Of Bourbon and Scotch
Holiday Gifts for the Whiskey Connoisseur
Blanton’s Bourbon Whiskey
The subtlety of an exceptional bourbon or scotch is not lost on the true connoisseur. In fact, their palettes are exquisitely primed, able to discern the bouquet and flavor of some of the finest fluids in the world. Yet, descriptive terminology pales in comparison to the drink experience. Whether straight or in a cocktail, a world-class whiskey, by definition, excites the senses in an extraordinary way. Anyone can throw back a shot. But a connoisseur would never compromise themselves (or the liquid) in such a way.
They say it starts slow, the fragrance, pungent with a nostril flare. Then, the tongue takes over, gently sluicing the liquid down the throat, followed by the finish. A fine bourbon whiskey or scotch is not to be toyed with. Rather, whether amber or golden, the liquid must be savored. Slowly. Easily. You might even say, the taking in of the straight sip alters time. But how? Why? Of what is it comprised?
According to Brett Winfield, General Manager of Seven Grand Whiskey Bar and Bar Three Piece in San Diego, a good gift for the whiskey connoisseur this holiday season is about knowing the person you’re giving a bottle to. “It’s what a person likes the most, based on flavor profile and cost,” Winfield contends. And with over 700 whiskies available for clients, Seven Grand Whiskey Bar in North Park aims to please whatever anyone’s palate and price can afford. That said, we’ve put together a few suggestions for this holiday—to either enjoy imbibing with friends and family at the Seven Grand or other establishments around town, or to give a bottle as a gift to lovers of fine whiskey everywhere.
For the Bourbon Epicure
A bourbon is all in the mash, as they say. For a whiskey to become a bourbon, the grain mixture must be at least 51% corn, with the remainder typically comprised of malted barley, rye or wheat.
Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve, 20 Year Old
The price tag is irrelevant for the true aficionado. This bourbon whiskey is considered by those in the know to be the best in the world, and therefore, worth it. As high as $100 a pour in some places, the combination of sweetness—but not too much—and the long finish provides a delectable time-space dimension-altering experience. Rich, it glides easily down the throat, carrying with it hints of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and pepper. Not so easily come by, it seems to be a phenomenon unto itself: rare, fine and filled with character. Start looking for the bottle now as the distillery produces limited runs. Produced in Kentucky, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve is $900 a bottle with an aftermarket price as high as $1,800. The company also makes 23 Year, 15 Year, 12 Year vintages, along with an exceptional Family Reserve Rye. Seven Grand Whiskey Bar carries the last 4 vintage years available, poured by the glass.
Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey
Considered by some to be a New York upstart, Hudson Whiskey has turned the bourbon world on its head. According to Seven Grand’s aficionado Winfield, Hudson Whiskey is “a cool little distillery that’s on it’s way.” Beginning in 2001 in upstate New York, they have refined their craft in a unique way. While bourbon by definition has to be at least 51% corn, they distill at 100%. The combination of pure corn mash that is aged in smaller barrels (more surface to liquid) has taken the bourbon world to a whole new level. This gem is expressively woody, smoky and with mellow notes of vanilla and caramel. More affordably priced at about $40 a bottle, it’s easier to buy a case (or two) for friends and family.
Blanton’s Bourbon Whiskey
Yes, vanilla and caramel comprise the note (and aroma), and some may recognize the Blanton name as Frank Underwood’s drink-of-choice on House of Cards. Reasonably priced at $65 a bottle, this single oak barrel bourbon offers unique variations by the barrel and bottle. Hence, no two bottles’ bourbons are quite the same. Yet the mash combination of corn, rye and malted barley teases the nose, consistently delivering a delicious citrus, orange, vanilla and caramel fusion. Then, a rich and intensely stimulating burnt sugar and clove taste stimulates the palate. The finish? A perfect selection of vanilla, honey and citrus.
For the Scotch Savant
A good scotch is comprised mostly of malted barley with a single malt produced using a pot still distillation process of malted grain mash. In Scotland, the recipe must be only barely. Other countries may distill using a blended malt—though that isn’t true scotch. Scotch remains in oak barrels typically for a minimum of three years.
Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, 10 Year Old
This affordable yet exceptional scotch boasts a full-bodied and smoky taste with a residual sweetness and a hint of salt amid peaty characters. Featuring a long finish, Laphroaig Islay is a very smoky experience, with its rich flavor coming, in part, from the peat found only at Islay in Scotland. The average retail per bottle of this 10 Year scotch ranges from $60 to $70.
Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, 21 Year Old
This time and palette-tested single malt scotch offers a phenomenal taste for the price. By the distillery’s own admission, it is rich and exotic fostered by what they describe as “selective maturation.” What that means is part of the spirit is moved to virgin oak casks made from French Limousin oak, which is also used for French wines/cognacs. This forges a succulent taste that is both sweet and spicy, without an uncomfortable end bite. It retails at $210 per bottle.
No matter what your loved one’s taste is, be it a sweet bourbon or a smoky scotch, there’s a well-crafted choice out there perfect for everyone this holiday season!
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