For many, wine is the go-to gift of choice for the host or hard-to-buy-for family member. And although few would be disappointed by a carefully selected bottle, sometimes it’s nice to be presented with something a bit unexpected. For a twist on the traditional 21-and-over present, we asked Taylor Smith, the spirits specialist at Imbibe in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to share his list of the best spirits to gift. From a highly drinkable scotch to a coveted tequila, these picks are sure to delight the cocktail enthusiast on your list.
Aberfeldy 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch: This whiskey, distilled in the Highlands, has notes of honey, caramel, and toffee, making it a welcome presence in any home bar—and a fantastic bottle at the price point. According to Smith, it’s a great gift for when you know someone likes scotch, but don’t have any other indicators as to their preferences.
Compass Box “The Spice Tree” Blended Malt Scotch: “A picture of this whiskey should show up when you Google ‘a sum greater than its parts,’” Smith says. “It manages to do things that no single malt could do on its own.” A symphony of flavors, the whiskey exhibits pistachio and faint green apple undertones accented by cardamom, ginger, clove, and a litany of other baking spices, with a faint whiff of smoke throughout that flourishes on the finish. This is truly one of the best, easily affordable scotches on the market.
Chattanooga Whiskey Tennessee High Malt 91: A high proportion of specialty malts lend this bourbon a much richer and more elegant mouthfeel than most of its peers, and notes of graham cracker dust and honey integrate wonderfully into a more typical bourbon flavor profile. Smith finds it’s great for cocktails and delicious neat or on ice.
KOVAL Single Barrel Oat Whiskey: “One of the more unique whiskies to grace a liquor store shelf, this whiskey showcases something not normally seen as an adjunct grain, nonetheless the singular component grain of a whiskey mashbill,” Smith says. Notes of blackberries and vanilla cream, as well as an incomparable mouthfeel, make this one a must-try for more adventurous whiskey drinkers.
Copper & Kings “The Ninth: A Symphony in Orange”: Using an apple brandy base, this gin has far more depth of body than almost any other you could come across, as well as a far more memorable presentation. An homage to Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” (oranges are infused at multiple points, and the gin is finished in curaçao casks as well), the spirit presents you with flavors of orange oil, cardamom, and coriander, and finishes pleasantly dry with a lingering hint of sweet citrus. This one is great for both cinema nerds and gin fanatics.
Código Origen Extra Anejo Tequila: This slightly pricey bottle (Imbibe sells it for $299.99) is the embodiment of exquisite tequila, according to Smith. Six years in former Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon casks create a structured body in which flavors found in a more youthful tequila intermingle with flavors of creamy butterscotch and smoky marzipan, creating something truly captivating. This is what you give to a true tequila aficionado, or anyone who appreciates an extravagant, complex sip.
Augier Le Singulier Cognac: This gorgeous cognac performs quite the balancing act, says Smith, coming across as delicate without sacrificing a certain forcefulness. “This Grande Champagne cognac is based off a single varietal Folle Blanche eau-de-vie. A rarity since most Folle Blanche vines fell victim to the phylloxera epidemic around the time of the U.S. Civil War,” he notes. This is quite a complex pour, perfect for those who want to sit back and ruminate, be it about the cognac or whatever else may be on their mind.
St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur: “If only someone made preserves that tasted like this treat of a bottle,” Smith says of this delicious spirit. Pear brandy, pear juice, and holiday spices combine to make one of the most enjoyable liqueurs on the market that’s ideal as an after-dinner sipper.
KOVAL Cranberry Liqueur: This one ticks all the same boxes as the above, but is more geared toward those that want something a little less sugary. The cranberries lend a touch of sweetness as well as a nice tartness to the citrusy gin base. Delicious by itself, Smith says it also makes an absolutely decadent highball cocktail.