• Shelley Boettcher

The spirits of Christmas: last-minute boozy gifts

Admit it. You've been lazy, busy or clueless, and you've missed all the signs that Christmas is almost here.

And, now, you need to shop. Quickly...for all your boozehound friends.

Don't worry. Here are nine great ideas to buy now.

1. Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye (Alberta, Canada) — Based in Calgary, Canada, Alberta Distillers is one of North America’s last 100-per-cent Canadian rye whisky producers. This beautiful new creation was aged in charred oak casks and bottled straight from the barrel, hence the “cask strength” labelling. It packs a kick, as a result, but it’s balanced, too, with notes of dark chocolate, butterscotch and vanilla. Super-good value. About $65/bottle.

2. Alberta Premium 20-Year-Old Rye (Alberta, Canada) — Another creation from Alberta Distillers. And, again, like the Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye, that pure mountain water from the Rockies combined with 100 per cent Canadian rye start things off well here.

Then: smooth as smooth, spicy, cinnamon, caramel, coffee and toffee notes. Beautiful complexity and blending makes this one a must for collectors and new fans alike. Great value. About $90/bottle.

3. Bearface Canadian Whisky, limited-edition One Eleven Series Oaxaca Release (Canada/Mexico) — “A first not only for Canadian whisky, but for whisky everywhere,” promises the Bearface news release. And really, when did you last year of a Canadian whisky being blended with pit-roasted agave espadin spirit from Mexico?

Exactly, You (translation: I) haven’t—until now. Agave espadin spirit is the same stuff used to make mezcal.

And the name One Eleven comes from the odd fact about Canadian whisky, which allows the blending of ten parts of whisky with one part of another spirit, such as sherry, another spirit or even wine. That’s why you’ll often see whiskies flavoured with, say, apple or salted caramel.

Bearface, on the other hand, collaborated with their master blender, Andres Faustinelli, and Pedro Hernández, whose family has been producing mezcal in Oaxaca, Mexico, for more than 200 years.

What to expect? An intriguing whisky that has smoky (thanks to the Agave), vanilla and dried fruit flavours and aromas. Quirky, interesting, delicious. A perfect and value-priced gift for the spirits lover who has everything. About $50/bottle.

4. Flor de Caña Rum V Generaciones (Nicaragua) — Looking for an incredibly exclusive gift for the rum lover in your life? This is it. This 30-year-old single-barrel, ultra-luxury rum has been made as a tribute to Flor de Cana’s 130th anniversary in 2020, and it is the first aged in a single barrel since 1988. It is “a special tribute to the passion, dedication and commitment to excellence of the thousands of workers and the five family generations who’ve been part of the brand’s journey since 1890,” according to the news release.

Each bottle is individually numbered and in a beautiful black leather presentation box that includes a certificate of authenticity. Every bottle cap is made from volcanic rock, with a replica of Nicaragua’s famous 1902 volcano postal stamp. And the booze inside? It’s rich, smooth, spicy, sweet—everything a brilliant rum should be. Only 14 bottles will be for sale in Calgary. A worthy splurge for well-heeled shoppers in search of something special for their favourite spirits lover. Each will retail for $1,600.

5. Laphroaig Càirdeas Triple Wood (Islay, Scotland) “is known for its deep gold colouring and its sweet palate with a spicy buttery fudge finish,” according to the distillery. Only 36,000 bottles have been produced; the word Càirdeas, incidentally, means “friendship” in Gaelic. The name says it all: a wonderful present for your bestie. About $110/bottle.

6. Laphroaig 25 Year Old Cask Strength (Islay, Scotland) — Peaty, spicy with hints of apple. This Laphroaig was released in Fall 2019 and won’t be available after it sells out. Aged in ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry barrels, it was bottled in 2019. About $600.

7. Laphroaig 30 Year Old Ian Hunter Series (Islay, Scotland) — Ian Hunter was the last Master Distiller from the original Laph​​roaig family, and each year, in his honour, a new expression of the Ian Hunter series is released. The 2019 edition “is peaty and peppery, with a sweetness of custard cream and vanilla pods,” according to the distillery. Fruity, fine, dry and only 4,800 bottles made. Obviously, at this price, it’s one for collectors, too. About $1,000.

8. Laphroaig, Bessie Williamson (Islay, Scotland) — There's a rather intriguing story behind this scotch; its named after a woman (named Bessie, natutrally), who arrived on Islay in 1934 to work as a secretary at Laphroaig. She stayed for 40 years and became the first female manager of a Stch distillery and a global ambassador of the spirit. "Bessie had a character as rich as our whisky, and we're delighted to have created a whisky to honour her that is every bit as delightful as she was." A limited-edition non-chill-filtered 25-year-old whisky that's only available in duty-free shops in airports around the world. Worth searching for if you're travelling this holiday season.

9. The Macallan Double Cask 12 Year Old — Aged in 100 per cent sherry-seasoned European and American oak casks, The Macallan Double Cask 12 Year Old is a gorgeous single malt with notes of homemade toffee, apple, candied orange peel and spicy wood. Excellent and great value, considering the price compared to similar products. About $100/bottle.

#spirits #Macallan #Laphroaig #FlordeCana