‘Tis the season for cheer, great food, and, of course, giving gifts. While children await toys, and some hope for all that sparkles, for spirits lovers, liquid offerings are often the most prized presents during the holidays. These beloved bottles are displayed proudly on bar carts and poured on special occasions throughout the year — making a good bottle a gift that keeps on giving.
Bourbon lovers are especially keen to collect “unicorns,” limited-edition bottles, and new releases. Luckily, there are plenty of exciting whiskeys to choose from. So many, in fact, that it can be difficult to choose the bottles worth gifting.
That’s why VinePair compiled the ultimate list of giftable bourbons. From friends who are just getting into whiskey, to longtime geeks who seem to have every bottle imaginable, these are the best bourbons to give this holiday season.
Best Budget Bourbon
This is an intensely aromatic bourbon with a concentrated, complex flavor profile. On the nose, it is rich in brown sugar, caramel, and candied fruit aromas. On the palate, the alcohol integrates seamlessly among notes of honey, vanilla, and cedarwood. This is a nuanced whiskey that tastes considerably more expensive than its modest price tag — making it a great gift for everyone from bourbon lovers to spirits newbies.
Best Splurge Bourbon
This is a quintessential cask-strength bourbon containing a blend of 9-, 10-, 11-, 13-, and 15-year-old bourbons, hailing from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. Its flavorful, harmonious profile shows a mastery of blending — showing up on the palate with a medley of fresh and dried fruits built around a rich, sweet core.
Best Bourbon for Beginners
Not to be overlooked, “OGD 114” is a beloved bottom-shelf whiskey that offers a major bang for its buck. It is full of bourbon’s classic caramel and vanilla notes, making it a great bottle to give to those new to America’s native spirit, or to personally keep on hand — whether for cocktails or a weeknight dram.
Best Bourbon for Whiskey Geeks
Pinhook’s Vertical Series is an ongoing experiment for bourbon lovers to geek out over. The brand tracks the evolution of 1,350 barrels of sourced MGP bourbon, releasing a 150-barrel batch from that lot each year. This offering — the second of nine planned releases — shows a distinctive change from the previous year’s bottling. Twelve extra months in barrel have transformed light, tropical aromas to heady, ripe fruit and brought the spice of the high-rye mash bill to the forefront. Add to that some rich, caramel notes, and this is a sure winner to gift to any bourbon enthusiast.
Best Bourbon for Cocktail Lovers
This is a great intro to the wheated bourbon category, with notes of butterscotch and honey. For beginners, its high- wheat mash bill — similar to that of Pappy Van Winkle — lends it a caramel sweetness that’s a great introduction to the category. This whiskey tastes great neat or on the rocks, but is especially delicious in any number of classic bourbon cocktails — from Old Fashioneds to Hot Toddies.
Best Bourbon for the Boss
This bourbon has more than doubled in price on the retail market after it claimed “Best in Show Whiskey” at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. But it’s still worth the money, and a good buy for those looking to impress. The nose is enticing, with notes of dried fruits, nuts, berry compote, and light caramel. The palate has great character and intensity, and tastes quintessentially bourbon.
Best Limited-Edition Bourbon
This highly sought-after bottle was first released in 2020. Made with three blended distillates aged at least nine years, the resulting liquid packs a punch at just 50 percent ABV. Nutty notes on the nose are followed by rich dark chocolate and baking spices on the palate. This is sure to be a hit for the collector in your life.