On the one hand, it’s easy to buy a gift for the whiskey snob. After all, it’s right there in the name — they’re very, very, very into whiskey. On the other hand, they’re also known to be hard to please. Again, it’s right there in the name — they’re very, very, very snobby.
The guess here, though, is that it’s tougher to displease them with whiskey accoutrements and fun adjacencies than whiskey itself — especially if you know very little about whiskey to begin with. If anything, these gifts will only make them more snobby — now they’re know-it-alls about the Scottish Highlands, too! — but it will also make them very happy as they sip (and quietly judge) the actual whiskey everyone else got them.
Local Scottish Water
The single best gift you can give a whiskey lover is water. This may sound like a joke, but it’s not.
Now when I say water, I don’t mean give them a bottle of Fiji and call it golden. The water isn’t for a hangover to come, it’s to heighten the flavor of their favorite sipping whiskey. Real heads know that the best whiskey comes from Scotland, where they call it “whisky.” In fact, the word whiskey is an Anglicization of the Scottish Gaelic word for water, which is “uisge.” For the Scots, pairing one’s whisky with the right water is the key to truly savoring that amber goodness. It’s science. The craggy highlands and peaty bogs and fog-laden moors all sit atop beds of granite and sandstone. The land acts as a biological filtration system that produces waters with few minerals — i.e., sparkling clean freshness that opens up the flavors of your whisky.
When you pair a Scotch whisky with locally-sourced water filtered through the land of the Scots, you can’t get a better tasting whisky drink. There are companies like Uisge Source that specialize in gift sets of source waters for your whiskey; there are also traditional distilleries in Scotland, like Speyburn, that pair their booze with local water, either of which would make a perfect gift for the whisky lover in your life. — Zaron Burnett III, Staff Writer
Guide to the Scottish Highlands
If your giftee prefers Scotch whisky, then they probably also enjoy sounding knowledgeable about where it comes from. The Highlands are the largest region of production, and full of beautiful wilderness, too. Give them The Rough Guide to the Scottish Highlands and Islands if they’re mulling a trip to visit some distilleries in person. For the Scotch-swilling history buff, you can’t go wrong with Alistair Moffat’s The Highland Clans, a guide to age-old rivalries and battles. Spectacular Scotland is the kind of coffee-table photography book that’s sure to go well with a couple drams of the good stuff, giving a sumptuous view of the landscape and architecture.
But the most potent flavor of all is to be found in the classic volume Folklore of the Scottish Highlands by Anne Ross, a Gaelic-speaking archaeologist. Next time your friend or relative suggests a nightcap around the cozy fire, they’ll have a spooky story to go with it. — Miles Klee, Staff Writer
Ice Ball Maker
I’ve long considered myself a bona-fide whiskey man, and as such, I’m the recipient of many “gifts for whiskey lovers”-type gifts. Find me at a fancy restaurant or bar debating whether or not to order an Old Fashioned, however, and you’ll find that neither the quality nor price of the cocktail weighs into my decision. Rather, I only order an Old Fashioned if it comes with a big ol’ translucent ice ball (or block).
Does that make me a fraudulent whiskey lover? Maybe. Does asking the bartender if they have “The Big Ice” thoroughly embarrass my wife every time I ask? Of course.
But a giant singular mass of clear ice is wildly important to my whiskey consumption. Now, frozen stones, frozen metal cubes and funky ice molds are a staple of “gifts for whiskey lovers” lists, so there’s a good chance the person you’re buying for already has some kind of at-home whiskey-chilling apparatus. I’m not talking about any old frozen stones or cloudy ice balls that rarely see the outside of the freezer, though; I’m talking about giant, clear-as-day chunk ice. This is an important distinction, because there’s a certain amount of science that goes into making large, clear ice balls.
In short, the process is called “directional freezing,” wherein water freezes in one direction — from the top down — similar to the way lakes or ponds freeze in nature. Thus, you want to buy the whiskey lover in your life a big ice cube maker that slows down the process and encourages top-down freezing.
This often entails the combination of an ice mold with a nifty little cooler that fits into the freezer. Buy the ice ball mold on its own, and you’re dooming your beloved whiskey aficionado to cloudy garbage ice. But buy a kit that includes some kind of temperature-controlling contraption, and they’ll enjoy ice so pristine you might as well be drinking frozen angel tears.
Lucky for you, there’s a pretty big price range for these puppies — from cheap and serviceable, to semi-expensive but highly rated, to the astoundingly expensive top-notch, high-society ice balls. I recommend going the cheap route, and as Zaron suggests, tacking on a gallon of filtered or distilled water to really ensure success in making cloudless, impurity-free ice. — Quinn Myers, Staff Writer
I get what Quinn is saying, but if you want to ensure that your whiskey lover’s tipple packs an ice-cold punch but isn’t watered-down (no matter how amazing the ice therein), whiskey stones certainly do the trick.
They’re easy to use, too: Store them in your freezer until you’re ready to drink, then drop a few in your glass with a cold, satisfying clink. There’s a variety of shapes and materials out there, but stainless steel will keep your drink coldest for the longest — these BonBon “whiskey balls” are a hefty, stylish option, plus they come with a fancy velvet pouch and a lifetime warranty.
If you’re looking for a more conventional cube shape, these granite stones will do the trick — just don’t go crazy and throw them in, as the edges of cube-shaped stones can scratch whiskey glasses. Bosajewel offers engraved options if you’re looking to add a more personal touch, whereas Amerigo offers free whiskey recipe cards to step up your cocktail game.
Finally, if you’re in a “fuck it” spending mood, this deluxe gift set comes with a pair of crystal glasses — perfect for the giftee who drinks neat whiskey solely to feel like a slick, badass movie villain. — Jake Hall, Contributing Writer
If you happen to be friends with the sort of whiskey snob who would call you names if you offered them the wrong variety of whiskey, you probably shouldn’t be friends with them, and you almost certainly don’t need to waste any money on them. Then again, it would certainly sour the post-present-opening meal if you didn’t at least give your father something sufficient to open, even if the old man is never pleased with anything you do. My recommendation: some city-themed glassware from Well Told Design.
If he’s the type who longs for his hometown, they will always serve as a nice reminder of the neighborhood he grew up in or the creek he learned to swim in. Essentially, your father can dull his senses while reminiscing about the joyous moments of his life, long before he ever dealt with an irredeemable lackwit such as yourself. Love ya dad! — Ian Douglass, Contributing Writer
Homemade Box Set of Great Movies About Whiskey
What pairs great with whiskey? Movies about whiskey, of course. We all like to see ourselves reflected up there on the screen, even if we’re just home enjoying a Scotch, so for the spirit-lover in your life, why not put together a homemade box set of fine whiskey films?
Obviously, gear your picks to your special someone’s taste, but you can’t go wrong by starting with Whisky Galore!, a 1949 comedy in which a group of denizens of a small Scottish community cope with a whisky shortage during the war, hatching a plan to steal a shipment that’s stored on a boat that’s just shipwrecked. Then, try 1987’s Withnail and I, one of the all-time epic drinking movies, starring Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann as unhappy, unemployed actors who decide to go on holiday — because, well, why not? Lots of whiskey awaits them, as well as wine, gin and even lighter fluid.
After that, proceed directly to Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray as a has-been actor visiting Japan to shoot an ad for Suntory Whisky, meeting Scarlett Johansson’s restless young woman who’s in town because of her photographer husband. If you’re a melancholy drunk, this indie drama will match your mood perfectly.
And to finish off the set? Anchorman, of course. Or, really, you could just play this scene on a loop. — Tim Grierson, Contributing Editor
Drambuie & Disaronno
So it appears that your friends know you, but they don’t know you quite well enough to get you a truly desirable gift to accompany your drinking habit in a manner you’d find to be truly befitting an individual of your unparalleled tastes. It turns out, they know you just well enough to realize you’re the type of gentleman who prizes Scotch whisky above all others, which also means they have sufficient knowledge to realize you would never deign to consume a whisky spelled with an “e” in it.
At the same time, they don’t know a single malt from a blended malt or a single grain, and certainly not a malt-grain blend. Before you know it, you’re staring down the non-age-statement barrels of a bottle of Cutty Sark — replete with its metallic after-taste — and a bottle of Grant’s, with a texture so oily that you half consider pouring it into your Christmas mood lantern and setting it ablaze.
So what do you do? The first thing you don’t do is blame your friends; they had no clue as to the caliber of crime they were committing against your taste buds. The second thing you shouldn’t do is toss that “Scotch” in the rubbish bin, or worse yet, regift it to some prideless dolt who would be willing to drink any spirit capable of getting them adequately knackered. Instead, if you know that such abominations are likely to be presented to you straight from the hands of well-meaning friends, make sure that you’ve suitably prepared for just such an occasion and requested bottles of Drambuie and Disaronno to help you cope with this extremely likely party foul.
Why those two liqueurs? They just so happen to be the simplest and classiest ways to mix a subpar Scotch with another spirit in order to create an entirely new, acceptable and palatable beverage without drowning that nasty bit of Scotch in Coca-Cola. A Rusty Nail is a 1-to-1 blend of Scotch and Drambuie, and a Godfather is a 1-to-1 mix of Scotch and amaretto. The former includes the very best liqueur made out of Scotch, and the latter was allegedly the favorite drink of Marlon Brando, who most memorably portrayed Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather.
Again, keeping either of these flavorful additions at the ready will transform even the cheapest blended Scotch from undeniable trash into a cocktail offer that no one can refuse. — Ian Douglass, Contributing Writer
Like Drambuie and Disaronno, Whiskey Cocktails: A Curated Collection of Over 100 Recipes, From Old School Classics to Modern Originals can help your snobby friend tie together distinguished drinks from the odds and ends that folks left sitting around their house after their Christmas party.
Seriously, I can’t count the number of drinks in this book that can be made with a mixture of whiskey, cola, ginger ale or some other form of soda, along with the juice from a lemon or the peel of an orange. There’s even a literal drink you can make with whiskey, peanut extract, orange liqueur and a handful of peanuts.
I can’t speak for you, but any book that helps you elevate the remnants of a peanut jar into a highbrow cocktail is essential in my life. — Ian Douglass, Contributing Writer