Holiday gift ideas including some special Scotch, Gin and Vodka as well as two book suggestions.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers December 1, 2010
Options abound for the wine-lovers on your holiday gift list, many of whom also enjoy other spirits.
For those who like Scotch, a special whisky is a great present. From the noted Japanese distillery Suntory is Hibiki 12 Year Old ($55). Its name is a word that can be translated into a number of positive expressions including “harmony.” This version is offered in a lovely 24-sided bottle that represents the ancient Japanese calendar. It has vanilla and fruit aromas along with a clean, slightly sweet, soft caramel, clove and tropical fruit notes with a pleasant smooth finish lacking the burn of lesser made spirits.
Gifts for the more traditionally inclined single malt lovers include Glenrothes Vintage 1998 ($56), with honey and floral scents leading into dried fruit, vanilla and spice flavors, or Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX ($70) that is aged in Pedro Ximenez sherry barrels. It displays toffee, apricot, dried raisins, coffee, nuts and a refined finish. Finished in old Sauterne barrels, Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or ($75) expresses more honey, apples, coconut and tropical fruit flavors.
Recently reborn into the Scotch market is Usquaebach Old-Rare Superior Scotch Whisky ($99), a blend of 41 different single malts that comes in a unique stoneware bottle. The name is from a phrase that means “water of life.” The current release stays true to the historical high quality by displaying an elegant floral fragrance that opens into multiple layers of malt, honey, coffee, spice and vanilla with a lengthy finish.
Other spirit options include the American-made, wheat derived Vision Vodka ($36). Produced in Oregon and sold in a sleekly designed bottle, it has a classically clean vodka aroma with a tasty, slightly citrus-sweet character that is best expressed over ice.
The story alone behind Martin Miller’s Gin ($26) would make it a wonderful gift, but don’t ignore the delightful gin within the bottle. A small-batch gin produced in England within a copper still named “Grandma” from a unique botanical formula containing coriander, iris, cassia bark, citrus peel, and orris root (among others), the distilled spirit is shipped 3,000 miles to Iceland to be mixed with the local water to be brought to the correct proof. The result is floral and spicy aromas that accent the archetypal juniper scents in an incredibly smooth, soft gin with licorice, citrus and a slight white pepper flavors.
Perfect for this holiday season is Noval BLACK Port ($22), a soft medium-bodied effort with lush blueberry, dark cherry and spicy chocolate notes.
There are few better gifts for people who want to expand their wine knowledge than a subscription to the International Wine Review ($50). Published six times a year, each issue provides a comprehensive evaluation of a specific wine region with insightful analysis along with clear and precise tasting notes for hundreds of wines. Visit www.i-winereview.com.
Another excellent choice is Mark Spivak’s ebook, “The Affordable Wine Guide to California and the Pacific Northwest” ($10). Recognizing that most of the wine sold in the U.S. costs less than $15, Spivak has focused on the “grocery store” wines that are otherwise seldom reviewed. It can be downloaded to a Kindle or other electronic device, which makes it not only practical but also very portable. Visit www.smashwords.com/books/view/26774.
Absolutely gorgeous is Sondra Barrett’s “Wine’s Hidden Beauty“($27), a collection of photographs she describes as “wine Rorschach.” The journey of images ranging from the microscopic to those of winemakers and their vines explores the chemistry and alchemy of our relationship to wine.