In more ways than one, Lew Bryson is a man of good spirits.
He's the author of Tasting Whiskey, a terrific new book for novice sippers and aficionados alike, and when we asked him to share some gift ideas for this holiday season, he happily emailed us back with some expert picks. Whether you're shopping for a whiskey newbie or guy who knows his Glens inside and out, you'll do well to read Bryson's selections below. Cheers!
Beginner: Good bourbon is easy to find, and inexpensive. Evan Williams Single Barrel is great stuff—mature but not over-oaked, aromatic and delicious, and it's only about $26 a bottle. Beginning Scotch drinkers can get a good start with Highland Park 15-year-old, a single malt that won't crush the palate or the wallet (about $80); a moderately smoky Scotch with a good round sherry cask character.
Intermediate: Try a great whiskey from Ireland: Redbreast, which is about $60 for the 12-year-old (or spring for the cask-strength version, about twice as much); it's the full-bodied, fruity and rich whiskey that's at the heart of the Jameson blends. You can try to get a Pappy Van Winkle, but that's just crazy: instead, look for a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel (around $125). It's the bourbon geek's bourbon, an intense and focused tasting class in a bottle.
Expert: You can go crazy...or you can look for a distiller who's crazy: Glenfarclas must be nuts to be selling their exquisite 40-year-old, a stunning sherry-cask Speyside at full maturity, for just under $600 a bottle. Other 40-year-olds go for almost ten times as much. If you really want to surprise your expert, get a bottle of Japanese whisky: they may have already had the Yamazaki 18-year-old, so rock their world with the superbly elegant and subtly balanced Hakushu-18-year-old (about $280).
Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell, Getty Images