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December 17, 2010

Gifts are tricky.  Holidays can be trying.  And sometimes you have to get someone a gift.  Any gift.  Still, it needs to be special, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money.  And the last thing you want to do is buy another piece of junk that will just sit there and be unappreciated.

To you, I say B.I.T.O.A.

ADS and I had a bad habit of buying junk.  To make matters worse, we would each work to convince the other to buy junk we didn’t need.  My greatest victory was convincing ADS to buy an absolutely hideous shower curtain.  Sometimes we would go to garage sales.

It was at one of these I found a golden tome in a gilded box.  It was the B.I.T.O.A. Handbook written by Woody Woodbury.  I read a few pages in, and couldn’t tell if this was a club, a cult or a put-on.  Did I mention it also came with a vinyl record?*  But the inescapable draw which caused me to buy the item was the simple and powerful truth of the acronym itself.

Booze is the Only Answer.

And so let it be with Christmas. For this exercise, I’m going to cap my spending at $20.  It’s a nice round number, and it allows for getting a very good bottle.  For those who are skeptical at that assertion, keep reading.  Now this isn’t the answer to, “What do I buy my father the Scotch lover?” or “Relative X really enjoys classic cocktails, which booze should I buy?”

Rather, this is what I’d buy for someone if I didn’t know what they liked, but wanted to get them something nice.

I’ve found that wine is very polarizing.  It astounds me that some people find the very notion of wine to be snobbish.  Anyhow, a bottle of wine is opened and consumed.  It’s a four to five glass affair.  The gift is over almost as soon as it begins.

Beer is ordinary.  Even extraordinary beer, is still at the end of the day, just beer.  There are those crazy Sam Adams brews that cost upwards of $100 that are more like booze than beer.  Not only are they beyond the budget of this exercise, but they still don’t have the staying power of spirits.

So the next question must be, which category of spirits is most appropriate for a gift.

Well, it’s winter and that means ideally something warming.  To me that speaks to the brown spirits.  Sure, the Russians drink vodka when it’s freezing outside.  And if your gift recipient is Russian that may be a fine gift.  But I’m operating under the assumption we don’t know much about the recipient’s likes and dislikes, or even an awareness of their cultural background.

Personally, I’m a big fan of rum, and you can get some very tasty aged rums in that price range.  But even better than rum is American whiskey.  Because while Christmas may have started in another part of the world, Americans made it what it is today.

Plus, whiskey is warming.  It can be sipped without ice.  It goes great in eggnog.  And if you are watching your waistline or cholesterol, you could have some in a hot toddy instead.  Plus at the $20 price cutoff you can get some pretty outstanding stuff.

How outstanding, do you ask?

Well, how about the top scoring North American Whiskey in the 2010 F. Paul Pacult Ultimate Beverage Challenge?  The George Dickel #12 was awarded the Chairman’s Trophy for its category, was judged to be “Extraordinary, Ultimate Recommendation,” and scored 97 out of 100 possible points.  And all of that is available for a suggested retail price of about $17.

A few of these facts should somehow find a way into the holiday card, so the recipient knows exactly how special this bottle is.

Because it’s not one of the mega brands, the recipient will feel like it’s something more special than Jack Daniels, nor does it have the same bad-boy allure that comes with the famous bottle with the black label.  And that’s probably a good thing.  In fact, depending on where you live and shop for spirits, Dickel may even be less expensive than Jack.

But that doesn’t make it less special, nor does it make the gift less thoughtful.

Now all you need to do is run out and buy some for those last minute people on your list.  You know, your tailor, the postal worker, your kids’ teacher, the handyman.  And if you really want to make it last minute, tune in this time next week and I’ll tell you all about hot toddies.  Yet another good use for this tasty, special whiskey.  And another fun thing to put in the card.

Happy shopping.

* I couldn’t make up something like this


6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2010 11:17 am

    Beer? Ordinary? Hold your tongue. Maybe in your conception of food culture, not mine. I was not raised in a wine culture (and neither were 95% of Americans no matter how hard they try to pretend that they where as adults). Beer is an everyday beverage for me, just as important as bread or meat. Would you call good bread ordinary? Is a good steak ordinary? Pish posh. Oenophilia is an elaborate social affectation, you won’t convince me otherwise (not that there is anything wrong with that).

    But you are right, I would probably prefer a bottle of spirits. There is good whiskey and good scotch. But I think people are starting to get a little precious with this issue too…

  2. December 17, 2010 7:17 pm

    But not everyone likes booze… if someone bought me alcohol, I’d be bummed, ’cause if they knew me at all, they’d know I hardly ever drink.

    I’d say chocolate is a much safer bet.

  3. December 17, 2010 11:12 pm

    Coming from a family of non-drinkers, and with a non-drinking husband, I’d never buy booze as a gift unless I knew the person well enough to know they drink.

  4. December 18, 2010 10:17 pm

    Wine is, when all is said and done, still wine. Beer, on the other hand, poses some wonderful options in your price range. And a remarkable high-ABV brew from Dogfish, Ommegang, Rogue or a number of other sources, cask-aged and exquisitely curated, is an surprising gift precisely because so many people consider beer to be “ordinary”.

    However, I’m with KB & beck on the universality of alcohol as an appropriate gift. Lots of people don’t drink and not a few can’t drink. In front of me is a bottle of Harvest Spirits Applejack that I bought for a good client but didn’t send because I wasn’t confident of his bibulous proclivities. I ended up sending a couple of nice bottles of wine instead which can be easily re-gifted if he doesn’t want them, unlike the Cornelius which would be an unknown quantity. Though not to me. I expect I can find a way to use it.

  5. Ellen Whitby permalink
    December 18, 2010 11:00 pm

    I like the idea of getting junk for people…like you and ADS bought. I once gave someone a huge box of packing peanuts as a gift. The kid enjoyed it but not the parent. In return, the parent got my kids some offensive DVDs (offensive only because we have much better taste). We have gone back and forth for a while. I’m not sure whose turn it is but it will continue. I would not put booze on that list.

    Maybe chocolate. Maybe something baked. Maybe bubble wrap.

  6. maltnsmoke permalink
    December 19, 2010 1:58 am

    I am a big fan of the brown stuff. To be hunkering down with a scotchy on a cold and rainy or a bourbon at any turn ‘tis a wonderful thing. In a port glass with the merest splash of water is my preferred method.

    But I must confess to being baffled by this George Dickel #12 thing. It is not a new discovery. I bought a bottle several years ago on the recommendation of someone who knew a few things about whiskey. I found it to be wholly unremarkable, that is to say not much in the way of depth or complexity. Thus the GD #12 was banished to the garage libation storage facility to languish undisturbed, until I read this post. Reading this glowing review, I though that it must have been a bottle of GD #3 or #4 that I’d set aside. But no, I went to the garage and discovered that it was the very same #12 of which you speak.

    Just to confirm my earlier impressions, I poured a healthy dram into a single malt glass, added a splash and partook. Perhaps owing to the slight chill imparted by the garage storage, it did seem less offensive than I’d recalled. It was smooth and palatable, offering the essential mouth feel and typical whiskey sensations. At its price point, the GD #12 does seem to be a good value. Still, I find its 97 point score incredible. I’d sooner scrape together a few dollars more and pick up the 93 point Buffalo Trace bourbon.

    Although George makes no claims on the age of his Dickel, it may be destined to be become the oldest surviving whiskey in my cabinet. Having said that, I’d be perfectly pleased to receive a bottle as a gift. After all, tastes change and I confess that even as dram #2 bids us adieu, this stuff is actually beginning to grow on me. However, I am left wondering whether the FLB has actually tried the GD #12 or is merely relying on the recommendations of F. Paul Pacult et al… (whoops no ?s)

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