Gifting Whiskey? Here’s How To Choose The Best Option

Are you planning to gift a bottle of whiskey to someone you care about or want to impress? Maybe they are celebrating a milestone, birthday or anniversary and you want to help them mark it with a nice bottle of Uisce Beatha, Irish for "water of life."

Then you have come to the right place. We will list the three most important things to consider when giving whiskey as a gift.

Know Their Drinking Preferences

There are a few factors that can help you find the perfect bottle of whiskey for anyone with relative ease. The first one is knowing the person well enough to make an informed decision. 

How does the person prefer to drink their whiskey?

There are several ways to enjoy whiskey:

Whiskey Neat

You can drink it neat or straight (without water or ice). Many single malt connoisseurs like to drink their whiskey neat or with a drop of water in a Glencairn glass.

If the person prefers to take their whiskey neat and is generally hesitant to try modern whiskeys, stick to the classics.

That could be an Aberlour 16-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch or, if you want something special, The Macallan Sherry Oak 25-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

Whiskey Cocktails

Other people love their whiskey in a modern cocktail or in a refreshing glass of classic whiskey cocktails. Many bartenders recommend bourbon and Canadian blends like  Crown Royal for mixed drinks.

Bourbon is sweeter than most whiskeys, making it particularly well suited for cocktails. Hints of vanilla, oak and caramel add flavor and nuance to mixed drinks.

Many Canadian whiskies are also well suited for cocktails, as they tend to be smoother and lighter than other styles of whiskey.

Related: Is Scotch or Bourbon Whiskey?

You can't go wrong with a bottle of blended Irish whiskey or scotch like Jameson Irish Whiskey, Powers Gold Label Irish Whiskey or Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch. These exceptional whiskeys are known to pair well with mixers.

So which one is it? 

If you want to impress someone, perhaps your boss or a potential client, you should know their preferences to the tee. Some whiskey lovers are very rigid about their tastes and not too open to new experiences. 

In contrast, there are some who actively seek out new types of whiskey that have been aged, distilled, or blended in exciting new ways.

Let's move on to the next step, which can help you make the right choice and become the master of whiskey gifts for all your loved ones and work or business colleagues.

Know Their Food Preferences

Although this concept originated from the wine side of things, it's nonetheless applicable for whiskey selection.

Certain foods go well with certain types of whiskey and can really enhance the experience for the drinker.

All you have to do is learn a few basics, and you can hardly go wrong from there.

  • Light, fruity whiskies pair best with lighter seafood, including raw preparations like tartare, sashimi and sushi, as well as cold-smoked salmon and a variety of seafood.
  • Meats such as venison or lamb, grass-fed beef and roasted pork pair well with medium to high intensity whiskeys. Medium-bodied cheeses such as cheddar and aged Gouda should pair well with full-bodied whiskies.
  • Peated whiskies pair well with smoked oysters, duck, roasted chicken, smoked or grilled salmon, dry-aged beef, Indian cuisine and strong cheeses like blue cheese.
  • Dishes with herbs such as basil, cilantro, mint, sage, tarragon and thyme pair particularly well with herbaceous whiskies.
  • Fruits and berries harmonize well with lighter, floral whiskies, such as those produced in Japan.
  • Fat usually needs acidity, as does sweetness. Sour whiskies cut through these flavors. It should not overpower, but rather complement and enhance.
  • Spicy foods are the most difficult to pair. That said, they pair best with sweeter whiskies. Adding a spicy whisky to an already fiery dish will overpower the flavors and sensations. In contrast, sweet flavors can enhance and emphasize spicy components.

While these are not strict rules that must be followed, there are very reliable rules of thumb that can help you in your purchasing decision. Of course, you need to have a good idea of the actual culinary preferences of the gift recipeint.

Know Their Style

If you are buying a gift for someone who is already an avid whiskey lover and has a large and extensive collection, it's not that straightforward. What do you give him as a gift?

What do you get someone who seems to have everything already?

Here's where you lean into the aesthetic appeal of the whiskey bottle and accessories.

There are many whiskey brands in the market with stylish and attractively designed bottles and decanters.

For someone who may already have everything or is only interested in a bottle that shows a certain level of craftsmanship and elegance, this is the way to go.

That means that you are looking for a combination of the bottle itself and the label that is exquisitely designed and unique.

Looking for some inspiration? Check out Nikka Gold & Gold Samurai Edition Blended Whiskey, Inish Turk Beg - Maiden Voyage or Four Roses Single Barrel.

Alternatively, pick a high-quality crystal glassware set and add a personal touch by inscribing it with their initials. Traditionally, whiskey is served in old-fashioned or rocks glasses, but snifters and nosing copitas are also good options. 

For cocktail lovers, a highball glass is also a good pick. You can also choose one of the monogrammed drink and glass gift sets from their favorite whiskey brand.

With some brands like Johnnie Walker, you can even have custom bottles made with a personalized engraving on the bottle.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have newbie whiskey aficionados. Gifting them a fancy set of glassware or a bottle of whiskey might not be the best approach.

Instead, you can give them the gift of discovery with a tasting set from their favorite brands or styles. Choose a set of spirits from the same distillery, region or single brand to compare and contrast in a mini-package.

This will help sharpen hone their palate. 

Credit: Whiskey Tasting Company

Related: The 5 Ss of Wine Tasting

This is especially a good choice if you are not sure which drink the gift recipient prefers. They are more likely to like at least some of the drinks,  than if you give them a single bottle. Create your own tasting set or choose from a curated set depending on the information you have gathered about the person.

In conclusion

What about the budget?

It may feel like we should have started with this point, but we deliberately saved it for last. As you already know (and have experienced in your life), price tends to be the overriding factor in many of our purchasing decisions. This is true for whiskey as well.

The good thing is that for the three categories above, there are whiskeys to fit any budget. Whether it's a $50 or a $5,000 bottle, once you figure out the gift recipient's drinking and food preferences and style, you are sure to find a whiskey that they'll be happy with and appreciate.

With these three crucial steps, you are now ready to gift the perfect bottle of whiskey and earn praise and recognition for your excellent gifting skills!

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