I was going to write something half-heartedly funny about starting up the war on Christmas again just because stores put up all their Christmas crap way too early. And because a certain group of people always tends to get a little hissy around this time of year if you don’t celebrate the holidays exactly like they want you to. I was going to say something clever and literate like, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,” but in light of certain election-related events, that just seems a little small and snarky, especially when I actually love the Winter Solstice-related holidays. So yeah, I’ve got the usual grab bag of whisky-related gift ideas for people to mass consume, but before we get to that, I thought I’d toss out a far more important grab bag of organizations that are probably going to require a lot of help over the next four years. Please consider giving them a gift as well, they’re going to need it…
Planned Parenthood Environmental Working Group American Civil Liberties Union - ACLU National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - NAACP Council on American-Islamic Relations - CAIR Black Lives Matter Southern Poverty Law Center Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network - RAINN EarthJustice Center for Reproductive Rights Campaign Zero Anti-Defamation League National Organization for Women - NOW Human Rights Campaign The Sierra Club Foundation National Immigration Law Center Harvey Milk Foundation
And…if you really hate this idea or any of these organizations, then kindly keep your mouth shut until you leave this blog. And maybe don’t come back.
Now then, shop it up, you lemmings you…
As per usual, books lead the way. When it comes to gifts, books should always lead the way. One of the benefits of this boom in whisky/cocktails/etc. is the accompanying flurry of great books on the subject. This past year saw quite a few good booze books released, here are a few of the best:
- Regarding Cocktails by Sasha Petraske and Georgette Moger-Petraske. Petraske’s far-too-young death in August of 2015 was a shock to the cocktail world, so this book is a poignant, fitting tribute to one of the more important figures in the cocktail revival. His vision not only pioneered a whole new (old) style of bar and drinking, but arguably played a significant part in the revival of rye and bourbon.
- Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum, and the Cult of Tiki by Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate. In a nondescript area of San Francisco, nestled behind one of the least likely bar fronts in the history of bar fronts lies Martin Cate’s tiki bar, Smuggler’s Cove. Who better to pen a book about the subject than the couple that helped revive the style.
- Bourbon, The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey by Fred Minnick. Minnick just keeps putting out great book after great book. Rumor has it a book on rum is up next. I’ll be buying that one, too. At this point, the guy owes me a drink for all the books I’ve bought. This book is a fantastic trip through bourbon’s history, told in Fred’s unflinching, well-researched style.
- Malt Whisky Yearbook 2017, by Ingvar Ronde. Have I listed this book in a gift list before? Yeah, probably, but the thing is, there’s almost no better resource for the single malt whisky fan than the Malt Whisky Yearbook.
(As always, yes…you can buy these both from Amazon, but wouldn’t you rather support your local booksellers? Of course you would.)
If, while reading your whisky books, you like to come up for air once in a while and look around the room, perhaps you need a few things to put on your walls to stay in the mood? The excellent, graphically satisfying prints from Pop Chart Lab are a perennial favorite of mine. If you’re looking for something a bit more rustic or casual, then these “word maps” of Kentucky and Scotland might fit the bill. If you’re looking for something more unique, tactile, and more spendy, then this vaguely George Morrison-esque assemblage of barrel staves from the Hungarian Workshop would look great and possibly even smell pretty good.
Obviously, reading about whisky and other boozes is thirsty work. I suppose you could swig right from the bottle or pour some into a cupped hand, but come on, we’re not animals, buy some appropriate glassware, for crap’s sake. The ubiquitous Glencairn glass is ubiquitous for damn good reason, it’s a great all-around glass for appreciating fine spirits. I use them an awful lot and always cry a little when I break one. The Neat Glass and the Norlan Glass are both a little pricier and a little more out there, in terms of design…if you’re into that kind of thing. If you’re into a more earthenware pottery type thing, (and as I’ve spent my fair share of time behind this particular kind of wheel, I certainly am) these Scottish landscape-inspired, stoneware whisky cups from MYH Ceramics look fantastic.
Of course, you’ll need something to pour into those aforementioned vessels. UK online retailer Master of Malt gets included in my gift-giving list every year because they have some of the best whisky gifts to be given. In fact, out of sheer laziness, I’m cutting and pasting their entry from last year’s Stocking Stuffer list. Along with their now-famous whisky advent calendars, they also have advent calendars featuring gin, bourbon, cognac, armagnac, tequila, mezcal, rum, vodka, and absinthe.They have a wide array of carefully curated (and rather affordable) tasting sets as well as blend-yer-own whisky kits, and personalized bottles.One stop shopping if you want a unique twist on the gift of booze.
If the moment requires a cocktail or three, you’ll certainly be needing bitters of some kind. Based right here in St. Paul, Dashfire Bitters has a great line of single flavor bitters as well as Brandy Old Fashioned and orange bitters that pretty much beg you to get creative with your drink mixing. On the other hand, if you’re saddled with a seemingly never-ending head cold and forced to drink hot toddies morning, noon, and night, you could liven up your cup with these smoked honey sticks or just lounge around and indulge in these smoked honey bon-bons, each infused with a bit of Laphroaig. Both are also made right here in St. Paul by Mademoiselle Miel. Truly, St. Paul, Minnesota is a wonderland.
At some point you’ll probably want to start documenting these heady whisky experiences that you’ve been experiencing. You could type it all into a computer or hen-peck it all into your phone and share it all in a very important social media kind of way, but why not pick up a pencil, or pen, or quill and write? It’s a lost art, you know? What better place to do that than in this leather-bound whisky bottle journal from In Blue Handmade.
If you somehow weary of all this lounging around the house, reading, writing, drinking, and looking at stuff on your walls, and you find that getting out of the house has suddenly become rather important, you’ll want to dress. Let’s start with the feet. Chances are if you’ve met me at some kind of whiskey event, I may or may not have been wearing underpants, but I was probably wearing these socks. Pluses: They keep your shins warm, and for the older folks, decent compression. Cons: Don’t really go with the Lamont tartan kilt. If you need to get a bit more fancy then perhaps some pewter whisky barrel cufflinks from Paul Simmons or this rather stunning necklace made with ex-Irish whiskey barrels from Paul Coyne.
I tried to find some clever t-shirt about whisky, but pretty much all of them were of the frat party-ish “one tequila, two tequila, three tequila floor” variety, and the few decent ones were a little tired (keep calm and blah, blah, blah.) So instead, here’s a shirt that’s even more meaningful…Baphomet reading a book. Keep learning science, kids. We need you.