Last-minute Christmas shopping? Here are 12 bottles of wine and spirits worth considering.
By Charles Passy
From a Scotch created with 'Parks & Rec' actor Nick Offerman to a $3,500 Irish whiskey, these one-of-a-kind sips could make worthy presents
Still searching for the perfect holiday gift? Or maybe a dozen perfect holiday gifts?
That's where the Weekend Sip 12 bottles of Christmas guide can come in handy. This annual MarketWatch feature is designed to take some of the guesswork out of finding the right sip for the right person. We've included bottles of all types, from wine to whiskey, at a variety of price points. There's even a bottle for the Nick Offerman fan (seriously).
And if you're still looking for more selections, go back in time and read our picks from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.
The red bottle
Make that the big red bottle. Bondle is a brand that specializes in magnum-sized (1.5-liter) natural wines (priced at $110-$135) sourced from France. The label's offerings change by season, but always include a red, a white, a rosé, a Champagne and an orange wine. The idea is festive in nature -- the bottles are tailored for a crowd, with each equating to 12 glasses. In short, a great gift for those who like to share their wine.
The green bottle
By "green," we mean eco-minded. And that is certainly the case with the wines from Neal Family Vineyards, a Napa Valley producer that adheres to both biodynamic and organic standards. Indeed, founder Mark Neal is often credited as a pioneer in the industry -- he went organic in 1984, long before other California winemakers started embracing this approach. The Neal Family's wines run the gamut -- both in terms of price and varietals. A good gift-minded offering is the Howell Mountain Collection ($299) with three bottles of different vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The bottle with a bucket
Why settle for just a bottle of bubbly when you can combine it with something useful -- like an ice bucket to keep that Champagne perfectly chilled? That's the idea behind an offering from Billecart Salmon, a French Champagne brand that traces its roots to the early 19 century and is revered by connoisseurs. (Its 1959 vintage was deemed the "Champagne of the Millennium" by a panel of experts.) For the holidays, the label has created a gift package ($165) combining its Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru bubbly with the aforementioned ice bucket -- in this case, one made from 100% organic materials. It's available through Wally's, an ecommerce site for wine and spirits shoppers.
The Nick Offerman bottle
Who doesn't like Nick Offerman, the cantankerous, ever-so-manly actor famed for his role in the sitcom "Parks and Recreation"? Apparently, the folks at Lagavulin, the Scotch brand known for its smoky (or peated) style, are fans. They've teamed up with the Scotch-loving actor on a series of bottles, with the latest "Offerman Edition" being an 11-year-old whisky aged in charred oak casks ($95.99 through the Caskers site). As Offerman declares on the label, Lagavulin's whisky "has claimed my palate yea, and my heart into the bargain." And for those looking to make a feast of things, Offerman suggests pairing Lagavulin with a nice steak.
The "Who cares about price?" bottle
If money is truly no object when it comes to your gift giving, here's a limited-edition bottle to consider -- a 32-year-old Irish single-malt whiskey, courtesy of Teeling Whiskey. It was distilled in 1990, matured in bourbon barrels for 28 years and then finished in a Portuguese Purple Muscat French Oak cask for another four years. The brand extols the whiskey's flavors of dried cherries, plums, sultanas and figs. But be forewarned: You'll pay a premium for such aging and rarity -- the bottle carries a $3,499.99 pricetag. Looking for something special and slightly less expensive? Clase Azul, a quality tequila producer known for its beautifully crafted bottles, has its Dia de Muertos release for $1,050. It's a bottle that honors the Mexican "Day of the Dead" tradition with a strikingly colorful decanter (the liquid inside is also special -- an añejo tequila that is noteworthy for being aged in casks that formerly contained an artisanal rum).
The bottle that's not quite a bottle
Of course, if you're really looking to make a statement with your gift giving, you don't have to think just in terms of price. You could, for example, opt for a "bottle" in the form of an ... oil can. Yes, Engine is an Italian-made gin brand (and a tasty one, too) that packages its spirit ($34.99) in just that way -- hence, the name. It's the brainchild of Paolo Dalla Mora, an entrepreneur in the fashion and spirits worlds who also happens to have a passion for (you guessed it) cars. The brand bills the gin as having not only the signature flavor of juniper, but also notes of lemon peel and sage.
The bottle for fans of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
If you know someone who's loves Reese's -- or simply the combination of peanut butter and chocolate -- then here's a bottle to keep in mind. Ballotin Chocolate Whiskey, a brand that specializes in just what its name says, adds a little peanut-butter flavoring to the mix in one of its offerings ($25). It may sound a little over the top, but we promise you, it tastes exactly like a Reese's cup, only in liquid form. The brand's other flavors range from classic chocolate to chocolate toffee (its newest release) and chocolate cherry cream.
The trio of bottles
Savage & Cooke, a California distiller, is known not only for its distinctive whiskies, but also for its unique packaging, with striking artwork on each bottle. A good introduction to the label -- and a good gift in general -- is its holiday sampler ($99), with three half-sized (375 ml) bottles, including its four-year-old Burning Chair Bourbon, three-year-old Lip Service rye and five-year-old Second Glance American whiskey.
The bottle of ... perfume
Here's a different way to appreciate the world of bars and booze. Death & Co, the New York drinking spot that helped usher in the craft-cocktail movement and has since expanded to other cities, has gone into the scent business. The bar company has come out with a trio of perfumes ($90 each or $250 for all three) -- each inspired by the cities where Death & Co is located (namely, New York, Los Angeles and Denver). The scents have been made in collaboration with de Kloka, a California-based perfume known for its small-batch approach.
The blue bottle
We all know Johnnie Walker, the beloved brand of Scotch. And serious Johnnie Walker fans are very familiar with its Blue bottle, considered among its finest (and most expensive) blended whiskies. But here's a different take on Blue: Compass Box, a brand that has become a go-to source for high-end blended Scotch, has come out with its Ultramarine bottle ($375). It's a whiskey unabashedly in the style of Johnnie Walker Blue -- an homage if you will -- with a beguiling mix of flavors, ranging from what the brand describes as leathery dried mango to roasted pecan.
The French bottle
No, we're not talking not Champagne or Cognac. Rather, we're talking a category of French sip all too often ignored, but equally worthy of attention. Namely, Armagnac, a brandy that comes naturally from the Armagnac region in southwestern France. Bhakta is a label that aims to make Armagnac a buzz-worthy sensation (it's founded by Raj Peter Bhakta, the spirits entrepreneur who put WhistlePig, a premium American whiskey, on the map). The brand offers a remarkable range of Armagnacs, priced from $199 to $5,599, with some vintages going as far back as 1868.
The maple bottle
Forget Kentucky-made bourbon. Here's a bourbon with a New England flair -- namely, the Sapling Maple Bourbon (priced starting at $25) from Vermont's Saxtons Distillery. As the bottle's name implies, it's all about the maple -- this is whiskey with a hint of syrupy goodness. Given that Vermont is the leading producer of maple syrup, it all makes perfect sense. Saxtons also offers a maple liqueur and maple rye.
The bonus bottles
So, you still can't settle on a bottle? Here's a bonus idea: Why not give 12 bottles all at once? That's the idea behind Cocktail & Sons; 12 Days of Cocktails ($44.95), an Advent-calendar offering. This is a colorfully packaged assortment of 12 different mixers -- you'll still need to add the alcohol. And what mixers they are, with flavors ranging from a roasted pineapple and chili peppers to cucumber lemon balm. It's almost enough to keep you sipping till next Christmas.
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