Along with socks or a good book, a bottle of single malt is a Christmas cliché. Don’t get us wrong, a fine whisky is never to be sniffed at, but we’ve got a drinks cabinet overflowing with simple supermarket Scotches — and could do with something a little more special this festive season. And we’d wager you could, too.
As such, we’re getting into the Christmas spirits — and have uncorked some of the best bottles to gift this year. There’s everything from rum to brandy to wines to champagnes rounded up below (of course, Scotch also makes an appearance…). So whip out your Christmas list and get ticking off — because we’ve got a bottle for everyone…
If you’re going to go for Scotch, go for something special
As we said, you don’t want just another bottle of whisky. But there are some offerings out there that will raise your bar — literally. Chief among them is the Glen Scotia 18-Year-Old. We recently tested the Campbeltown distillery’s award-winning 25-Year-Old expression, and can vouch for the quality of the entire range.
Alternatively, if your price point is a little lower, why not plump for Aberlour‘s 14-Year-Old Double Cask; another bottle filled to its brim with history and heritage. Or, for something completely different, look to new Edinburgh-based brand J.G. Thomson & Co., and its delectable ‘Smoky’ blended whisky. With festive flavours of smoked meats, cloves and barbecued fruits, it’s the ideal seasonal tipple.
Glen Scotia 18-Year Single Malt Whisky
Aberlour 14-Year-Old Double Cask Whisky
J.G. Thomson & Co. Smoky Blended Malt Whisky
Aside from Scotch and across the pond, bourbons are bursting with flavour
But whiskeys don’t start and end with Scotch alone. We’ve also got a soft spot for bottles from England — but bombastic American bottles are perhaps our all-time favourites. To introduce any Scotch die-hards to bourbon whiskey, there’s no bottle better than Maker’s Mark 46; a rich, sweet and pungent whiskey.
For a more expensive offering, try Van Brunt’s Stillhouse Bourbon — boasting butterscotch and banana influences. Our last American option? Something special from established distillers Jim Beam; a handsomely presented Single Barrel edition with notes of caramel, oak and spice.
Maker's Mark 46
Van Brunt Stillhouse Bourbon
Jim Beam Single Barrel
There are some exceedingly interesting gins out there
With whisky, we told you to look beyond your usual bottles — and the same could be said for gin. And it’s not difficult to broaden your juniper-y horizons. There are some cracking bottles out there, in terms of both looks and taste.
One of our particular favourites this year is The London No.1 Gin; and this striking phone box gift box will make the perfect present this Christmas. Monkey 47 has cornered the Christmassy gin market with its Black Forest botanicals. And Sipsmith has continued its spirited pioneering crusade with ‘Sipspresso’ — a coffee infused gin. One for the caffeine enthusiasts in your family.
The London No.1 Gin Phone Box
Monkey 47 Dry Schwarzwald Gin
Sipspresso Coffee Gin
Look for interesting ingredient influences when gifting a rum
We like our rums unapologetically flavourful. From the big established names to some boutiquey special editions, we want them soaked in interesting ingredient notes, packed with fruity flavours and tasty enough to be sipped neat.
Thankfully, these three options tick all of those boxes, starting with Tidal‘s trailblazing new rum, a winner of this year’s fiercely-contended Gentleman’s Journal Drinks Awards. Next up is Pirate’s Grog No.13 — an aged, premium expression in a characterful bottle. Or, for a true taste sensation, why not give Don Papa‘s Rye Cask rum a go; aged as it is in old whiskey barrels.
A good cognac is a drinks cabinet staple
Because brandy’s so much more than an accelerant for your Christmas pud. Just ask these bottles. Courvoisier‘s XO Cognac is a perennial award-winner — and has a bottle that looks like a piece of modern art. Perfect for gifting.
Delamain’s Vesper XO may be a little more conservatively bottled, but its rich, decadent notes of leather and tobacco are an opulent surprise. And the LOUIS XIII Classic decanter is on a shelf of its own; less a gift and more an objet d’art (although the exquisite blend inside might be the smoothest spirit that’ll ever pass your lips).
Delamain Vesper XO Grande Champagne Cognac
Give the gift of vodka (it's for more than just martinis...)
Whether you like them shaken or stirred, it’s likely that you only use vodka for martinis — or the odd bloody mary. This Christmas, you should be broadening your horizons — and those of others, too. Vodka can be crisp, clean and a treat neat. And this sharp Japanese offering from Haku is the perfect exotic gift to leave under the tree.
Chase’s oak-smoked take on the spirit is perfect for perking up simple vodka cocktails — and Belvedere’s new Lemon & Basil infusion is a strange, flavourful beast; made using natural ingredients to bring a rich fragrant quality to any mixed drink.
Red wine is the perfect way to ring in the festive season
Isn’t there just something innately Christmassy about a hearty bottle of red? It’s definitely the sort of wine Santa Claus himself would drink — no rosé in the North Pole, thank you very much. And Gentleman’s Journal’s very own GJ Wine stocks some of the best stocking-filling bottles around.
If you know a fan of niche grape variety Carignan, this Corbières Campagnès Maxime Magnon 2018 is the ideal gift. For those looking for a sunny Californian bottle to ring in the New Year, we’d go for the unapologetically jammy Turley Zinfandel Juvenile 2018 — a recent GJ Wine of the Week. Or, if it’s classic vino you’re after, we dare you to do better than a 2015 Château Montaiguillon.
Corbières Campagnès Maxime Magnon 2018
Turley Zinfandel Juvenile 2018
Château Montaiguillon, Bordeaux, 2015
If you’re gifting white wine, try something new
Can you guess which wine pairs best with turkey? No? We’ll tell you. While a medium-bodied red can stand up to the toughness, your best bet is a full-bodied, punchy Chardonnay. So what better to slip under someone’s tree this year than this Domaine de la Renardiere Chardonnay Jurassique 2016? Made with grapes harvested from 20-year-old vines, it’ll be the centrepiece of Christmas dinner.
For all of your other white wine needs, we’d recommend trying something new. This Domaine FL Savennières Chamboureau 2016, for example, is a delightfully tropical Chenin Blanc. Or, for something intensely Italian, a mineral-heavy Umani Ronchi Centovie Pecorino.
Domaine FL Savennières Chamboureau 2016
Domaine de la Renardiere Chardonnay Jurassique 2016
Umani Ronchi Centovie Pecorino 2018
Nothing makes for a more sparkling present than champagne
And let’s finish with a bang — or, rather, a pop. Champagnes and sparkling wines are, quite literally, the toast of every festive season. And there’s a reason for that. Rich, decadent and bubbly, they’re flutefuls of liquid happiness..
For our first recommendation, we’d suggest the Krug Grande Cuvée 169 ème Edition. Or perhaps the new Louis Roederer Collection 242. Alternatively, for those friends and family yet to be convinced of English sparkling wine, give them a sparkling education in the form of Nyetimber’s extraordinary 1086 Prestige Cuvee.
Krug Grande Cuvée 169 ème Edition
Louis Roederer Collection 242
Nyetimber 1086 Prestige Cuvee