Great Gifts for
whiskey lovers

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” –
Mark Twain

There’s a lot to love about whiskey. Even if you’re not on team whiskey just yet, you likely have someone in your life infatuated with the beautiful brown liquor.

So, for the less whiskey-obsessed, I’ve put together a list of some of the best gifts for whiskey lovers like myself.

That way, any time you’ve got a special occasion coming up, you have the perfect gift for any whiskey lover in your life.

Whiskey 101

Before you learn the best gifts for whiskey lovers in your life, it’s important to understand why your loved one is so passionate about whiskey. It’s such a magical liquid, and seemingly no two whiskeys are the same.

Some are smokey, others are sweet, and others still have a bitter bite that keeps you coming back for more.

What defines a whiskey varies depending on your location. In the United States, whiskey has such a broad designation that there are more than 40 different categories. Some of these groups include rye, single malt, wheat whiskey, and bourbon.

Each category also has its own regulations. For example, American whiskey can contain artificial colors and flavors, but bourbon cannot.

Related: The 11 best Bourbons under $50

When you get outside the States, whiskey becomes a little more regulated. There are different styles of whiskey that come from all over the world, and here are a few of my personal favorites:

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is the oldest style of whiskey in the world—referred to as the “father of all whiskey”—and was one of the earliest distilled drinks in Europe. Around the 12th century, after traveling through southern Europe, Irish monks brought the technique of distilling perfumes back to Ireland.

Related: 11 Best Irish Whiskeys Under $100

Because it uses cereal grains like barley and malt, Irish whiskey has a widely known reputation for being light and fruity.

Famous Irish Whiskey Brands

Jameson is one of the best known brands of Irish whiskey, selling over 31 million bottles annually. Close behind is Bushmills, which was founded in 1608. If you’re sampling different styles of whiskey, make sure you pick up a bottle of Jameson.

Scotch Whisky

You’ll notice we’ve dropped the “e” in whisky for this section. That’s because Scotch whisky (aka Scotch) is labeled without it.  In order to be called Scotch whisky, it must be distilled and bottled in Scotland.

There are five separate categories of Scotch: 
  • Single malt
  • Single grain
  • Blended malt
  • Blended grain
  • Blended

The most popular and traditional version of Scotch is single malt, meaning that is distilled from water and malted barely without any other cereal grains (such as wheat).

Related: The Beginners Guide to Single Malt Scotch

Some single malt scotches, such as Laphroaig, dry their malt over a peat fire from anywhere between 18-30 hours. That process gives this scotch a deep and distinct smokey taste.

Famous Scotch brands

Good Scotch has a tendency to be pretty pricey. If you’re trying the different styles of whiskey, some of the most famous brands include Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Johnnie Walker. There are over 130 malt and grain distilleries within Scotland, so there are plenty of different options to choose from.

Japanese Whiskey

Developed in regions of Japan—with its origins introduced around 1870—Japanese whiskey is a spirit heavily inspired by Scotch. What makes Japanese whisky different from the rest, however, is its distillation process. With deep roots in Japanese culture (as you would expect), producers make this spirit from Mizunara trees—a tree exclusive to Japan.

While this may not sound like a major difference, the flavors that this elicits are incredible.They are often described as both spicy and intense; with more welcoming notes of citrus and incense as well.

Related: Best Japanese Whisky Under $50

Japanese whiskies come in a grand range—offered in blended, single malt, and blended malt fashions. Because of its similarities to Scotch, it’s not uncommon to consume Japanese whisky neat or on the rocks.

Famous Japanese Whisky Brands

Prior to 2000, Japanese whisky was far less-known internationally and largely only offered domestically in Japan. In the years that followed, however, Japanese whisky made a name for itself. This is in large part due to Nikka who earned awards for its 10-year at Whisky Magazine’s Awards.

Other brands that benefited from this boom include Yamazaki, Hibki, and Suntory.

How is whiskey made?

With so many different options available, pairing whiskey making down to one process is pretty much impossible. As a broad generalization, producers make from fermented grain mash (the same process also makes beer).

The overall process of whiskey making—whether a bourbon, rye, or scotch—is very similar.

Step 1 – Harvest

To ferment the grains for whiskey making, you first need the grains themselves. After harvesting, the grains need to be removed from their stalks and sheaths. Whiskey grains typically come from rye, wheat, barley, and corn (my personal favorite as a native Nebraskan).

Step 2 – Fermentation

The grains are then dried, combined with water, and cooked to create a mash. Each grain actually adds its own unique flavor and properties to the mash.

  • Rye adds more spice.
  • Corn adds a buttery, creamy flavor. (If it’s more than 51% corn, it’s bourbon!)
  • Wheat adds sweetness and softness.
  • Barley adds a nutty quality. (Although barley is often added strictly for its natural fermentation enzymes. It’s the only grain that can ferment without added help.)

This first mash is left out to sour overnight.

Related: 7 Whiskey Facts Everyone Should Know

Producers then create a second mash—combining most of it with the previous day’s sour mash to induce fermentation. Yeast is often also added to break down starches and sugars into alcohol. Specific distilleries actually keep their own strains of yeast, guaranteeing consistent taste across all batches!

Step 3 – Distillation

Distillation is a two-step process. The whole mash is run through step one and its product then runs through step 2.

Step 1. Column Still

Column stills remove the alcohol from everything else in the mash. This alcohol once removed is referred to as a “low wine”. In whiskey production, only a single column is used to produce the low wine—opposed to four or five connected columns for vodka or other liquors that require a high degree of separation. (This process, referred to as triple (or more) distillation, also removes almost all flavor).

Step 2. Copper Pot Still

Copper doubler pots will cause interactions within the newly extracted alcohol that improve flavors. The final distillate that leaves these stills is actually clear and is called “white dog.”

Fun fact: You’ve probably heard of white dog by its more rebellious name: moonshine. There are some subtle differences. Primarily, moonshine spends no time aging in casks, and the term “moonshine” refers to white whiskey for which taxes have not been paid. Otherwise, the process for making whiskey and moonshine is exactly the same until the aging step.

Step 4 – Aging

Barrel aging is where whiskey picks up its iconic color and flavor. Charred wood barrels infuse the whiskey with their unique spices and colors. Depending on the wood used for the barrel, the whiskey can pick up notes of vanilla, smoke, toast, nuts, and many other flavors!

Alright, you now have a brief introduction to the wide world of whiskey. I’ll call back to a lot of this information as we get into our list of 100 great gifts for whiskey lovers.

The best gifts for whiskey lovers

All kinds of people enjoy whiskey, which makes buying gifts for whiskey lovers slightly difficult. To break down this list a bit, I’ve put it into a few different interest categories.

Cooper’s Coffee- where whiskey lovers meet coffee lovers…

It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest coffee drinker in the world. Under normal circumstances, it’s hard to get me to drink a cup of the stuff. That all changes when you introduce some brown magic, however.

Coffee and whiskey were pretty much made for each other. There’s a reason the Irish Coffee is a popular cocktail: the combination of bitter coffee, slightly sweet caramel from Irish whiskey, brown sugar, and whipped cream is the perfect cure for a hangover, or start to a lazy Saturday.

Unfortunately, it’s not exactly healthy to start every day with a nip of your favorite bourbon or whiskey in your coffee. My friends at Cooper’s Cask Coffee, however, have the next best thing.

Since 2014, Jason and John have been aging coffee beans in whiskey barrels and producing incredibly flavorful brews from their base of operations in Rhode Island. They only source grade 1 single origin beans and roast them to absolute perfection after aging them in whiskey, rum, and wine barrels.

Related: 10 Whiskey Drinks to Make at Home

This aging process imparts so much flavor into the roast. It tastes almost exactly like drinking a boozy coffee, but with none of the whiskey buzz! (Plenty from the caffeine, though).

The guys at Cooper’s take the aging part of their roast so seriously, it’s part of their name! A Cooper is someone trained in the art of building wooden casks or barrels. It’s a profession that goes back thousands of years, and it speaks to the craftsmanship that produced gorgeous and highly functional storage.

You can feel that same craftsmanship in every single cup of their coffee. Their distributors source each bean from a single origin, ensuring the highest quality and maintaining the flavors of that particular region. They don’t believe in blending beans, because that mutes each bean’s unique flavors and traits.

Where Cooper’s really sets itself apart is in its barrel aging process. By taking the unroasted beans and aging them in emptied rum, whiskey, and bourbon barrels, they enhance and intensify the natural flavor of the beans. They also specifically select the single origin coffee beans to pair with each barrel—matching the notes from the bean and the alcohol so they perfectly complement each other.

They then roast those beans to order—not in some giant plant where they are bagged and sat in a warehouse for weeks or even months.

My personal favorite is the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Aged coffee (shocker, I know, I like the bourbon one). Made from single-origin Columbian Grade 1 beans, Cooper’s ages this coffee in bourbon barrels shipped directly from Kentucky. These beans have a big, bold taste with notes of cocoa and stone fruits. When combined with the bourbon finish, it’s a perfect cup of coffee for all bourbon lovers. (Include photo of pouch)

I also have to give a shout out to the Single Malt American Whiskey Barrel Aged coffee—made with beans originating from the Lintong region of North Sumatra. It’s got such a dark, deep flavor, which matches the earthy and fruity tones of the coffee with the vanilla and caramel notes from the whiskey. It finishes more like a whiskey than a coffee, which leaves a light and bright taste in your mouth that keeps you coming back for another sip. (Include photo of pouch)

Cooper’s Coffee is a perfect gift for whiskey and coffee lovers alike! You can buy a bag of any of their options, either in whole bean or grounds. Or, you can opt for a box set and try all of their options. Cooper’s even comes in convenient single-serve K-cups, and they sell their single-origin roasted beans without barrel aging as well—for those more inclined toward coffee than whiskey.

Literary gifts for whiskey lovers

You know what goes great with a glass of whiskey, a cup of coffee, or a nice Irish coffee? A good book! I mean, this site is Of Whiskey and Words after all.

I’ve been on a journey to increase my intellectual curiosity for almost a decade now—a journey I hope never ends. I try to learn something new every day, and I continuously find the best lessons I learn don’t come from the internet, but from the printed word.

I grew up on Harry Potter and other fantasy and fiction books, and I still absolutely enjoy getting lost in those kinds of worlds. But recently, I’ve gotten more out of non-fiction and personal development books that expand my horizons.

While I could make lists on lists of books I can recommend as gifts(and I have) below are some of my favorite authors that every whiskey lover—and really all literary enthusiasts—will love.

Ernest Hemingway

“Any man who eats dessert is not drinking enough. ” – Ernest Hemingway

A profound lover of whiskey himself, Ernest Hemingway had a way of mixing booze and words like no one else. He’s one of the most famous writers of the 20th Century for a reason, and his regaling of exploits around the globe pair perfectly with the liquor of your choosing.

William Faulkner

“There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others. But a man shouldn’t fool with booze until he’s fifty; then he’s a damn fool if he doesn’t.” – William Faulkner

In America, whiskey and bourbon are synonymous with the South. So, what better way to appreciate its origins than with one of the greatest Southern writers? Faulkner was known to turn to the brown stuff for inspiration while writing, particularly his go-to cocktail: A mint julep.

Jack Kerouac

“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” – Jack Kerouac

While not necessarily a whiskey connoisseur, I find Kerouac’s books about travel to be the perfect pairing with a nice glass of bourbon (or bourbon coffee, for that matter). His travels around the world had a major effect on the American public in the 1950s and 60s—inspiring many artists like Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Doors, and The Grateful Dead. So, toss a record on the player while enjoying a glass and some passages from “On The Road”.

J.K. Rowling

Secretly, we’re all a little more absurd than we make ourselves out to be.” – J.K. Rowling

If you were paying attention earlier, I professed my love for the Harry Potter series. While not necessarily something that evokes drinking—unless we’re talking about butterbeer—sometimes turning off your brain and getting lost in an amazing story is exactly what the doctor ordered. So crack open a bottle and get lost in the Wizarding World.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored glasses of life.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Even though alcohol was illegal during the decade, the Roaring ‘20s saw whiskey flowing all around speakeasies and swanky parties across the country. And no author better exemplifies that time than F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby is probably his most famous work, and most closely associated with the wild, whiskey-soaked parties of the 1920’s, but his collections of short stories are also worth a read and a glass.

J.R.R. Tolkien

“Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go/To heal my heart and drown my woe…” – J.R.R. Tolkien

There’s just no beating a good story and a good whiskey, and there might not be many better storytellers than the creator of Middle Earth. J.R.R. Tolkien’s works have delighted millions on both the page and the big screen, and his attention to details is essentially unmatched. Either curl up and enjoy the fun travel tale of The Hobbit—my personal comfort zone—or dive deep into the lore on a late night while reading The Silmarillion.

John Steinbeck

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck

It’s not hard to piece together that Steinbeck is a favorite author of mine. Of Whiskey and Words does ring oddly close to Of Mice and Men. My favorite book of all time is East of Eden, and I find all of Steinbeck’s works well enjoyed with a smooth Old Fashioned.

Kurt Vonnegut

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut

I’m totally in love with Kurt Vonnegut’s writing style. He’s gripping, he’s real, and he makes you think. Kind of like a lot of my favorite whiskeys, to be honest. Harrison Bergeron is one of my favorite short stories ever written, but you really can’t go wrong with any of Vonnegut’s catalog.

Arthur Conan Doyle

“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

Mystery novels aren’t necessarily my favorite genre, but Sherlock Holmes is a classic for a reason. The rich world Arthur Conan Doyle builds for his favorite characters—the quick-witted Holmes and his trusty sidekick John Watson—is riveting, exciting, and easy to get lost in.

Sylvia Plath

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

My greatest failure as an English major was never reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath while in college. It sat on my bookshelf collecting dust after I purchased it as a hopeful intellectual college freshman, and it sat untouched until much later in life. Plath’s writing is succinct and witty, with a touch of irreverence that might be enjoyed with a bit of maturity (a lot like a good scotch).

Great Gifts for all whiskey lovers

Buying gifts is tough, but if you’re reading this, then you already know one important thing about the person. They love whiskey!

There are a bunch of great gifts for whiskey lovers—whether they’re a budding enthusiast or a long-time enjoyer. Here is a good list to start your search:

Whiskey subscription

It’s every whiskey lover’s dream to have quality bourbon, rye, or scotch show up at their door with as little effort as possible. That’s why the whiskey subscription industry has been booming. Services like the Rackhouse Whiskey Club deliver great, hard-to-find, small-batch whiskey directly to your door. Rackhouse specifically focuses on the story of the distilleries almost as much as they focus on the whiskey itself—giving you a full appreciation of the origins of your dram.

Related: See my list of the best whiskey subscription services

The website is a wealth of information for whiskey aficionados, including documentary style interviews with craft distilleries.

Quality rocks glasses

No matter if you’re drinking a scotch neat or an old fashioned, a set of quality rocks glasses are a much-needed accessory for whiskey enjoyment.

 

Whiskey stones

Ice is great, but even a little bit of water can actually change the flavor of whiskey. With cool whiskey stones, however, you don’t  risk getting too much moisture in your glass!

 

Bartender’s Kit

For the aspiring cocktail artist in your life, a quality bartender’s kit is crucial. Look for one with a good-sized tumbler, stirrer, strainer, filter, and other accessories that have multiple uses.

 

Related: 10 whiskey drinks you should make at home


Decanter

Deep down, I think we all long for the class and sophistication of having a crystal whiskey decanter on our desk at work. There’s no better way to display your favorite bourbon, rye, or scotch—though the temptation may make you refill the decanter more than you want.

 

Chillable Glasses

Solving a similar problem as the whiskey stones, a chillable glass allows the drinker to enjoy their whiskey ice cold without the addition of flavor-altering water.

Bourbon-Infused Toothpicks

What better way to pass the time between dinner and dessert—or dinner and after-dinner drinks—than with a toothpick infused with your favorite brown liquid?

 

Craft Ice Mold

While some prefer no ice with their whiskey, others prefer a healthy hunk of it! With a craft ice mold, you can give your drink the cooling you desire and the ratio of water-to-bourbon that you prefer.

 

Barrel-aged Pepper Sauce

Coffee isn’t the only thing that tastes great aged in a whiskey barrel! Pappy’s Barrel-Aged Pepper Sauce is incredible and combines the great, legendary flavor of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon with a nice kick that keeps you coming back.

 

Mixology or Cocktail Recipe Books

Not everyone has the exact recipe for their favorite cocktail recipe, and they don’t need to! Not when there’s so many great mixology books out there. Try the Dead Rabbit Mixology & Mayhem Cocktail Book.

Or for the literary lovers, try out Tequila Mockingbird (it’s got great whiskey recipes too!).

Barrel-aged Maple Syrup

If you’re sensing a pattern here of “things that taste like whiskey but aren’t” then good eye! Maple is actually great when used in a lot of different whiskey cocktails, so it should come as no surprise that bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup is delicious.

 

Whiskey Water Dropper

So much of whiskey drinking is preserving the flavor of the liquor as much as possible. With a glass whiskey water dropper, you can be sure you’re adding exactly as much water as you intend—bringing out the flavor and not diluting it.


Flask

Having your setup at home is crucial for whiskey drinking, but it’s also important to prepare for bringing your whiskey along for a trip. Flasks come in so many different shapes, sizes, and styles that you’re bound to find one that suits your favorite whiskey enthusiast.

 

Whiskey candle

The aroma of whiskey can be intoxicating, but it’s hard to get a great sniff without completely submerging your face in the barrel (also don’t threaten me with a good time). With this whiskey tumbler candle, scented like an old fashion, you can get those wonderful smells without the fear of falling in.

 

Bourbon Barrel Watches

The oak used to age whiskey isn’t just tasty, it’s also beautiful. With these watches from Original Grain, you can boast your favorite cask right on your wrist!

 

Bourbon Barrel Wood Smoking Chunks

Barbecue. Bourbon. Do I need to say more? With so many different aspects already infused with whiskey flavor, you can let your whiskey lover add their own flavor with these bourbon barrel wood smoking chunks!

Custom Coasters

Your coasters say a lot about you. And if you don’t use coasters, then the rings on your tables also say a lot about you! Help your whiskey lover enjoy their drinks while keeping your surfaces clean and clear.


Cocktail Kits

Making cocktails at home is fun and cost effective, but sometimes you need one specific ingredient that you won’t use again until you remember you have it three years later. With a cocktail kit, like this old fashioned one, you get everything you need to make the perfect amount of cocktails with no pesky leftovers.


Personalized Oak Barrels

The barrel is a quintessential part of the whiskey experience, and it holds a revered place in whiskey culture. With a personalized oak whiskey barrel, your favorite whiskey enthusiast can have their name and special dates commemorated on a beautiful oak cask.

 

Drink Dispensers

We’re not talking about fountain drinks here. There are many different, great styles of drink dispensers that allow drinkers to store their favorite bourbon, scotch, or rye, and pour them at a moment’s notice. Try these interesting dispensers made from cobbled granite, or these classy dispensers carved from wood.

The right whiskey gift is out there if you look hard enough

This list only scratches the surface of great gifts for whiskey lovers. The world of whiskey is wide and varied, and it attracts people of all backgrounds and ages. Finding the right gift for your whiskey enthusiast is a journey, and it’s hard to go wrong with whatever you choose.

Since there are so many different gifts for whiskey lovers out there, I couldn’t contain all of them in one blog.

So keep an eye out for Part II coming soon.

Stay Gold.

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