What the hell, it feels like I was just writing last year’s stocking stuffer post a few weeks ago. Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess. In any case, here we are again, running headlong into that wonderful pagan holiday season that’s been co-opted by some other group that now gets upset if you don’t wish them a merry something-or-other. Far be it for me to give advice, but were I asked, I’d say stop worrying so much about what other people call your holiday and just give other people some gifts, or a card, or even just a warm smile. Fuck it, how about just giving each other a goddamn hug, is that too much to ask?
Yeah, probably. So we’re back to gifts then. Here’s my annual small but
hastily carefully curated list of whisky-related stocking stuffers. Shop til you drop, you beautiful animals…
If you thought books would lead off this list, then you thought right. So many good books this year about spirits, cocktails, and music…and at least one about cats.
- Fionnan O’Connor’s A Glass Apart is a beautiful tome devoted solely to Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey. While this book is relatively inexpensive, please be aware that halfway through you’ll find yourself in desperate, undeniable need of Redbreast, the cost of which is not included in the book price.
- Moving away from whisky, Fred Minnick, that half human, half-researching/writing machine came out with a wonderful primer on rum this past summer. Rum Curious is a great guide to navigate the oft-confusing waters of this wide-ranging spirit. You’re allowed to drink whisky while reading this one.
- One might say that there are enough books with cocktail recipes in them. Seriously, please…enough. Jim Meehan’s Meehan’s Bartender Manual is yet another that has recipes, but what makes this one so worthwhile is the insightful look at what makes a good drink, a good bar, and good hospitality.
- Cats! There simply haven’t been enough books about whisky and cats…or really any, for that matter. Until now. After tackling such concrete, above-ground subjects like Bitters and Amaro, Brad Thomas Parsons decided to plunge into the dark, unmapped world of cats and their role in various distilleries in the aptly named Distillery Cats. Heady stuff, I’m sure.
- These last two get pretty far away from whisky, but I can’t resist. Two great tomes came out this year that celebrate the vibrant music history of Minneapolis. Complicated Fun: The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-1984 by Cyn Collins, and Got to Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound by Andrea Swensson. You are welcome to drink whisky whilst reading these, too.
(As always, yes…you can buy these both from Amazon, but wouldn’t you rather support your local booksellers? Of course you would.)
Speaking of Minnesota, back in 2016, the documentary Minnesota 13: From Grain to Glass was premiered, giving an engrossing, rather joyful look back at the Prohibition-era rise of Stearns County, MN as a hotbed of illicit whiskey distilling. The film was inspired by Elaine Davis’ book Minnesota – 13 Stearns County’s Wet Wild Prohibition Days. The documentary also highlights the grain-growing prowess of the state and how that’s helping the area become a craft whiskey hotspot. Just in time for the holidays, it’s once again available on DVD for your viewing pleasure.
Honestly, I’m tempted to just fill this whole list up with more books, but in an effort to appear diverse in my gift giving, I’ve found a couple of other things that might strike some fancies. This hydro-formed flask from AreaWare for example, is pretty cool, especially the white version. They also have an awesome axe-shaped bottle opener, because who wouldn’t want to open their beer with a fucking Viking battle axe? Nobody, that’s who.
Popchart lab seems to be a perennial inclusion, but that’s for good reason, they crank out some seriously good looking, and pretty darn accurate prints on a variety of subjects. This year, they have two new items to adorn your whisky-loving walls, a cartographical survey of Scotch, and a beautiful, engraved wood version of their Many Varieties of Whiskey print.
Master of Malt is a repeat offender on this list, too, for their wide and unique array of drinkable gifts. Once again, 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. See? One stop shopping if you want a unique twist on the gift of booze.
I included the Bitter Housewife on this list a couple of years ago, but seeing as they’ve expanded their line, and their reach, I thought it wise to include them again. Along side their Aromatic Bitters, the Portland-based producer now produces Cardamom, Coriander, Grapefruit, Orange, and Barrel-Aged Bitters. And, while we’re at it, if you’re thinking of making an Old Fashioned of some kind with those bitters, and you’re in need of an appropriate garnish, these bourbon spiced cherries from Modern Mixology sound pretty damn good.
I also always seem to include glassware on this list because, let’s face it, drinking whisky out of a cupped hand or a red plastic solo monstrosity is about as uncouth as it gets. I will always recommend the Glencairn Glass as a great, all-around nosing/sipping glass, but I’ll be the first or maybe second to admit that sometimes a person doesn’t really need to be so analytical and formal about drinking a little whisky. Thanks to my Dad, who likes to stash these babies at various points around the US so he always has appropriate glassware at hand, I’ve grown quite fond of these weighty, elegant tumblers from Williams and Sonoma. Now that I think of it, while we’re on the subject of glassware and re-hashing previously posted gift ideas, and with Blade Runner Two out and about in theaters, seems only fitting to mention that you can still get these incredible (and incredibly expensive) glasses from Firebox. Just like Deckard used to drink from. “I need the old blade runner, I need your magic.”
Speaking of expensive, how about a bike frame made out of old barrel staves? Yeah, you heard me. It’s not exactly a new idea, the earliest bikes were made out of wood, and Craig Calfee has been making frames out of bamboo for quite a while, but these days carbon fiber gets all the hot press, while steel stays real for the purists. There are a handful of companies out there making wood bike frames, but to date, only one has partnered with the whisky world. Back in 2016, Portland’s Renovo started working with Glenmorangie to make this fairly stunning (and stunningly expensive) bike made partially from whisky barrels.
Finally, this. While it seems a little disingenuous and poseur-esque to buy a t-shirt from someplace you may or may not have ever been, if that place didn’t want people to buy them, then that place shouldn’t have made them so awesome. Brooklyn’s esteemed metal bar, Saint Vitus would probably be a home away from home if it weren’t so far from home. Their signature T-shirt/hoodie design proudly proclaims, “Satan is Great, Whiskey is Super.” I can think of no better whiskey related clothing to wear to your next Christmas party.
That’s it, that’s all I’ve got this year…