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Holiday Bourbon & Whiskey Gift Giving Guide

Holiday Bourbon & Whiskey Gift Giving Guide

With the season of giving under a month away, a lot of you are focusing on finding a particular bottle that will surprise and impress the whiskey lover in your life. 

Be it a coworker, family member or significant other, it’s tough to buy for a person who you know drinks bourbon or whiskey.  With that in mind, let us give you a few tips on what to give and what not to give this holiday season.  

Holiday Bourbon Hunting Tips

On the flip side, if you are a person who loves whiskey and dreads to think of which bottle you’ll be gifted this holiday season, then I have some advice for you as well. 

Communicate as much as you can to those who may be trying to buy you a bottle this holiday season and don’t just brush off their attempts to ask questions. 

Trust me on this one, many people just have no clue on what separates bourbon from rye whiskey from Scotch.  I have found it to be infinitely more helpful to narrow it down as much as saying the particular brand that you like the most. 

Instead of telling someone “I like bourbon,” you’d be better served by telling them “I like Four Roses.”  Just remember that when a non-whiskey person starts asking a whiskey person about whiskey questions, they’re not trying to learn from you, they’re trying to buy you something. 

So keep in mind that they are probably only going to have the luck of what is on a store shelf, not the secret access you do with your local liquor store owner.  Be kind, drop your hints early and be specific.

Desirable bottles for the whiskey lover in your life

The first most important thing to recognize about the person you are buying whiskey for is to understand what kind of whiskey they like. 

All too many times, a bourbon lover will get a bottle of Scotch or an Irish Whisky lover will get a bottle of Jack Daniels.  There are many differences, so try to get your recipient to tell you if they like Bourbon, Rye Whiskey, Scotch Whisky, Irish Whisky or something else. 

If they only tell you a brand that they like, remember it and look it up later see which category it falls into.  Now you’re prepared to shop.

If you’ve got your recipient to tell you which kind of whiskey they are into, now would be the time to nudge them into the direction of “what are your favorite brands?” 

Unfortunately at this point, they may drone on for a while so just be patient and try to jot down the brand names they’ve listed. 

If you can, try to fit in the question “what are some bottles you’ve been trying to find recently that you haven’t been able to?” 

Be realistic about the fact that you’re not going to know what they just said, so try to write it down.  Some of those bottles will be unfindable because either they are allocated or not in season (many bottles only come out one time a year). 

Now that you have some idea of what they were talking about, it’s time to head out to the stores.  I would highly discourage going to grocery stores or big box stores that have liquor aisles as they sell commonplace bottles. 

A liquor store is your best bet.  And you may have to take some time out of your day to go to more than one seeing as how store availability varies. 

Bourbon Hunting Pro-Tip

Here’s a pro-tip: do your shopping on Wednesdays or Thursdays as that is when most liquor stores get their shipments. 

Be armed with your list of things you found out about your gift recipient too, because store clerks are not much help if they don’t understand what you’re asking for.

Here’s the part where there’s a bit of a letdown: you’re not going to find what you’re looking for 95% of the time.  Popular bottles like Weller, Blanton’s or Stagg are never in stock because everyone wants them. 

But your goal should be to find something similar and available.  So without further ado, here are some bottles to ask for at certain price points:

$50 and under:

The hardest part about the price point of $50 and under is that many bottles that are on the cusp on being really great straddle the line between $50 and $60. 

If you are dead-set on the dollar amount of $50, this may be hard.  Just know that prices of bottles in this category need some wiggle room. 

Shopping around at different liquor stores may yield as much as a $10 difference in price.  So plan accordingly if you can.

If a person says they like MGP:

  • Backbone Bourbon Company Single Barrels
  • Smooth Ambler Old Scout Single Barrels
  • Hirsch: The Horizon
  • Belle Meade Reserve (or Cask Strength Reserve)
  • Smoke Wagon Small Batch Straight Bourbon

If a person says they like Wild Turkey

  • Kentucky Spirit
  • WB Saffell

If a person says they like Buffalo Trace:

  • John J. Bowman Single Barrel
  • Single Barrel store picks of Buffalo Trace or Eagle Rare
  • Benchmark Full Proof
  • 1792 Single Barrels (Full Proof, Bottled in Bond as well) – 1792 is not a Buffalo Trace product, but it is owned by the same parent company and makes products that are somewhat comparable in taste.

If a person says they like Heaven Hill:

  • Single Barrels of Elijah Craig, Larceny or Henry McKenna

If a person says they like Jim Beam products:

  • A bottle of Knob Creek Single Barrel always delivers a satisfying pour, but find a store pick that makes it even more unique.

If a person like Four Roses:

  • Four Roses Small Batch Select.

If a person likes Old Forester, Woodford Reserve or Jack Daniels (they’re all owned by the same company):

  • Old Forester 1920
  • Old Forester 1910
  • Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
  • Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Bourbon

If a person likes unique bourbons, but doesn’t have a specific distillery:


If a person likes Rye Whiskey: 

Single Barrels are the way to go here.  The difference is they’re all somewhat unique and different from the regular versions of themselves. 

Ask your local store clerk if they have any store picks of single barrel rye.  These could include New Riff Rye Whiskey, Wilderness Trail or Rossville Union Rye. 

A bottle of Willett Family Estate 4 Year Rye would also be a fantastic gift idea, but they are hard to find.


If a person says they like MGP:

  • Backbone Bourbon Company Single Barrels
  • Remus Repeal Reserve 
  • Smoke Wagon Small Batch or Uncut and Unfiltered

If a person says they like Wild Turkey

  • Russell’s Reserve Single Barrels (store picks)

If a person says they like Buffalo Trace:

No Buffalo Trace bourbons are going to available at this price point.  They’re all on allocation and as soon as they hit the shelves, they’re gone.  If you can find them, the ones to look out for are:

  • Blanton’s
  • Stagg Jr.
  • EH Taylor Single Barrel
  • Weller (107, Full Proof or 12 Year)

If a person says they like Heaven Hill:

  • Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

If a person says they like Jim Beam products:

  • Booker’s Bourbon

If a person like Four Roses:

  • Four Roses Private Selection Single Barrel (these are store picks)

If a person likes Old Forester, Woodford Reserve or Jack Daniels (they’re all owned by the same company):

  • Old Forester Single Barrel
  • Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel

If a person likes unique bourbons, but doesn’t have a specific distillery:

  • Barrell Bourbon (various Batches exist)
  • Barrell Dovetail
  • Maker’s Mark SE4 and PR6

If a person likes Rye Whiskey: 

I’m still recommending Single Barrel store picks just like I did in the $50 category, but now Barrell Bourbon makes some great rye whiskey single barrels and batches at this price point as well as Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof. 

Backbone Bourbon Company also has single barrels of their Bone Snapper Rye Whiskey that is excellent.

$100 and above:

The thing about this category is that if you are shopping for someone at this price, you probably don’t have too much that is going to be off limits.  But I’m going to try to keep the prices and availability somewhere within the $100-180 range.

If a person says they like MGP:

A 10 to 14 Year Old, Single Barrel version of any MGP bourbon.  Regionally, the bottlers are all different and they frequently run out.  The best chance you’ll have is to find a single barrel of Joseph Magnus Bourbon. 

Avoid Murray Hill or Joseph Magnus Triple Cask.Bardstown Bourbon Company Collaboration Series: Oloroso Sherry Cask Finished Bourbon

If a person says they like Wild Turkey

  • Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17 Year Old Bottled in Bond

If a person says they like Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Four Roses, Old Forester, Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve or Buffalo Trace:

At this price point, you will not be able to find any of their top tier products just setting on the shelf with a reasonable price point.  At this point you’re buying with your heart in mind, not your pocketbook.

If a person likes unique bourbons, but doesn’t have a specific distillery:

  • Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #2 or #3

If a person likes Rye Whiskey: 

  • Kentucky Owl Rye Batch 1, 2, 3 or 4

Can’t find anything on this list and you’re desperate to get the perfect bottle?  This last Hail Mary is for you.  Approach this idea with caution, but it’s time to use the power of Facebook to find a local group of bourbon and whiskey enthusiasts. 

Start by typing in a large city near you followed by the words “bourbon, whiskey, brown water, spirits or whisky” into the search bar and request to join. 

Once you are allowed access, you should look around for a bit to see how people interact and get a feel for the group first. 

Since most groups will not allow questions where a person is outright asking to buy a bottle, you’ll need to ask in a roundabout way. 

Usually a question like “I’m trying to find a bottle of XXXX for my XXXX for the holidays, anyone know of a store I can go to?” is a good start. 

There will be many people who will initially shoot down your question for being naïve, but there will also be a chance of a person contacting you who has the bottle you’re looking for. 

Be safe and smart and treat whatever transaction you work out just like you would a Craigslist deal where you meet them in a well-lit and well-travelled neutral area. 

Going about it this way will ensure you get some of the most sought-after bottles that you’re looking for, but will also take the most work.  Good luck and have fun! 

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