Ten of the best bottles to gift this year
Bottles are so very easy to wrap — the most premium already come in beautiful boxes, and others just need a bow tied on their necks or a sophisticated gift bag for presentation. But simple is best, as the connoisseur knows that what’s inside matters much more than the present’s exterior. Here is a list of 10 spirits we want to share with loved ones this year, or hope they’ll share with us.
The spirit of art collecting
Price: US$1500 ($A2000)
Casa Dragones, the small-batch, 100 percent blue agave tequila from San Miguel de Allende, continues to push boundaries with its gorgeous Casa Dragones Joven Tequila Art of Pepita limited-edition bottling. Every inch of this classic, hand-blown bottle is covered with ornate, hand-engraved designs of Pepita, the rare, traditional Mexican art form. Complex yet approachable, this tequila is perfect for sipping and pairing with food — in particular, and perhaps surprisingly, with seafood. The spirit’s natural minerality from the volcanic soil it’s grown in has a salinity on the palate that marries well with scallops, lobster, and just-shucked oysters. Fresh and inviting aromas of subtle floral citrus excite the senses, while its rich, silky body provides a sleek texture on the palate. This is the ultimate gift for a tequila aficionado and art collector alike, with a limited production of 100 bottles.
The elixir of life
Price: US$3200 ($A4200)
A legendary Cognac from the prestigious house of Rémy Martin and always considered the reference standard, Rémy Martin Louis XVIII Cognac contains Grande Champagne eau-de-vie aged between 40 and 100 years and is packaged in a gorgeous Baccarat decanter. It has beautiful floral notes on the nose, with honeycomb, fruit, and a satiating marzipan nuttiness. FlavoUrs of cedar wood, cinnamon, and orange blossom blend with sweet oak spice on the finish. This Cognac is beautifully balanced and elegant.
A bourbon with a mule’s kick
Price: US$800 ($A1050)
Michter’s 25 Year Old Bourbon is a stunning 25-year-old spirit selected from a single barrel. Immediately impressive with complex aromas of candied spice, dried apricot, and gutsy earth notes, it entices with flavours of roasted nuts, dark fruits, toasty oak, and a hint of white pepper. Its spicy kick on the finish might bring tears to your eyes — the good kind.
The Pride of the class of 1992
Price: US$9000 ($A11,850)
If this whisky had gone to high school, it would have graduated in 1992. At 41 years of age, Glenmorangie Pride 1974 Single Malt Scotch is officially the oldest bottling from the distillery. A union of whiskies aged in Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks, this rich, complex single malt explodes with deep scents of salted caramel, dark-chocolate truffles, and balsamic glaze. Notes of crisp Pink Lady apple, orange peel, honey, and clove tantalise, while the soft yet astonishingly vibrant mouthfeel leads to an aftertaste of roasted pecans and anise that lingers for just the right amount of time.
Price: US$50 ($A65)
Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin is a delicious, unique gin from the Black Forest in Germany. The number 47 represents the number of botanicals that go into it and its percentage of alcohol by volume (94 proof). The amalgam of ingredients that go into this gin pay off. The nose immediately transports you to a pine forest after the rain. Fresh, grassy citrus notes and a botanical sweetness give way to plenty of spice, fruit, and herb flavours. This beauty begs to be made into a martini with an equally robust vermouth.
When Russia meets the Andes
Price: US$3600 ($A4750)
A very special edition of Stolichnaya Elit, the third and final release in the Pristine Water series, uses the crystal-clear waters of Colico Lake nestled in the foothills of the Andes in Chile. Limited to 250 bottles, it is presented in a hand-cut crystal bottle designed to deflect light and enhance the liquid’s clarity. The nose is clean, fresh, and engaging with ethereal flavours of honeyed vanilla, citrus, and fruit blossom. Its breathtaking finish is velvety and long. Stolichnaya Elit Pristine Water Series: Andean Edition is an exceptional vodka and a true collector’s item.
Price: US$300 ($395)
Facundo Paraíso Rum, the crown jewel of Bacardi, is a blend of rums aged 17 to 32 years and is the oldest expression in Bacardi’s portfolio of premium sipping rums. Subtle on the nose at first, the essence of this beauty can be tasted within seconds of sipping. You’ll immediately discover notes of pipe tobacco, cedarwood, maple syrup, and mango chutney. The silken feel on the palate opens to soft nutmeg, cinnamon, sandalwood, and vanilla. This is one to sip neat and savour.
Aprés-ski, Japanese style
Price: US$160 ($A200)
Far smaller than Suntory and Nikka, but equally as prominent in my book, Mars has a cult following in Japan and is a very important producer on the Japanese whisky scene. While fruity and light, the Mars Komagatake Single Malt Whisky excites your palate with its complex, interesting nature. The decadent single malt beautifully combines rich, dark spices with bright floral notes. For any collector who wants a true taste of the Japanese Alps, this is the one to get.
Single vintage Cognac (but don’t call it that) from 1929
Price: US$750 ($A990)
Always pushing the envelope and the rules, Tesseron, an iconic Cognac family, released tiny quantities of single-vintage Cognacs. (French law does not allow a vintage date to be used; however, this is all from 1929.) Tesseron Cognac Lot No. 29 is ideal in purity with a bronze, topaz glow. The bouquet takes on a tangerine character with a supple, compelling palate that is fruity, sweet, and ripe, highlighting flavours of marzipan and caramel nougat. A smooth, satiny finish rounds out the entire experience. This is the most ethereal Cognac you could drink.
Volcán mind meld
Price: US$70 ($A90)
An epic volcanic eruption in what is now Jalisco, Mexico, ultimately paved the way for Volcán de Mi Tierra Cristalino and the new era of tequila. The mineral-rich soil surrounding the volcano lends itself to producing a seductive tequila full of elegance, depth, and brightness. CEO Trent Fraser has said, “Many of the older memories and maybe not-so-positive experiences of people going through college 20 years ago are being replaced with more fun, elegant, and appreciative moments. Consumers are now understanding what tequila actually can be capable of, and hopefully Volcán will further elevate this.” Approach Cristalino honestly and with an open-mind, and you’ll be surprised and amazed at what you taste.