Stuck for a gift to give this Christmas? Then allow us to be of assistance. For the past 12 months we’ve been squirrelling away some of our favourite booze and gardening gifts and now we’re ready to reveal our top picks. This year there are so many tempting treats that we’ve divided them into categories, which we’ll steadily publish in the run up to the big day. Gardening gifts, gins, whiskies and books will all be making an appearance – with enough options to satisfy the most hard-to-please recipients.
Take a peak at this lot then come back for more additions later.
(And note that prices are RRP at time of publication… some of them are likely to be much cheaper when you click on the ‘buy’ link)
It’s probable that we’ve given and received whisky more than any other form of booze at Christmas. It is the perfect winter treat. But choosing a whisky should be done with as much care as any other gift. This lot ought to cover most tastes…
Fettercairn 12 Year Old, 42%
Describing this whisky is somewhat like describing a modern beer: light grainy malt, some sweet floral aromas and fresh tropical flavours that finishes with a spicy chocolate flourish. It’s one of four new expressions released by the Highland distillery last year (for those with fat wallets seek out the 28 year old bottle and perfectly shows off the character of their whiskies. We especially like the packaging, neatly straddling the boundary between traditional and modern, which we could also see encasing a fine ale, and reckon that if you’ve got any beer drinking friends who need upgrading to the spirit world this is the bottle for them.
Kininvie Works, Single Malt Scotch Whisky KVSM001, 47%
We picked this whisky out as one of our best Scotch single malts for 2020 and have repeated it here – not just because it’s a great product but also because it has numerous qualities that make it an ideal gift. First up we’ll point you towards the packaging: a recycleable box that has been designed with ease of postage in mind. Next up we’ll applaud its experimental edge, making it unique, collectable and of great interest to anyone who likes a drop of booze. And finally we’ll highlight that, at £35 for a 500ml bottle, it’s extremely affordable. Plus, if you’re feeling generous, you can add the distillery’s blended and grain malt experimental whiskies from the range for a triple tipple treat.
The Whisky Exchange, A Fine Christmas Malt, 54.2%
Our pals at The Whisky Exchange have been busy bottling an exclusive 10 year old single malt for Christmas, and they’ve also had fun composing the tasting notes. It’s a Speyside whisky that has been matured in ex-bourbon and sherry casks, chosen to give the drinker festive fruit and spice flavours. Among the Christmas references conjured up by the tasting panel we have an aroma with hints of “last-minute-gift driving gloves sat on a nearby chair”; a palate of “malty notes dusted with spicy cinnamon and lightly drizzled with toffee and lemon”; a finish that has “a scattering of sweet Christmas spices and polished oak”. And they also suggest it “pairs well with a big box of biscuits, marzipan fruit and unwrapping presents.” If you think that all sounds implausible then find out for yourself – it’s an exclusive, limited edition release that tastes delicious however you describe it.
Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Year Old, 40%
If you want to gift someone extra special a lavish Christmas treat then carefully wrap a bottle of this in your finest wrapping paper. It’s a 23 year old whisky that has been matured in hand-picked American and European casks, and finished in French Cuvée casks for up to 6 months. It has a zesty aroma of luxury, a rich vanilla and oak flavour that is full of character and class, and a long finish with sweet warmth and opulence. We’ve already gifted a dram to someone with a taste for quality whisky and his verdict was “golly, smooth or what?” Trust us, that’s the very highest praise indeed.
We could probably suggest a new gin gift for every day of the year, such is its sweeping popularity. But instead we’ve picked a handful of the very best…
Zymurgorium Gin Experience Pack
We first came across gin wizards Zymurgorium when we got hold of a bottle of their gin flavoured with marmalade from Manchester neighbours Duerr’s. At the time it was as good a flavoured gin as we had ever enjoyed. This Christmas they’ve released a five-pack of gin-based liqueurs with flavours that include sweet violet, strawberry mint and, our favourite, cherry bakewell. Each of the 40ml bottles neatly stacks, creating a boozy tower that glows with a rainbow of colours. Drink the liqueurs and you’ll spoil this colourful effect, but trust us – it will be worth it.
Available from Selfridges, price £22.99
Fever Tree Giant Cracker
Here’s a massive cracker you’ll want to carefully unwrap rather than pull. It contains a 20cl bottle of gin (either Warner Edwards rhubarb or Edinburgh gin) and four 150ml cans of mixers from the ever popular Fever Tree. Each mixer is a different flavour from the range, giving you four options to try with the gin and an increased chance of finding the G&T combination your lucky gift recipient likes the best. And if this cracker is just too big (surely not) then you’ll be pleased to hear that Fever Tree also produce regular sized crackers with a variety of miniature gins and tonics inside.
Would you just look at that bottle! It reminds us a bit of the roof of the Grand Palais, Paris (minus the girder-y bits). If we held dinner parties for friends we would definitely use the empty bottle as a candle holder if (a) were posh enough for dinner parties and (b) had any friends. You’ll be pleased to know that the contents within are worthy of its classy glassy housing – this booze has won an astounding number of world gin awards – 69 medals and counting, 32 of which are gold. It’s a beautifully balanced juniper-based gin with a lovely floral nose.
Get it and gift it, mes amis.
Nordes Gin sounds pretty Christmassy, right? The bottle looks well Christmassy decked in crisp, white graphics, but look closer and you’ll discover that this gin hails not from a fjord-fed distillery in the frozen north, but from the sunny climes of Spain – Galicia to be precise. The ‘Norde’ in question references the winds that gusts through the region, rustling the vines of the Galician grape that this fresh, floral gin uses as its base spirit. Papa Noel drinks this stuff by the gallon. FACT
Gifts. For Gardeners.
Okatsune Japanese Shears
For the budding topiarist in your life, these Okatsune short handled shears are top of the chops. Constructed from Japanese oak and razor-sharp tempered steel, this formidable pair of snippers will make light work of the most ragged bush. Simply waft them in front of a privet hedge – its leaves will practically jump off in fear. We plundered ours from The Wonderful Gardening Company. Lucky folk who live within a sleigh-ride of their Castle Cary shop should definitely pay them a visit – its a gardeners grotto, stuffed to the rafters with green-fingered gifts. You can also order online here…
Teak Garden Planter
Providing you look after it*, teak furniture is a gift for life. We tend to source our wooden garden clobber from Sloane & Sons, purveyors of top quality garden products. The amount of wrapping paper and sellotape required to cover one of their benches prohibits a recommendation, but this small teak planter is just the ticket. Truss it up with fairy lights for added festive feel good. Falalalala.
*Don’t use your favorite teak bench as an impromptu saw horse for preparing firewood because you can’t be bothered to get the WorkMate out of the shed. For instance.
B Skincare Beeswax Hand Cream
We rarely find the need for applying hand cream – apple pomace from our annual cider pressing exploits tends to keep our fingers and palms wrinkle-free whilst imbuing them with with the sweet scent of Hens’ Turds* for months. But if you have any friends who don’t indulge in cider pressing then we can highly recommend dropping one of these jars of hand cream into their stocking. It’s super soft, providing healing comfort to skin ravaged by the rigours of gardening, while the presence of ylang ylang oil** adds a layer of fine perfume to the waxy aroma. This is all natural, top quality stuff that’s as luxurious as you can get for under a tenner.
*This is a variety of cider apple. Yes, really.
**We haven’t made that up either. It comes from the Cananga tree, is used to treat skin problems and is a feature of Chanel No.5 perfume.
Elho Tomato Pot
Continuing the planter theme…
We’ve been reaping the benefits from Elho’s range of ingenious, recycled plastic planters this season. Our strawberries flourished unmolested by neither avian beak nor rodent gnashers in Elho’s Grow Table, whilst our spuds grew bulbous and plump, safely housed inside Elho’s ingenious, rotating potato pot. Best results were obtained from the Elho tomato planters that come equipped with a built in plant support and integrated water reservoir. Granted, it’s not the most visually pleasing of gifts, but veggie fans will love this enabler of faff-free tomato growing. Besides, you could always stuff it with chocolate coins to bring some Christmas bling.
A book is a gift of education and insight, each one a labour of love that offers some permanency in our throwaway society. And they’re dead easy to wrap.
30-Second Beer by Sophie Atherton
Beer writer and sommelier Sophie Atherton is one of the nicest people in the business and, with this book, you’re able to tap into her vast beer knowledge (and that of several other industry experts) by the flick of a page. The book’s not-so-snappy-subtitle explains the concept neatly: “The 50 essential elements of producing and enjoying the world’s beer, each explained in half a minute.” Except that by the time you’ve taken into account the various glossaries, side bars and facts, you end up with way more than 50 elements, all covering a lifetime’s worth of knowledge. With subjects ranging from hops and yeast to beer storage, beer festivals and monastic breweries, this is the perfect book to dip into between pints.
Family Foraging by Dave Hamilton
Our good pal Dave Hamilton is a foraging expert, often helping us out with some wild food knowledge. He’s one of the people we trust most to get things right in terms of identification, edibility and usefulness, which is vital if you’re teaching kids how to pick wild ingredients. So this book is the perfect accessory for anyone keen to get their nippers to nip out into the wilds and snip a tip of two of leafy treats. Besides being loaded with identification advice, the book is also packed with fun recipes for the family to make, from sumac lemonade to nutty chocolate spreads. Grab yourself a copy and let the kids go wild.
The Artist’s Garden by Jackie Bennett
Every garden is a work of art – a collaborative effort between gardener and nature. So it’s hardly surprising that a huge number of the world’s most celebrated artists have used gardens as their muses. Jackie Bennet’s book acts as an ‘open garden’ to many of these artists homes, featuring the work of Monet, Cézanne, Kahlo, Dali and more. Through reproductions of paintings, photographs and Jackie’s in-depth knowledge of the artists she describes what it was about these settings that drew such artistic inspiration, bringing each unique outdoor space to life.
The Beer Lover’s Table by Claire Bullen and Jen Ferguson
Jen Ferguson is co-founder of bottle shop Hop Burns & Black, and is one of the people we turn to when researching new beer – not many folk have their fingers so expertly positioned on the pulse of beer than Jen. For this book she has teamed up with cook and beer writer, Claire Bullen, and the pair have set about conjuring 65 fantastic food recipes and recommending craft beers to go with them. Packed with invaluable booze knowledge and easy to cook meals, this is more than simply beer plus food menu suggestions, offering plenty to read even when you’re not cooking in the kitchen.
Sour by Mark Diacono
You’ll need a sizeable stocking to carry this weighty tome, but we’d heartily recommend asking Santa for ‘Sour’. Written by River Cottage escapee Mark Diacono, it features recipes based on the concept of sour which, as Mark puts it, is the magical element that will transform your cooking. Sourdough, yoghurt, kefir and pickles – this book has the lot. Nick can personally vouch for his princely Persian Fish Stew, whilst there are not many dishes in the Hood household that have escaped a dusting from Diacano’s mighty chaat. Go get.
And finally… a beer to see in the New Year.
Camden Town Barrel Aged Brut Imperial Pilsner, 11%
Camden Town’s annual, limited-edition beer is always eagerly anticipated here at Thirsty Towers. For 2019, they’ve made a barrel-aged beauty, aged for eight months in both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay barrels, resulting in a dry, champagne-like booze of rare quality. Our solitary bottle found its way into Rich’s private beer stash with a sleight-of-hand so deft it would make Dynamo blush. Nick’s subsequent campaign of heavy hints, pleading and tears directed towards the Camden Town PR team has so far proved fruitless, but rest assured he can expect a flurry of WhatsApp pics of Rich’s foaming glass, taken on Christmas Day during a sprout and booze induced stupor.
Ho Ho Ho!
A quick reminder…
Just in case you have a friend or family member that doesn’t yet have a copy, you can always gift our own book, Brew it Yourself