December tends to be about gift-giving. And one of the greatest pleasures of all is giving (and certainly receiving) very nice bottles of liquor. But what to get? You want to get them something nice… but not too nice. Something that costs a little money… but not too much. And how do you know they’ll like it?
Most people who drink have a favorite whiskey. You’re probably already aware if they like a particular popular brand of whiskey. So here’s our guide in how to upgrade some of the most popular whiskeys around to make someone a really nice present (but not too nice!).
- Jack Daniel’s -> Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel. This is the largest selling whiskey on earth and the upgrade is very modest… but if the critical scores are to be believed, a huge upgrade in taste. Extra credit for the more exclusive, difficult-to-find, and boutique George Dickel Barrel Select.
- Jim Beam Bourbon -> Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. The largest selling bourbon on earth yields to its own new thing with the more robust and very tasty Devil’s Cut, that is said to pull whiskey right from the wood of the barrel. Extra credit if you upgrade to the uber-premium (but still very price-sensible) Jim Beam Signature Craft.
- Crown Royal Canadian Whisky -> Crown Royal Reserve. This is a huge selling Canadian whisky that’s often mistaken for bourbon. People love that little purple bag. But for an increase in price, you can go up in taste a full order of magnitude. For a smooth-tasting profile, the Crown Royal Reserve is near peerless. For extra credit avoid the XR (we think the Reserve tastes better) and pick up a bottle of Kittling Ridge’s Forty Creek Double Barrel.
- Johnnie Walker Black Label -> Johnnie Walker Double Black. This may seem kind of obvious but Black Label is well-regarded blended scotch with the Double Black coming in at a little more smoke and little more oomph: perfect for a gift. If you want to go all out, avoid the Blue Label and get the brand new Gold Label Reserve.
- Glenlivet 12yr -> Glenlivet 18yr. The 12yr is seen everywhere and it’s a fine single malt scotch… one of the top sellers in all the world. But upgrading one should avoid the 15yr and go straight to the 18yr. It’s well-worth the price. For a true smoky blast, one can go the extra credit route and try to find the Glenlivet Nadurra blend.
- Jameson -> Jameson 12yr. James Irish whiskey sales have exploded in popularity in recent years and it’s a good, go-to / order-anywhere whiskey. The 12yr adds a bit of age and sophistication onto the popular version and we find better flavored than the more expensive 18yr version. For extra credit, splurge and get them very stylish and very Irish Redbreast 12yr.
- Maker’s Mark -> WL Weller 12yr Bourbon. This is kind of a funny upgrade because you’re actually going down in price. People who like Maker’s Mark like it for the “wheated” aspect of the bourbon, which makes a softer, lighter-bodied whiskey. Weller is a great example of a well-made wheated bourbon. Major extra credit if you can somehow find the William Larue Weller bourbon from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. In fact, if you find a bottle, tell us and we’ll buy it.