern production, profiles of over 170 whiskeys, and there's even a chapter on 'How to Taste Whiskey.'"
Best for Cocktail Lovers: Cocktail Kingdom Julep Cup
"No bourbon backbar would be complete without the proper tools and glassware,” says Cardenas. “Whether it's for the Kentucky Derby or weekend get-together, julep cups are timeless."
The major difference between a julep cup and a regular mug is temperature control: julep cups are made with 100% copper and have a food-safe lacquer finish that protects them from tarnishing and keeps drinks ice-cold. Though copper can be costly, this iteration is made with 100% nickel for a weighted, expensive feel. That said, the metal keeps drinks chilled for at least half an hour.
This 12-ounce Cocktail Kingdom julep cup is designed to hold up through tough bar services. Tip: make this a gift set by adding a Lewis bag and a mallet.
Best Personalized: Bourbon Barrel Flight with Glasses
Explore the various flavors and noses of bourbon via a comparative tasting. This set of four Glencairn glasses show off the subtle aromas and tastes of bourbon. Fill up each one with different aged bourbons, different cask finishes, or similar whiskeys from different distilleries, and compare the nuances of each dram (or see if you can identify them blind). Each dishwasher-safe glass also sits on a stave carved from a reclaimed bourbon barrel.
Best of all, you can personalize the stave with the recipient’s name, location and year of choice—consider memorializing a birthday, wedding date or another special year. Each set is handmade by woodworkers in Arkansas.
Best Bottle: Michter’s US*1
An ideal bottle for your favorite bourbon lover might just be one that's elegant enough for sipping, but also sturdy enough to mix into a delicious cocktail—all at a price that won't break the bank. With its rich mouthfeel and its complex notes of vanilla, sweet corn, and peach, the flagship US*1 bourbon from the Kentucky-based Michter's distillery is a robust and attractive sipper, while its brawny ABV of 45.7 percent makes it a natural for stirring into an Old Fashioned or a Boulevardier. (If you really want to impress your friend, you can spring for the excellent 10-year expression that Michter's also offers—just know that you'll be paying three or four times the price.)
Related: The Best Bourbons for Manhattans
There's nothing quite as perfect as a gift that combines practicality, ease-of-use, and elegance, which is why we feel that the Corkcicle Whiskey Wedge (view on Crate & Barrel) is a perfect choice for the classy bourbon drinker in your life.
How much lead time do you need to order gifts around the holidays?
Typically, most domestic shipping services recommend getting your holiday gift orders in no later than early-to-mid-December in order to ensure delivery by Christmas Eve. With the supply chain issues currently plaguing all economic sectors, however, you may want to play it safe and get your ordering done even a couple of weeks earlier than that.
Can you ship alcohol from state to state?
Laws governing alcohol distribution in the US are notoriously convoluted, especially when shipping from state to state. If you're someone with the proper licenses to sell and distribute alcohol, then interstate shipping via FedEx or UPS may be possible (although you must advise the carrier your package contains alcohol, a surcharge will be applied to the shipment, and an adult must sign for it). If you're an unlicensed individual, your best bet is to check with your preferred local or online merchant about their shipping policies. Certain states don't allow the receipt of packages containing alcohol from other states, so you may find yourself looking up merchants based in your desired destination state, and ordering over the phone. Good luck!
Why Trust Liquor.com?
This roundup was edited by Jesse Porter, a spirits writer who's been the happy recipient of numerous booze-themed gifts over the years, and who's proud to say that he's only ever re-gifted two or three of them.
Kate Dingwall is an experienced spirits writer and glassware collector. She has been writing about the bar and spirits world for five years, from the best glassware to the best beer cocktail recipes.
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