Another year, another gift guide. Here’s how this one works: in the run up to Christmas we have drinks, and other things,* thrust upon us to review. They all claim to be the perfect Christmas gift for our readers. We duly sift through the emails and pick out the ones that sound the best, and then taste them just to make sure. Only the finest boozes then make it into this gift guide.
As you can imagine, such rigorous drinking research takes time (we’re a conscious pair who don’t like to overshoot our recommended weekly booze units – at least not until Christmas actually arrives), so we update this list as we go. Keep returning to this page and you’ll see some ace new additions added on a regularish basis.
We very much hope you like this year’s selection and it goes some way to helping to ease the burden of Christmas shopping. And when you’ve done, pick out something for yourself and relax – it has been a tough year, you deserve it.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Camden Town Brewery End of Year Beer 2021, 10%
Slowly sipping Camden Brewery’s End of Year Beer has become an annual fixture in our respective households every bit as important as wearing paper hats, hanging a wreath on the door and Rich telling everyone his favourite festive joke.**
2021’s release (the brewery’s eighth) is an Imperial Pilsner brewed with fruity hops that has been aged in two different barrels: Sauternes wine and brandy. This combo has brought some sticky sweet tinned fruit flavours to the lager – at 10% it’s already a slow-sipper and this extra syrupy sweet depth makes you want to savour it at an even more slow-motion pace. Preferably with cheese in close proximity. It’s a limited edition beer and makes a great gift for any beer fan.
Celtic Whisky Distillerie, Gwalarn, 40%
A few weeks ago we took the Eurostar to France and visited the Brittany home of the Celtic Whisky Distillerie. While there we loaded up on gifts – Nick bought some Breton chocolates, Breton coffee, Breton preserves and even some Breton art. Rich got some sweets from the airport.
But the greatest gift we secured in our luggage was the local whisky. Celtic Whisky Distillerie produce two outstanding single malts – the vanilla sweet Glann Ar Mor and the peaty Kornog, each combining Scottish tradition with some French know-how. Our gift suggestion is their newest release, Gwalarn, a blended whisky with a faint waft of smoke and a great deal of elegance. It’s decently priced too, making it a perfect introduction to Breton whisky. Salut!
The Cheese Geek, ‘The Dean’ – Cheese & Cheeseboard Gin
Any occasion can be improved with the introduction of a good cheeseboard. Christmas is an especially good time for loading up on cheese, not least because it’s one of the finest gifts you can bestow upon those you care about most. And it goes so well with booze.
Here in Somerset we rate the cheese and cider combo highly, but also enjoy it with a good bottle of ale. Wine and Sherry drinkers love a side of salty, creamy cheese to nibble and, at The Cheese Geek, they rate gin as a perfect match.
The Cheese Geek’s Hamper, The Dean, is cheese and gin nirvana. It features three choice cheeses – Vintage Poacher from Lincolnshire, Perl Wen from Carmarthenshire and the mighty Cropwell Bishop Stilton – along with a jar of Damson Fruit Cheese and a bottle of Sipsmith Cheeseboard Martinez. Despite living in Somerset, where quality cheese is plentiful, we regularly look to Wales to help fill our cheeseboard, and the soft, Brie-like Perl Wen is one of the first on our shopping list.
As for the Martinez, it is a fine, chestnut coloured gin-based aperitif. Specially crafted for the Cheese Geek, Sipsmith has infused its gin with figs, grapes and fresh orange before combining it with vermouth. We love it, you’ll love and, most importantly, the cheese will love it too.
Black Tor Premier Reserve Golden Rum, 40%
There must something going on in Devon at the moment, because in recent years the county has seen a huge surge in quality drinks producers. If you want whisky, the new Dartmoor Distillery has just released its first expressions; for vodka, Devon Cove takes some beating; there has always been cider and, right now, Sandford Orchards are pressing some mighty fine apples into service; while the coastal town of Salcombe can boast one of our favourite gin distilleries and a top notch brewery.
If you have a mate who has been taken in by the trend for rum, then Devon can help you there too. Black Tor Rum, nestled in the foothills of Dartmoor, produces two rums – Organic White and Premier Reserve Golden Rum – both presented in very gift-worthy bottles. The latter is a super neat sipper, with smooth vanilla and caramel effortlessly sliding down and leaving behind the kind of warm glow that everyone wants to create at Christmas.
Highland Nectar Scotch Whisky Liqueur, 35%
Whisky liqueurs have become a bit of a thing in the last few years, but it’s American flavours that have generally led the way – apple pie, peanut butter, chocolate cookies and other dessert-based confection. For a touch more class we suggest the newly released Highland Nectar, a Scottish whisky that has been sweetened and infused with herbs, spices and fruits.
It’s smooth and creamy to sip and is packed full of the flavours that Christmas demands: cinnamon and cloves, orange and vanilla, some stem ginger warmth and a touch of fire from the whisky. It’s the kind of thing that is so right for Christmas that we reckon your gift recipient will have the top off the bottle within five minutes of unwrapping it.
Loch Lomond Inchmoan 12 Year Old Whisky and Chocolates, 46%
There is reason enough to get your pals a bottle of Loch Lomond Inchmoan 12 Year Old Whisky – it’s a cracking liquid with an upfront flavour of delicious sweet vanilla and some gentle smoky peat and warming spices chugging along in the background. But for a limited time there’s even more reason to add this whisky to your Christmas shopping list: the promise of chocolates.
The distillery has teamed up with Scottish chocolatiers Cocoa Ooze to conjure some very whisky-friendly chocolate truffles and, with Inchoman 12 Year Old, you’ll find a superb box of dark chocolate and sea salt to enjoy with it. Other pairings include 12 Year Old Inchmurrin with milk chocolate, orange and cinnamon and the classic 12 Year Old paired with milk chocolate and apricot. Get them while they last and you can decide if your recipient gets both parts of the gift.
*Salt. You would not believe how many emails we receive promoting salt.
**If you’re not checking Rich’s social media accounts on Christmas Day, then it goes exactly like this: “I’ve stuffed the turkey, now I’ve just got to pluck it and kill it.”