Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We Wish You a Merry Boozemas: Gift Guide Part 2

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 7:59 AM

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What better way to spread the holiday spirit than with spirits? And wine? Several interesting gift ideas have crossed my desk and my bar lately, so I thought it might be a good time to share the latest and greatest from the world of premium beverage products.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned several times here on Bites that I have a real affection for the bourbons of Four Roses. Bang for buck, barrel for barrel, I think their small-batch bourbon is one of the best values on the market, and it is a constant fixture in my home bar setup. But when the holidays roll around, sometimes it's worth it to look beyond the most economical option.

This year Jim Rutledge, the master distiller at Four Roses, created only 3,600 bottles of Four Roses’ 2011 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon. Uncut and non-chill filtered at barrel-strength, it is a real palate pleaser, exhibiting a floral aroma and notes of light rye, pear and raspberry, finished off with a rich, creamy maple syrup mellowness. I've been lucky enough to taste a sip or two of this year's batch of Single Barrel, but apparently I've been too naughty for any of my loved ones to give me a bottle ... yet. At a retail of about $80, I guess I know exactly what I'm worth.

Fortunately, I've been on a Vinho Verde kick lately, which means that you can make me very happy with a bottle of this extraordinarily reasonably-priced wine.

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I had previously considered this light citrusy wine as a warm-weather alternative only, but darned if I haven't just kept on opening bottle after bottle as the weather grows chillier.

Apparently I'm not alone either, since the U.S. has become the No. 2 importer of Vinho Verdes with over 300,000 cases coming over from Portugal last year.

It's light-bodied and extremely food-friendly, so you just can't go wrong giving a bottle of these wines. Infrequent wine drinkers enjoy the fruity floral aromas, and more sophisticated oenophiles can delight in the slight effervescence that comes from actually injecting a little carbonation into the dry white wine. And at $8-$15 a bottle, you may be able to afford a case! Some of my favorite producers are Casal Garcia, Loureiro Escolha Muros Antigos and Quinta de Azevedo.

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My final recommendation is for the liquor lover in your life who craves something unique. Bols Genever is a Dutch treat that is already pretty esoteric. Last year I told you about the holiday tradition of the kopstootje, where bar patrons toast to their health with shots of the national spirit of Holland and a good beer. Genever isn't exactly the same thing as gin, but they do share similar characteristics and flavor profiles. Bols Genever is much smoother than gin, with a mixture of corn, wheat and rye to temper the juniper aspects that some gins overemphasize.

To further mellow the concoction, Bols Genever has embarked on a bold experiment with a new limited-edition product, Bols Barrel Aged Genever. Created with bourbon lovers in mind (right in the Bites wheelhouse, I'd say...), the new Bols Barrel Aged Genever is made using a 19th century recipe and aged for 18
months in oak casks. This process embraces the wood characters of aged American whiskies while maintaining the herbaceous, juniper flavors of the original Bols Genever.

The Genever is pale yellow in color and has a truly unique flavor and aroma. It is best enjoyed like you would any premium bourbon, at room temperature with maybe a rock and a splash. I can't wait for it to get cold enough to light a fire, put on my smoking jacket and enjoy a snifter like Leon Phelps. Bols Barrel Aged Genever is still in limited release, but if you see a bottle, give it a try.

Make sure to leave a snort for Santa with his chocolate chip cookies.

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