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The Proof: A glassful of holiday spirits

 

The Proof: A glassful of holiday spirits

16 Dec 2015

The late comedian Mitch Hedberg once observed that a severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer. A liquor bottle works pretty well, too — perfect for the grown-ups on Santa’s “nice” list, and probably a few naughty ones.

But not every bottle has the right shape to be shoved inside a sock. Here are a few odd-shaped bottles that will delight under the Christmas tree, instead.

The big buzz in the booze world has been about Crown Royal’s newest iteration, Northern Harvest Rye. This Canadian whiskey was recently named the world’s best by renowned reviewer Jim Murray. Murray annually publishes his “Whisky Bible,” which, as the name implies, is revered as holy writ by liquor aficionados.

Canadian whiskeys have traditionally been viewed as also-rans by serious drinkers, who prefer more flavorful drams like Scotch. Canadian whiskeys, by contrast, tend to be almost overly smooth. Great for new drinkers, but lacking interest for those with refined palates.

Northern Harvest Rye, however, turns these preconceptions on their head, weighing in with a whopping 90 percent rye content in the mash bill. Rye is anything but smooth, offering the most spice out of any of the traditional grains used in whiskey-making. Still, fans of Crown Royal will recognize some familiar flavors. In this iteration, though, they might be surprised by a peppery kick.

As a present, Crown Royal’s crown-shaped bottles are nothing if not classy, and many liquor stores carry gift boxes that include two branded glasses. All of that comes at a price that won’t break the bank.

If you’re looking for a gift to wrap, Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum comes in a convenient and very cool wooden box. On top of that, it’s one of the best rums I’ve ever tasted.

The Family Reserve is similar to Gosling’s esteemed Black Seal Rum. Both are made from the same molasses and aged in used bourbon barrels. The only real difference is the amount of time each is aged, with Family Reserve clocking in at up to 16 years.

Dark rums are smooth in general, and the extra aging makes Family Reserve even smoother. The most striking flavor is caramel, while woody undertones give way to just a hint of alcohol burn.

Yes, rum is an island drink, but this one sips just as well fireside. And like the Crown Royal Harvest Rye, Gosling’s Family Reserve proves that a premium product doesn’t have to have a premium price.

I’ve saved my best — and most expensive — suggestion for last. WhistlePig 10 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey comes in a flattened, apothecary-inspired bottle, somehow retro and sleek at the same time. The design of the label hints at a storied past.

WhistlePig, however, debuted only five years ago, and not without some controversy. The mash bill is 100 percent rye, but it seems that the grain is imported from Canada. While WhistlePig is distilled in Vermont, the grain’s origin rubbed some drinkers the wrong way.

Leaving politics behind, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t a fantastic whiskey. Each sip bursts with flavor, including tons of spice and a prominent but not painful burn. Underneath that is vanilla and even more spice, almost like tasting the scent inside a bakery. Christmas cookies, anyone?

There are plenty of spirits to boost your holiday spirit this year, but these three are sure to get you in the good graces of whoever you gift them to. Cheers and happy holidays!

Zach Powers is a writer and novelist. When he’s not busy imbibing, he helps run the literary arts nonprofit Seersucker Live. Get to know him at ZachPowers.com.

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