One of the MANY things I love about Kristen's family is that they purchase gifts that the recipients actually want. As opposed to purchasing gifts that the giver likes. For instance, rather than "Happy Hanukkah! Here's a book that I loved about Malaysian Turtle Bone Whittling!", it's more like "Happy Hanukkah! Here's that book you wanted and that movie you wanted and that CD you wanted." Yay! So when I thank them (much too late) it's actually genuine. It's difficult to eek out sincere gratitude about the Malaysian Turtle Bone Whittling book.
What I'm trying to get at is this. If you're going to participate in this bloated consumption party, then it's best to give gifts selflessly, but financially responsibly. If your nephew wants a PS3, ignore him. But if he wants a Linkin Park CD, swallow your distain and buy it for him. Don't get him Miles Davis's Round About Midnight, unless he's of drinking age. If your son wants Trotsky's 3-part biography, give the commie what he wants (if you can find it on sale, 'cuz damn that thing's expensive. Not that I know or anything.).
The only gift recommendations that I'll provide are of the whisky sort. The only authority I have over these things is that I actually have these and enjoy them fully. So....
1. Whisky. Because really, it's the greatest gift next to cash. And maybe love.
2. Glencairn whisky glasses
|What a cute couple.|
Whiskies can be enjoyed in a tumbler, provided that the whiskey itself is good. The issue with the standard tumbler is that almost all of the aromas escape the drink and completely bypass your nose. And since the flavor sense is highly dependent on olfaction, you're missing a lot of the tastes as well.
The Glencairn glass was engineered with the input of many of the major scotch whisky blenders and is now often used for professional whisky nosings/tastings. So that's the official pitch. But here's what I think works for it:
Aesthetics - It looks great on the table. It looks better in your hand.
Durability - That base is really solid, which makes this a better buy than many other flimsy whisky glasses out there.
Whisky delivery mechanism - The bowl is bulbous like a mini red wine glass or brandy snifter. This allows the aromas to release more fully. Then it tapers up at the top, focusing the nosing goodness and flavor very intensely.
Let me repeat that last note. The whisky nose and flavor will be INTENSE.
Size-wise, a pour up to the bottom of the bowl curve is about 1 oz. Mid bowl is 1.5 oz. Top of the bowl, 2 oz.
My marvelous wife purchased a set of four of these for me for my birthday this year. They've been in constant rotation ever since.
3. Whiskey Stones
My great brother-in-law and his fiancee got me a set of 9 of these for that same birthday. A great birthday.
Made of Vermont Soapstone, these rocks allow you to chill your beverage without watering it down. It also prevents overchilling which can wipe out much of the great whisky scents.
They really work for any hard liquor. But since many whiskies shouldn't be chilled at all (warming the whisky brings out more aromas for better or worse), I recommend these for desserty, sweet, digestif whisky. Or if you don't give a sniff and just want to drink some cool whisky.
They come with a little cloth bag with a drawstring. You stick 'em in the freezer until you want to use them. Then rinse them off with hot water (no soap) when you're done. May I also add, they're very cute.
4. Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, 6th Edition
Created and edited by the late Michael Jackson. No, not that one. Rather, the bespectacled, bushy bearded benevolent brilliant whisky writer. Besides covering almost every distillery (current and defunct) and 1000+ bottlings, it also has a ton of educational information about distillation, geography, casks, and history. Recommended for whisky lovers of all levels. You won't even want to read my Single Malt Reports after closing this book. I'm joking! My reports will supplement... the... inf... where are you going?
5. Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2012
This is the book that gets all of the crazy press whenever it's released. Murray (another awesome writer) reviews over 4500 whiskies here. Yup, I don't know how he does it. But he's very forgiving as a uisge beatha lover, always looking for the positives in his drink. Not much educational stuff outside of the reviews, but the sheer scope and enjoyable writing are the big positives. I don't recommend this for whisky noobs due to how overwhelming it is, and since 99.8% of these whiskies are either defunct, outrageously rare, or unavailable to us Yanks. But if you know your Talisker from your Highland Park while blindfolded, this is an addictive book.
So there they are, my whisky gift recommendations for Chrismahanukwanzakah. May the time you spend with your loved ones be blessed and beautiful.