Have you waited until the last minute to do your holiday shopping again this year? There’s a shop in your neighborhood that can likely please even the pickiest person on your list: The liquor store! It’s got something for everyone, provided they enjoy liquor and/or straight premade margarita mix on the rocks. If you’re scrambling for a gift, here are our picks for the spirits that will make spirits bright. Since you’ve waited this long, you probably don’t have time to waste on wrapping, so we’ll give special priority to bottles that come in boxes or tubes for easy gifting.
1. Single Malt Scotch: Highland Park Dark Origins, $80
This 2014 release from Scotland’s northernmost distillery is aged in twice as many first fill sherry casks as Highland Park’s flagship 12-year-old. The extra sherry influence makes Dark Origins a touch richer than the 12-year-old while maintaining the original’s balance of dark fruits and just enough smoke, like a fruit vendor that set up shop a bit too close to a campfire. If someone’s been particularly nice this year, make the leap up to the Highland Park 18 Year Old, which has enough smoky complexity to earn you a nice thank-you note.
2. Blended Scotch: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, $90
If you’re worried about smoking out a Scotch lover or don’t know exactly what type of single malts they usually prefer, Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is a safe, balanced choice that should put smiles on faces. With lots of fruit – we get cherry and peach – and a bit of chocolate before a creamy finish, this bottle probably won’t make it to the end of your holiday get-together.
3. Tequila: Roca Patrón Reposado, $70
If there’s one thing every holiday party could use, it’s a more prominent role for tequila. The reposado entry in Patrón’s handmade artisanal line spends five months in used bourbon barrels before rising like a boozy phoenix with a full body that marries a big vanilla note with a peppery bite. It’s so good your recipient probably wouldn’t dream of mixing it into a margarita. (But if they want to, you should let them – nobody likes a bossy gift-giver.)
4. Bourbon: E.H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof, $70
When you’re giving bourbon as a gift, barrel-proof choices that haven’t been diluted with water before bottling are always a great choice. (Your recipient probably has ready access to running water to cut the juice to their preferred strength, while very few homes include bourbon-dispensing faucets.) This potent offering from Buffalo Trace packs everything a barrel-proof bourbon should: caramel sweetness, vanilla, oak, and a personal challenge to not wince just a little every time you take a sip of it uncut.
5. Gin: Nolet’s Silver, $49
Much like the fruit pie your uncle will inevitably spill onto the Christmas tree this holiday season, this Dutch treat blends spruce aromas and flavors with a surprising note of juicy raspberry. It goes much, much better in a martini, though. If you think your recipient would be in the mood for an adventure in cocktail archaeology (or would just like receiving multiple bottles of gin), Tanqueray’s limited release Old Tom Gin draws from Charles Tanqueray’s 180-year-old recipe for a sweeter, heavier gin that can add retro flair to your favorite classic cocktails.
6. Rum: Mount Gay Black Barrel, $29
Although it’s delicious neat, this one is a great choice for anyone you’re trying to convert to rum. Like an aggressive confectioner, this one wallops you with toffee, marshmallow, and nuts before a pleasantly minty finish. It’s versatile enough that you can slip it into a whiskey cocktail for a fun new twist on the Manhattan or the old fashioned.
7. Vodka: Snow Leopard, $40
This Polish vodka is distilled from spelt and boasts a classic, clean flavor and rich mouthfeel, but it really stands out because a portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold is donated to snow leopard conservation efforts. So giving it as a gift is kind of like making a donation in someone’s honor while also giving them the makings of a vodka martini. If only our misguided efforts to sell malt liquor to support walrus conservation had turned out this well…