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With Father’s Day around the corner, there’s not much time left to get him that perfect gift. But with this guide, hopefully you can get him something that he never saw coming. Maybe even something whiskey-related that will put a smile on his face that tells you that you nailed it.
I know that a ton of these guides exist all around the internet, but I wanted to go one step further and customize it based on his level of obsession. I feel like bourbon gift guides approach recommendations for gifts with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. If you’re a mom, I’m sure you can relate to those kinds of gifts from previous Mother’s Day. The gift was well-intentioned, but missed the mark.
My wife has admitted that she bought me some whiskey stones based off of the recommendation of a whiskey lover gift guide many years ago. To this day, I’ve never used them. I am trying to steer all of the wives and children in the right gift direction and mean no offense when I tell you products that you should avoid.
So with that in mind, I’ve laid out 3 categories of dads, categorized them into three whiskey obsession tiers and listed gifts to buy and gifts to avoid. And even if you don’t know the dad in your life’s whiskey experience, I promise that the gifts in each tier are interchangeable at the end of the day*wink wink*. Let’s get started!
Gifts for the Dad that just got into Bourbon
This dad has just recently found out about whiskey. Wait, is this a thing? Did he just turn 21? Because how did he go through COVID lockdowns and quarantines without exploring more about bourbon over the last 3 years? It seemed like all of my dad friends bought their first bottles in 2020 and haven’t looked back, haha!
But seriously, if dad is new into bourbon, he’s probably been buying a bottle here or there and has a few friends who he looks up to for advice. He probably has a favorite brand and it’s probably an easy drinker of some sort – like Woodford Reserve or Maker’s Mark or Eagle Rare/Buffalo Trace/Weller Special Reserve.
He will probably know what he likes, but that’s only because exploring more would require him to spend more money on bottles – something he’s not quite sure he wants to do just yet.
Bourbon Gifts NOT to get Dad
Whiskey Stones – Whiskey stones don’t work. I know that the advertisements say that the stones will chill the whiskey without diluting it. In reality, the stones fail in a number of ways. First, they barely lower the temperature of the whiskey. Whiskey loses flavor and aroma if the temperature is lowered anyway, so it’s not beneficial.
Secondly, the stones – even when washed off well – may still contain traces of the old whiskey and contaminate the next whiskey you put them in.
Third, they are inefficient at what they do. Once you’ve used the whiskey stones once, you’ll have to wash them off and re-freeze them. Most kits come with enough stones to “chill” 2 glasses of whiskey but after that you’re SOL unless you invest in more.
But I advise you not to invest in them at all. If a man truly wants his whiskey chilled, my recommendation is to just put the bottle in the freezer. But if dad puts his whiskey in the freezer, tell him to just switch to vodka and leave the good stuff on the shelf (kidding)
Flasks – Your dad doesn’t need a flask. I’ve tried about a dozen in my life and 90% leak in some way. Additionally, metal flasks are known to alter the flavor of a whiskey anywhere from a few hours later to a few days.
Don’t give dad a leaky, metallic-tasting, stainless steel container to hold his whiskey in.
Devices that dispense or pour bottles from – There are lots of variations of the same concept. Usually something that holds the bottle upside down and a tiny faucet/tap that opens and closes to dispense the liquid.
The problems with these is that the seals are never 100% on these things, which results in drips or leaks. When whiskey evaporates, it leaves behind hard-to-remove film and stains. This will taint the other bottles that replace it in the future.
Mystery boxes or whiskey bundles – Boxes or bags like this almost always contain a majority of cheap, throwaway items or things so specialized that he’ll never use them.
Whatever bottle that comes with it (because there’s usually a bottle included) is either mediocre or it’s a good bottle that’s now wildly overpriced.
Bar signs with with a witty saying about whiskey on it – For the love of god, no. We’re men, we don’t need a sign or a coaster or an etched glass that tells people what an object is. A bar is instantly recognized by having bottles resting on it. Not because it has a sign saying the word “bar.”
And can we please kill the trend of everything having to have that stupid cursive handwriting like at the top left of the picture?
Gifts Dad actually wants
A set of Norlan glasses – If you are an experienced whiskey drinker reading this and wondering why I’m not recommending glencairns; rest easy. That’s coming up in the next section.
Norlan glasses offer the satisfying grip of a tumbler with the aroma-intensifying shape of a glencairn on the inside. New bourbon dad won’t feel he’s trying too hard and should get accepted by both whiskey novices and nerd-level enthusiasts.
If you’re a Target mom reading this, consider that they will actually look good in your all-white kitchen next to your flat-black Hearth & Hand with Magnolia coffee cups and your flat-black flatware that you bought. Add these to your cart and get back to scrolling on Instagram!
An expensive bottle – Dad probably hasn’t spent over $80 on a bottle yet. Time to change that. Check out my Top 10 List for new bourbon drinkers. These are ones I’d never hesitate to buy and will earn dad some street-cred with his more serious bourbon-loving friends.
A single barrel store pick – If you’re in a liquor store, ask what Single Barrel Store Picks they have. Single Barrels are exactly what the name suggests – whiskey from exactly 1 barrel. The main selling point is that there is a great chance he does not have that same bottle. Your gift will be totally unique. Bonus points if you find a single barrel from a brand that he already likes.
Gifts for the Dad that knows his bourbon
This dad probably has somewhere between 40 and 60 bottles in his possession. His primary drink is bourbon or rye whiskey. He’s been drinking whiskey for a while and shares a pour with guests and family often. He likes different bottles for different occasions.
If you’re into bourbon, he wants to talk to you about it. He knows the answer to the question “can bourbon be made outside of the state of Kentucky?” (The answer is YES! Why do people still not believe this?)
This dad is a bit choosy and more than a little picky. He’s generally hard to buy for. Maybe you got him a bottle or a present in previous years that he still hasn’t opened. It might be because it’s not his style. This year, let’s change that and get him something to smile about. But first, here’s some things not to get him.
Decanters – Nobody needs a decanter. Either you’re trying to disguise a cheap whiskey in a nice bottle without telling people what they’re about to drink or you’re taking away from the allure of a really great bottle by not having it front and center for people to pick up and talk about.
Both ideas are bad. Decanters aren’t sexy and they’re prone to leaking and allowing excess oxidation. Avoid them at all costs.
Old Fashioned Smoker – I know people like cocktails, but Intermediate-Enthusiast Dad probably drinks his bourbon neat (no ice and no water) 99% of the time. Old Fashioned smokers are interesting, but this is an object destined to go into the back of the cabinet and never be brought out again.
Even if dad enjoys a cocktail, he’d probably be better served with a very expensive and rare bitters to add unique flavors instead of burnt wood chips. If he’s truly into smoke, maybe you should find him a bottle of peated Scotch.
Ice Molds – A dad that is into bourbon won’t be drinking it with ice or water added to it. He knows these dilute the body and dull the flavors. Using ice from a freezer – where it sets with other foods – is a recipe for getting the ice tainted with the smells that float around in there.
There’s nothing worse than putting a ball of ice into a glass of expensive whiskey and realizing you can taste fish sticks.
As a final nail in the coffin, if you’re thinking about silicone molds, they attract dust and grime like none other – both inside and out of the freezer! So when it’s time to use them, you’re going to have to wash them off (preferably in a dishwasher) to get them clean. That’s a lot of time and work. No thank you.
Charred Oak Bullets, spirals, cubes – A good or even mediocre whiskey does not need the addition of a charred wooden object inside of a glass. At worst, it will make the whiskey too bitter. At best, it will make the whiskey appear darker. That’s it.
Bourbon derives its flavors from the science of porous oak and heat cycling along with a level of char on the outside face of a stave. There’s no way to reproduce it through janky wood pieces like this. Putting them in a bottle or glass won’t do anything but get in the way when you’re pouring or sipping from it.
Gifts Dad actually wants
(More) Glencairns – Chances are high that dad already has some glencairns. But he could always use more. It will help him to stretch out the time between washing them, he can entertain more guests or he can just have them on hand if he breaks one or two.
Plus, there are tons of custom etched ones out there that you can get with his favorite brand(s) on it. If you have some time, get them customized with his name!
A specialized tote or case to carry glencairns in – Dad probably likes to go to bottle-shares with some of his friends. If he does, it’s customary to bring a glass or two so that your host won’t be overburdened. But he needs a safe way to get them there. Luckily, there are glencairn glass carrying cases specifically designed for this.
I’ve also seen the great wooden or plastic (like a Pelican Case) storage boxes that can carry many more glasses. These have a “cool” factor too and can be engraved by third-party sources. They are a must-have for all enthusiasts.
Single Barrel Store Picks – Yes, I’m aware that I already said this in my new-bourbon drinking dad section, but it still applies here. What can you give to the man who has everything? In this case, it’s a single barrel store pick of a whiskey he doesn’t already have.
The best help I can give you to picking a store pick is to find out which whiskies he already likes and go to a few stores asking if they have a store pick of it. If they don’t, see if they have something comprable. This is guaranteed to light up his day.
A bottle of something rare that he doesn’t have, but talks about wanting – Sometimes this is a Blanton’s, sometimes it is a Weller Full Proof. It’s probably not a bottle that you can just walk into a store and find. This sounds annoying and burdensome to you and you’d be right.
If it’s allocated, it will be sold out. Try to find out what Dad really wants and can’t find (or can’t find for a price he wants to pay). Then use this guide that I wrote here to find that bottle on the local secondary market. Good luck!
Gifts for the Dad who has more bourbon than most bars in a 50 mile radius
If you have this rare beast in your family, my heart goes out to you. Finding a gift for him is like facing the final boss of a video game set to the hardest setting. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be hard to get this dad to say “wow!” unless you are also just as big of a bourbon enthusiast and have access to the rarest of rare.
What I have to say here is more of a creative twist on how to buy for the man who has everything and can get everything. But first, here’s what NOT to get him.
1 or 2 Liter Wooden Casks – Nothing says whiskey like a barrel. It’s one of the main things that separates it from being a clear spirit. So I can see the allure of thinking a barrel is a good gift for a dad who loves bourbon. But these smaller barrels are quite useless.
Some can be customized with a char level on the inside, but a real whiskey enthusiast knows that it won’t fix a cheap bourbon. In fact, trying to age a whiskey in a small barrel like this will probably do more harm than good.
Assuming it doesn’t leak, it’s going to drown the whiskey in soot, char and tannins that will make the whiskey taste bitter.
Uncharred barrels are really only good for making a “barrel aged cocktail” inside of it. These are expensive, take up a lot of space and are pretty useless overall.
The Bartesian – Expensive? Check. Trendy? Check. Compatible with whiskey? Also yes. But these factors do not add up to a good gift. The Bartesian – and other kinds of “automatic cocktail makers” are the lazy man’s way to make a very mediocre cocktail.
They’re a pain to clean and the selection for bourbon cocktails isn’t that great. There is a water reservoir that you should empty when you’re not going to use it for 24 hours because it could contribute to bacterial growth if it goes stagnant. Doing that process requires all liquor bottles to be removed and the machine turned upside down.
I would think twice about using any whiskey worth much money in this because I let a bottle of 1792 Full Proof set in a bottle for a month and half of it went missing (I think it leaked and evaporated. The novelty also wears off quickly. We used ours about 3 times before deciding to sell it.
Whiskey in bottles that look like another object – A $200 glass dragon filled with 40% ABV whiskey? A $300 AR-15 filled with bourbon that looks like it’s been aged for 6 minutes in a barrel? How about a baseball bat full of whiskey?
These whiskey thirst-traps are not only gaudy, but have whiskey that no self-appreciating bourbon enthusiasts would be caught dead with.
There’s a good chance that the whiskey sealed up in those “bottles” isn’t even whiskey. It might be artificially flavored and colored vodka.
The price tags are hilarious to bourbon lovers & enthusiasts, but non-enthusiasts may not know the difference. Now you do. Avoid them at all costs.
Gifts that Dad actually wants
Amber Whiskey Glass Connoisseur – I absolutely love this glass. The base is extremely heavy and the rim is super-thin. It looks contemporary and feels exotic to hold – almost luxury. I know my friends don’t own any, so taking them to bottle-shares is perfect to pick out my own glass on a table if I walk away for a minute.
It draws most enthusiast’s attention AND nobody confuses it for their own at the end of the night (unintentional glencairn swaps happen more than we like to admit). And while I can’t say this with 100% certainty, I believe that the crystal is harder than a typical glencairn.
This results in less swirls and etching during cleaning. At $20/pop, they’re not cheap, but to me, they’re worth every penny.
Cairn Caps – Maybe the cheapest thing on this list, but hear me out. Sometimes enthusiasts pour something and don’t get around to tasting it.
Sometimes they want to save it for later. Sometimes you’re drinking outside where errant bugs will fly into your drink (this happens a lot!) How do you do avoid those scenarios?
Cairn-caps are the best solution. You just pop it on the top and the seal is perfect. I’ve had a glass of whiskey in my drawer for a month with a cairn cap on top and it has not turned cloudy or evaporated. These things are awesome to have on hand and are easier to transport than little sample bottles with funnels.
Cairn Caps also fit on the beforementioned Amber Whiskey Glasses too. I would highly recommend them because of their versatility. I’ve found uses for them in the most surprising of ways.
Aged & Ore Bottle Flight – I used to lug around a funnel and tiny 1 or 2 ounce Boston Round sample bottles to events or friends houses in case I was offered a sample or wanted to share a sample. And while I still do this from time-to-time, I’ve found the perfect alternative to it. This traveler kit from Aged & Ore.
Here’s what I like: First of all, each bottle is under 3.2 ounces, meaning you can travel with them on an airplane. Secondly, you don’t need a funnel. The opening is so large that you can easily pour from any bottle straight into the sample bottle.
Third, the hash marks are conveniently molded on the side so I know exactly what I’m taking. I like the person giving me a sample to know that I’m only taking what was promised
And finally, the carrying case is very convenient to holding all 4 and a paint pen to mark what is inside of which bottle. Even if your dad has one of these, I guarantee he wouldn’t mind a second (or third). I use mine that much, for real.
Day Pass To Go Hunt – If you thought I was going to tell you a secret bottle that dad might not have, then I’m here to let you down. But I can guarantee he knows what he wants and he has a good idea of where to find it. The only issue is time. So do this instead – Give dad a day pass to go hunt for bottles he wants.
Over the next week, liquor stores are known to have large releases of allocated bottles just in time for Father’s Day. The unfortunate part is all of the good dad’s out there are putting in the time to make sure that their family gets taken care of.
They won’t ask to go hunt, but I guarantee you’ll see a smile from ear to ear if you let them pick a day to go out and find a bottle or two. Plus, they’ll get to bond with other dad’s while they’re out and talk about the lovely thing their family let them do. They might even come back home with dinner as a thank you.
So why not give him a free pass to stroll around the liquor stores for the day? This might just be one of the best gifts of all.
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